Should Nintendo just throw in the towel in the mobile gaming market?

Evan Selleck
Contributing Editor from  Arizona
| Published: September 1, 2011

When Nintendo dropped the price of the 3DS, I thought about writing an article about how the company made the right move and how, with a price point like that, they could very well become a real player in the mobile gaming market. Unfortunately, even with the $150 price point, that didn't actually seem to be the case at all. And, to be honest, I'm kind of at a loss for why that is. After all, the Nintendo 3DS is an impressive piece of mobile equipment, and at $150 it's priced very well. So why can't Nintendo compete in the mobile market anymore?

To be honest, this article started as a piece about mobile graphics, and how that impacts sales and adoption. And while I still plan on touching on that subject, I am not surprised that this has expanded into a broader view of Nintendo and the mobile market at large. We have already pointed out that Apple's position at the front of the pack for mobile gaming is unarguably apparent, but we have to point it out one more time. Not because Apple needs anymore time in the limelight, but because it seems so strange that a company like Apple, a relative no-name in the gaming market as a whole, can just swoop in in 2008 and take over the market so quickly. And, perhaps worse, so completely.

Of course, Apple diehards would say that this isn't surprising at all, and should have been expected. But, I don't think that's the case. Yes, Apple's App Store features some of the best titles when it comes to gaming, such as RAGE HD, and Infinity Blade. These titles suggest that gaming on a smartphone can be every bit as good as it is on one of those dedicated mobile gaming platforms. However, these are just two titles, and certainly not the majority. In fact, the majority of games probably wouldn't be a good indicator of the gaming dominance that smartphones impose. At least, it shouldn't be.

And that's where the graphics come in. Truthfully, when compared to the Nintendo 3DS's majority of titles, the majority for smartphone games look ancient. But that doesn't seem to matter even in the slightest to those who are purchasing these games. And while some of these games may be strong indicators that anything is possible on a smartphone, like the ports of the early Final Fantasy titles to iOS, we are still faced with the majority of titles being indicative of nothing more than smartphone gaming is meant to be casual, and nothing more.

I think the answer is actually two-fold, one just as important as the other. First is pricing. Simply put, a video game on the iPhone is cheaper than its dedicated console cousin. Some may point out that these prices are due to lack of depth or gameplay, but that really doesn't seem to matter to the consumer. As the Penny-Arcade comic above suggests, buying somewhere upwards of 40 games versus one seems like a no-brainer situation. And second, it's just the nature of the evolving mobile market. Smartphones are the standard now, more or less. Sure, there are still a few non-smartphones out there, but obviously carriers even want you in a smartphone, so that's where the focus is. Because of this focus, and with gaming becoming a serious area in application venues on all platforms, people want to be able to pick up one device and do everything from it. And that even includes gaming now.

But obviously Nintendo believes there is still a market for its dedicated gaming device, and Sony sees the same thing. And honestly, as long as developers still see some reason to create content for these devices, there may still be a chance. However, it seems to me that Sony has a Plan B, in that the company now has PlayStation certified smartphones, where ports of PlayStation titles are perfectly possible. Nintendo doesn't have this Plan B, or at least it doesn't look like they do. So they will have to continue to watch Apple, Microsoft, and Google's emerging presence eat up all the revenue in this still expanding and developing market.

Image via Penny-Arcade

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