Smartphones demolishing handheld consoles

Fresh news tell Nintendo has reported once again net losses (source: Wall Street Journal) and lower than expected sales of Nintendo 3DS, the handheld games console of the Japanese electronics company.  Nintendo hopes dropping the price of their console will boost sales.

I’m  very sure I’m not the only one who’s not surprised by this news. Who wants to pay 200 or even 300 euros (depending on market and sales channel) for a handheld console, and then 40 euros or more for games, when you can get very nice games for under under an euro for your Android, iOS or even Symbian smarphone?

I own a very old Nintendo GameBoy Advanced, but I stopped playing on it having bought Apple iPod touch (2nd generation) in 2008. I have downloaded tens of games for free or for a couple of euros.

The situation will only get worse for Nintendo and Sony when more affordable and still powerful Android and iOS tablets become available. Then you can often get the games which you bought for your smartphone for your 7- to 10-inch device, often without extra money.

In my opinion Nintendo and Sony have also made big mistakes by focusing on wrong types of games. None of my very tech-savvy frinds, who spend hundreds or even thousands euros a year in games, electronics and computer stuff seem to want 3D. The other big mistake is to assume people want the same kind of action games on handheld devices than big living-room consoles. What’s the idea of playing a 3D action games on a 3-inch screen, when you have 37-inch or even larger TV in your living-room? I guess marketing guys don’t play very much themselves.

The third big change is moving from physical media to online stores. It’s a lot easier to download and install games from Apple’s, Google’s, Microsoft’s or Nokia’s apps stores than walking to a limited numher of physical stores. Nintendo and Sony have launched some kind of online shops too, but I don’t know how well they work. My friend, who used to be a Nintendo fanboy (and proud of it), complained they’ve failed in this area.

Many Nokia followers may wonder what’s different now compared to what Nokia tried with their N-Gage. Well, they had pretty much all the problems with their initial launch: 1) Games trying to imitate big consoles, 2) too expensive games, 3) a difficult physical MMC media and to finish it all, 4) a device with a very small screen and bad useability. Of course, smartphone hardware was not as advanced as today.

It’s interesting to see if Nintendo and Sony come up with something that justifies buying a special handheld gaming device. After all, consumers, especially young people, only have a very limited amount of money. Already that Chinese Android smartphone (from Huawei or ZTE) costing less than 200 euros or under 7 euros a month with a subscription smoothly runs Angry Birds and other very fun games.