Smartphones Dominate Handheld Gaming

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The hand-held space is a pretty interesting avenue of gaming right now. While hand-held gaming has never been more popular, the competition has never been greater.

Nintendo, credited with creating the first hand held console with Game Boy in 1989, is certainly still one of the major players. But Nintendo’s 3DS (which actually helped yield the company’s first ever quarterly loss) is struggling right after launch. It seems that even without a stereoscopic component, smart phones are gobbling up all the oxygen in the room, though a recent price drop has allowed 3DS sales to enjoy a relative surge. Most gamers agree, the biggest problem with the 3DS is not the price but the sheer lack of games.

Over at Sony, there’s preparation for the Vita, the successor to the PSP, and it’ll be launching at $249. The latest Vita controversy is that some games will require external memory cards and others won’t. Uncharted: Golden Abyss, for example, won’t even play unless you have a rather expensive, proprietary Sony memory card already installed in the system. Many in the industry still expect the Vita to outsell the 3DS.

But that’s not to say Sony is out of the woods. Even their PSP continues to suffer losses at the hands of smartphones. Right now, the hand held gaming market is ruled by iOS and Android. Their games are cheaper, more casual, and tend to be inexplicably addictive—Angry Birds (with it’s 200 million downloads) comes to mind. And it certainly doesn’t help Nintendo’s bottom line that 3D in smartphones may soon become mainstream.

Smartphone dominance is a trend in more than just hand-held gaming. Smartphones are used more and more for everything, gaining the edge on portable media players, GPS systems, Internet use, and even satellite radio. People are even using smartphones more for photography, opting for the high mega-pixel counts and the ease of use offered by devices like the HTC Android camera phone.

But the gaming world has traditionally been dominated by gaming companies, which is what makes it so peculiar that in the last decade companies like Apple and Nokia have been able to seize such a lion’s share of portable gaming sales. Is it the quality of the games? Surely, that is a factor, but it may just be more of an issue of people wanting their media sources and tools consolidated into a single device. When you’re on an airplane you don’t want to have to carry around gaming, phone, and Internet devices separately, like the countless remote controls in your living room.

Regardless, it will be interesting to see how the next months and years play out, as Sony launches more games on PSP and Nintendo attempts to get its groove back.

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