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Are Smartphones Killing Handhelds?


The ever more capable computer in your pocket is, of course, a game’s machine too. App store boasts thousands of games all available to download for a couple of dollars or even nothing, considerably less than the typical $30 USD game for a dedicated gaming console.

There are also many more smartphones than there are handheld game machines; 300 million smartphones sold last year comparing to just 27 million PSPs and DS’. It’s estimated that 6 billion games were downloaded to those phones in 2010, dwarfing the number of games sold by the more traditional machines. So, in a certain light, that makes a smartphone by far the world’s biggest gaming platform and it’s certainly something that Apple claimed in its developers’ conference this week.

Then there are the tablets, offering the users a bigger screen and a better processor on which to play these games. So, as Sony releases the PlayStation Vita in the hope of reviving its flagging fortunes and Nintendo’s 3DS suffers from worse than expected sales, are the gaming giants doing enough to counter the threat from the rise and rise of games on phones?

Even Sony is arguably hedging its bet as the Sony Ericsson Xperia Play phone being the first to be PlayStation certified, meaning although it’s an Android device, the owners will be able to link it to the PlayStation suite and play some PlayStation One games.

So are mobile phone games killing the traditional handheld games then?

“It’s actually hurting that part of the business but in general it’s growing the overall opportunity for games. You know, we use to talk about a few hundred million consumers? But now with mobile phones we are talking about billions of consumers that are playing games now. So overall it’s a big plus for the industry, but it has taken a little out of the handheld segment for sure.” – Frank Gibeau, President of Electronics Art Games.

Is there a difference between the types of game being popular on the phone versus the type of games that’s proving popular on the more powerful devices?

“You have to look at them in terms of their life cycle? Smartphones are fairly new to gaming so you are seeing more simplistic and straightforward designs, but they are getting increasingly and increasingly complexes. Customers and gamers on phones want deeper and richer experiences, and with the processing powers on smartphones growing very fast, we are able to put out really great experiences now that you couldn’t have imagined even a few years ago on a feature phone.” -Frank Gibeau, President of Electronics Art Games.

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