According to Greg Canessa, Activision’s vice president of mobile development, both Nintendo and Sony can’t ignore the looming rise of smartphones and tablets. Canessa argues that, while you can’t get console quality experiences on either of those devices, you can get great games. These games cost a fraction of those found on Nintendo 3DS and PlayStation Vita.
“There’s no doubt that that space faces challenges. They are more directly competitive with what’s going on in the tablet and mobile space and there’s a lot more overlap there, to be honest.
“It is a challenging market, and challenging in a number of ways. From a gameplay immersiveness standpoint, from price point and business model standpoint, I mean it’s $40 for some of those games and you can get great experiences – not necessarily comparable experience, but great nonetheless – for seven dollars on a tablet.”
“Our relationships with Sony and Nintendo are important and we continue to support them by creating games on both [Vita and 3DS] platforms. Beyond that the market’s going to speak ultimately as to the viability of those products.”
Even Ubisoft and Crytek have come out to acknowledge the “growing” smartphone/tablet market. The mobile gaming market has even sparked some developers, such as Square Enix, to devote much of their resources towards making games for this platforms in hopes of making more of a profit than they might have on dedicated gaming devices. Is this really the right way for developers to go? Is this the future gaming enthusiasts even desire to be a part of?
This has been an ongoing controversial debate for a while now and frankly, I contend that everyone has it backwards. If you were to ask me about the matter at hand, I’d tell you that I believe the smartphone and tablet gaming market should be mindful of the threat handhelds and consoles possess to their target market. Interesting take on the situation, as it’s always been the other way around, huh? Well, hear me out.
Ask yourselves: how long has mobile gaming existed and why is it so popular? Well, if you’ve been around long enough, you’d know that gaming on your phone has been a thing ever since the commercialization of cell phones. It wasn’t so much that gaming on our phones was a preferable experience, but rather that they provide quick satisfaction opposed to full-blown experiences. Since the handheld market didn’t capitalize on these type of games back in the day, the cell phone gaming market was able to sneak its way in to relevancy. What’s being implied here is that it’s one thing to sneak into the market other companies have slightly overlooked, but it’s another matter entirely to actually have competing factors. In fact, ever since the emergence of the Nintendo DS in 2004, a time before smartphones released, the legitimacy and practicality of gaming smart devices has been shrinking.
With Nintendo adding new and impressive features to their devices – such as the Nintendo DS’s dual screen interface and Nintendo 3DS’s stereoscopic 3D, as well as its modern architecture – they have managed to successfully motivate and encourage small developers to create mini-games. You might have noticed this in another form, but to bring it to light: what the core gamers call “shovelware” is what the casual gamers call “timely fun”! Never mind the fact that we tend to completely overlook the purpose of these short-experience games; the emergence of these very types of games on the Nintendo 3DS and PS Vita are the kinds of threats that haunt the smartphone gaming market. Apple and Google are probably counting on the fact that the average fanboy dismisses these games as nothing more than an experience for smart devices. That’s just more profit for them.
The Nintendo DS was the start of a beautiful friendship between the mini-game market and the handheld gaming console market. The only problem was that the games were always priced over twenty dollars. Rarely would you find a game below such a price. Fast forward seven years later and here comes Nintendo with their new indie-friendly policies that allow small developers to set the price for their games (plus free patching)! Sony’s PS Vita also possess many popular mobile games, a weakness when you don’t have many system-selling titles. Do you see this gradual progression into the market from the handheld console gaming market? See now how it can be said that smartphone gaming has more to worry about than handhelds and consoles?
But what about tablet gaming? Is it as popular as they say? If so, why? Well, I’m not too sure how many people actually use their tablets for full console gaming experiences, but at TGS, the majority of the showcased games were for tablets. One argument made in favor of the future of tablet gaming is that they will become more powerful with time, powerful enough to mimic console gaming. However, this argument assumes that consoles and PCs don’t become more capable with time as well. Additionally, there are still a lot of issues for tablet gaming, such as consumer costs and the practicality of the game controls. Take Wii U, for example: the cost to purchase and enjoy your Wii U is just $299.99. You could get a tablet touch-screen controller with high quality resolution and a standard controller interface (Buttons & Sticks), HD television gaming, 3D gaming on both your tablet controller and television, a front-facing camera, a microphone, motion controls, a standard controller, a capable internet browser, media apps and all sorts of other apps, access to an exclusive online shop, access to an exclusive and compulsive gaming social network, access to exclusive games, and some more. Do you know how much it costs mimic these functions or at least try to surpass the specs? Approximately $500 – $900+ without as many quality games or the exclusives. There are only some games that support a controller add-on that you can attach to your tablet. Even still, not all the functions of a next-generation console are mimicked.
Oh, but that’s not all. The 2DS is a thing. Retailing at $129.99 in the US, the 2DS is effectively a safety net for Nintendo when hard times hit consumers, disabling them from receiving the income needed to purchase a 3DS/3DS XL. Even when consumers are receiving enough income to allow for more generous spending, the device has the potential to still maintain its relevancy by being marketed as a children’s 3DS device. There potentially won’t be a single point in time where consumers aren’t purchasing the 3DS brand.
So what’s the significance of this? Well, not only is this a direct response to the PS Vita price cut, but consumers are now confronted with two glaring questions: buy a $500 phone and play mostly terrible to mediocre $3 games or buy a $130 gaming device and play amazing $40 games with many budget games as well? The same question can be asked in consoles vs. tablets. Secretly, the announcement of the 2DS was one of Nintendo’s best ideas.
By now, you might already understand why I find it hard to believe how smart device gaming could have anything on dedicated console gaming. With next generation already kicking off beginning with Wii U and continuing with the release of the PS4 and Xbox One, I think we’ll start to see smart device gaming get knocked off its its high horse.
Ultimately, it seems to me that we have it backwards. Not to dismiss the fact that there still is a lot of opportunity for smartphones and tablets, but I haven’t seen many strong arguments for phone gaming. It’s already bad enough that most people don’t purchase phones for gaming, anyway, and that at least one developer has reported a better response from the eShop in comparison to Google Play or the App Store. (Mostly because the eShop isn’t cluttered with terrible games.) I have nothing against mobile gaming, but I think I prefer a world where tablets and smartphones don’t have to eclipse the handheld and console market and I don’t think such an outcome would occur.
But how do you guys feel about smart device gaming? Is there something I’m missing that’s staring me right in the face or do you agree with my sentiments? Let us know in the comment section below.