PS Vita and 3DS, you’re still screwed
Dedicated mobile gaming consoles are still in the smartphone and tablet firing line
So as I was saying, the Sony PS Vita and Nintendo 3DS are screwed.
In a column published in February this year I bemoaned how the PS Vita and 3DS were bulky, expensive units that were facing increasing pressure from smartphones and tablets. Four months on, here are how sales stand, and what Sony and Nintendo intend on doing to fight off the mobile multimedia device onslaught.
Mobile gaming consoles are now little more than niche products according to research analyst Michael Inouye at ABI research. The research firm noted that total mobile gaming console shipments should top 38 million units it 2013, down from a peak of 47 million units shipped in 2008.
Things are only going to get worse too, with ABI research predicting that shipments will continue to decline over the next 5 years.
Sony’s head in the sand approach
Sony meanwhile are ignoring their less than stellar sales, preferring to set massive targets that they’ll almost surely miss.
Sony has sold 1.8 million PS Vita consoles since launching the portable console, and plans to rack up 10 million global sales by the end of the current fiscal year (which ends in March 2013). They’re going to do this by releasing “blockbuster games during the holiday season” and by improving the online system according to Andrew House, Sony Computer Entertainment CEO.
A price cut on the PS Vita could boost PS Vita sales, similar to what Nintendo did for the 3DS late in 2011. However, Sony has decided against this, with Sony Worldwide Studios boss Shuhei Yoshida stating that “From the value for money standpoint, we think we have a good price for what the system is.” It doesn’t look like we’ll be getting a PS Vita price drop in 2012.
So let’s see; sales targets that they’ll probably miss, and refusing to cut the PS Vita price to boost sales, while still under pressure from smartphones, tablets and the Nintendo 3DS? Shame on you Sony.
Meanwhile over at Nintendo
Nintendo aren’t in the best position either. A recent Reuters report noted that the company was cutting executive bonuses by 20 percent due to “shrinking sales of its Wii gaming console and weak demand for its new 3DS handheld device”. This weak demand is probably the reason why Nintendo sold 3.61 million units at the end of the 2011 fiscal year instead of their targeted 4 million.
Rather than adopting Sony’s head in the sand approach, Nintendo are doing something about their poor 3DS sales. After cutting the price to bolster sales last year, Nintendo head honcho Satoru Iwata is embarking on a plan to “do a lot more to convey the value” of the 3DS console.
Iwata plans to do this by explaining to consumers how awesome glassless 3D technology really is, thinking that they’re too stupid and not enlightened enough already.
“People cannot feel it just by trying out a device, rather, some might even mis-estimate it when experiencing the images in an improper fashion. This makes it more important to give people more opportunities for appropriate experiences of glassless 3D images,” said Iwata.
The pressure is still there
All the issues I raised in my previous column are still relevant, some such as the cost of games even more so now than they were back in February.
Angry Birds space is a good example of the success enjoyed by mobile phone and tablet games. The latest application from Rovio was downloaded 100,000,000 times just 76 days after its release.
Local pricing is still an issue for the mobile consoles, because despite being priced lower than smartphones and tablets, they are very limited in what they can offer users. It’s a case of a dedicated handheld targeted at a core gamer, versus a multi-purpose device that’s already in the pocket of a large amount of the population.
Size is still an issue, with the PS Vita and 3DS being slightly larger than your average smartphone. Some high-end devices such as the Samsung Galaxy S III and HTC One X are nearly as large, but far thinner and lighter.
While tablets are larger than these mobile gaming consoles, people are willing to carry a tablet in a separate bag rather than on their person since they can do far more than just play games. Watching movies and browsing the net while you’re on the train or waiting in line is a far richer experience than doing the same on a PS Vita or 3DS.
In February I pondered whether mobile gaming consoles can handle the assault from smartphones and tablets. Back then the answer was “I don’t think so”, now it’s changed to “probably not”.
Mobile phones and tablets are getting more powerful, allowing for more immersive games. Despite this it’s still the simple, easy to get into games like Angry Brids and Draw Something that prove to be most popular among mobile gamers.
Sorry Sony and Nintendo, but the dedicated mobile gaming console boat has sailed, and the new kids on the block seem here to stay.