Survey: Smart phones “fast outstripping” stagnate gaming handhelds


Interpret, a leading entertainment, media and technology market research firm, today released its Interpretations report, The Phone Gaming Revolution: Do the DS and PSP Stand a Chance?, which found the number of consumers playing games on their phones increased dramatically, while gamers appear to be abandoning their DS and PSP devices.

Interpret’s New Media Measureâ„¢ data shows 43.8% of the phone/DS/PSP gaming market plays games on phones—a significant 53.2% increase over the past year—while the proportion of those who play on the DS or PSP has fallen by 13%.  Gamers appear to be defecting from their handheld gaming devices to phones to get their gaming kicks: a full 27.2% of consumers who indicate that they play games on their phones only (and not on the DS/PSP) actually own a DS or PSP, but do not actively use the device(s).

“The proliferation of highly multifunctional smartphones and messaging phones is a very real threat to the dominance by the DS and PSP of the handheld gaming market,” said Courtney Johnson, Manager of Research and Analysis at Interpret.  “Devices which satisfy a variety of entertainment and utility are fast outstripping single-function devices as consumer favorites.”


  1. I still think that most people will flock to the DS/PSP for more fleshed out games and for the established franchises that are on there like Mario. I’d rather use my phone for mobile surfing and what its supposed to do – make calls. If its one of those 10 minute fillers then I can see that hole being filled up by phone gaming. Plus I’d rather not drain my cell batteries and not to be able to make calls when I need to.

  2. It’s outselling it because they’re cheap, easily accessible, and have a “social network” working as an ad campaign.

    Anyone can take out their phone, get addicted to a game, and tell someone about it – because they know that person can also download the same game on their phone.
    No going to the store, no trying to find a WiFi spot, no looking for reviews – you just listen to what your friend told you and download it. And it cost like 99 cents.

    Then, because it was only 99 cents, the game’s over before you know it and you’re bored again. You want to be addicted like you were a minute ago, so you browse the store and pick a related game or a top selling game.
    Boom. Another 99cents down, and a new game to play.

    It ain’t fleshed out like a handheld game, but it is far superior in “advertising” and convenience. And for most people: The more convenient the better it is as a “handheld game”.

    …I love my DS and PSP games, but I find myself checking their online stores more often than wishing to waste gas to purchase a game at a store – or calculating shipping and handling and waiting impatiently for it to come by mail.
    Not very convenient for systems that are supposed to be convenient (I know we’ve never had a problem with this before, but times have changed and our idea of convenience has changed with it).

    One thing astonishing though: I play my handheld at home more than anywhere else. I thought the point of a handheld was to take it with you on the off-chance you’re bored out there. Nowadays I’m too worried of starting a game outside because I might have something to do suddenly and I’m in the middle of an awesome fight in the game (sure I can just close it, but it’s like closing the book: You lose the immersion for a good while).

  3. I know a lot of kids play DS, so I’m hoping it doesn’t turn into the training wheels equivalent of a handheld gaming system. I have great hope for the 3DS, but it really really really needs to get on board with downloadable – and cheap – games made by independent developers who have an idea, but not a lot of capital to publish with the big boys.

  4. Yes, this is HUGE problem…. not. When the 3DS come out, let me know how many smart phones can replicate that technology. None? Yeah, that’s what I thought.

    SOme of the people I know play smart phone games. Most of them look like complete garbage. There are a few exceptions, but how is that the “cheap” route? The phone costs a ton, then you have a $100+ bill every month because you decided to go for that fancy phone that plays cruddy $1 flash games that you can play for free with your PC?

    I’ll stick to my DS and get a real gaming experience, thanks much.

  5. I agree with XCWarrior on this one. They just stick you with the 100 bucks every freaking month. And there are maybe 10 legit quality games on the device. The rest have better flash counterparts online. Angry Birds is a clone of a flash trebuchet game, and an average edition at that. I’m pretty sure the N-Gage had more high quality games in its time that the app store has.

  6. I understand the typical viewer to this site are hardcore Nintendo fans like myself and have a deep rooted attachment to the days of Game Boys and Game Gears, but I’m sorry, I’m also a fan of technology and it marches forward and will leave you behind if you’re not willing to keep up.

    Even Sony is embracing the smartphone movement and have active working prototypes of the PSP running Android. (Did your minds just explode?) Need further poof…

    Multi-use portable electronics are the future my friends and developers will naturally migrate to where the consumer markets shifts.

  7. There are plenty of “meaty” games on smartphones these days and there are more all the time. Currently Sega has been filling my console quality game itch on my iPhone. It’s the perfect platform for games like Chu Chu Rocket and I’ve been enjoying the older Genesis RPGs too. That said, I’m sure I will be buying a 3DS.

  8. I hate gaming on phones. I own a EVO and I have zero games. Its just to awkward trying to use a phone as a gaming device.

  9. I own a HTC Evo 4G as well and I have a ton of games on it. Not to mention virtual consoles, I can play games via touch screen controls or pair the Evo 4G with a bluetooth gamepad for some hardcore Mario platforming action. It’s so awesome having all my classic 16-bit games portable on a single device. No swapping out carts or nonsense, and its always with me since it’s my phone.

    I agree with Warren. Nintendo needs to embrace the new technology!

  10. Yes, because the smartphones have all of Nintendo’s franchises available to them in a legal way and the DS, PSP, 3DS and PSP are doomed, doomed I tell you!

  11. +1 to XCWarrior. I downloaded Super Andrio, a Mario World rip-off for Android smartphones, to my phone the other day and tried it out. Just a few minutes in, I could already tell I would never want to play anything but casual games (like Angry Birds) on a smartphone device. The touchscreen controls simply do not provide the responsive precision that a dedicated gaming device such as the DS can.

    By all means, Nintendo should take Apple seriously and not just treat them as a non-issue in the mobile market. But I don’t think they should necessarily take a page from Apple’s playbook, either. The DS was designed from the ground-up for gaming. My phone was designed to be a phone. The difference is quite tangible and very obvious.

  12. A smartphone is not just a phone. In fact usage statistics among smart phones uses show they use their devices for more data/internet related services than verbal communications. Our smart phones today resemble micro personal computers than the cellphones of the 90’s. It was be erroneous to compair the simple flip phone with basic SMS ability to a advance Android or iPhone device. As these devices become more complex in functionality and the average consumer becomes more comfortable with the technology that drives them. We’ll see a convergence of several entertainment medias; radio, television, film, gaming, conjoin on a single portable device the consumer can take with them. The day were we swipe our smart phones to make debt / credit card transactions isn’t that far off either. Ether embrace the up coming technology or become a dinosar.

    Gameboys and DS’s had their time. Much the same way physical media; i.e. 8-Traxs, LP, Cassette Tapes, Compact Disc, VHS, DVD, and Blu-Ray had theirs. Everything will be everywhere, portable, and instantly available on portable muti-functional devices.

  13. I love my DS. For the past several years I’ve played it every day. I get new games cheaply through Once I beat a game, I put it up for trade. And I’ve worked my way through numerous games. But I recently bought the new Droid 2 and installed an NES emulator. This was frustrating at first, but then I figured out how to operate the controls through the keypad. I haven’t picked up my DS since. Emulation, because of save states, makes NES games easily transportable. I’ve already gone through Dragon Warrior. Now I’m working my way through Dragon Warrior II. (I have Dragon Warrior III downloaded on my phone and ready to go!) I can honestly say that, at least in my case, it will be a long time before I find a reason to play my DS again. Admittedly, Dragon Quest IX and Etrian Odyssey III look awesome. But I haven’t purchased them yet, and don’t plan to any time soon.

  14. To me it’s a matter of sales. iOS and Android devices are growing at a rate that will eventually pull more and more developer time from existing handheld developers. iOS already has 130 million devices out there in 5 years, a pace is outstripping DS sales and accelerating. Then toss in a similar number of Android devices.

    Is the traditional Handheld doomed? Probably not, but they do need to reposition the device. I would increase the synergy between the handheld and the consoles. Make games that you can start on one and you can continue on the other. Or farther into the future, use the console as your game server and use the handheld as a thin-client.

    If I were Nintendo I’d be very interested in what happened to the PC market too. Desktops are a niche market now and even laptops are starting to feel the squeeze of the tablet market. Is the console market going to shrink too now with handheld gaming? I’d see it as an assault from both sides. It’s going to be an interesting market in 5 years (or less).

  15. So far the Apple App market remains unimpressive. Steve Jobs says $1billion has been paid out to developers, since the App Store’s launch in 2007, which sounds impressive until you consider this money is spread across more than 200,000 apps. That’s $5,000 per app in revenue. Which is pitiful.

    Now granted some apps are free, but if all the paid apps combined only produced $1 billion in revenue… that is pretty sad. And this revenue isn’t even all from GAMES, either. Some DS games generate that revenue almost singlehandedly, like Mario Kart or Pokemon. And combined, those two games make up more revenue than every single app ever sold on the iPhone, ever. And that’s just two games, not counting the thousands of DS games released.

    Sure the iPod/Pad.PHone hardware is popular, but its games aren’t. There are no must have, gotta-get games that drive people to get iPhones. Nintendo’s got several that will make people line up. Nintendo actually has a gaming MARKET, vs. Apple who has some hardware that happens to play games. This is also highlighted by the preponderance of casual-only games on iPhone, vs. DS which has a healthy spread of all types. People thinking Apple is mimicking Nintendo’s “casuals first” DS and Wii strategy have misread Nintendo entirely. Nintendo never abandoned their core series and principles to only make casual games. The DS launched with Super MArio 64 and had Games in the core market in their first year. Games advertised and promoted. The Wii launched with Zelda and had Mario Galaxy and Metroid in its first year too.

    If Apple appeals ONLY to casuals who will only pay $0-$5 per game, then that’s all they’ll get, and those are the only games that will get made. This is panned out by the most successful games being the cheapest and the shortest, which conforms to the IPhone’s primary function of talking and texting. Anything larger than a Costly Version of a free internet game and the userbase simply will have no time for it. The 3DS, then, is way more versatile in that it can have every game type, casual, hardcore, complex, simple, which will lead to a smaller, yet more refined, various, and robust library vs. a gigantic library saturated with only one type of game. (This is a problem Apple faces currently)

    Also hilarious are the best things about Apple and Android phones are the ability to illegally pirate and emulate Nintendo classics. How does this endorse Apple’s games strategy if people just want to play Super Mario Bros. on it?

    (Haven’t we heard all of this convergence device talk before? It sounds similar to what people said about the PSP.)

  16. its the pricing. there’s no way psp or ds games can compare in the price department.

  17. One word: Pokemon.

    That will keep Nintendo Handheld systems alive for generations….

  18. “its the pricing. there’s no way psp or ds games can compare in the price department.”

    I’d counter-argue that the DS and 3DS are way cheaper considering you don’t have to get a cellphone contract and pay a monthly fee just to have it, not to mention the hardware itself is much cheaper too. Maybe that’s another reason iOS games HAVE to be little cheap games, because if they cost anything more, they’d effectively price themselves out of the market.

  19. The iPod Touch is probably Nintendo’s biggest, indirect competitor. It has games, cheap games but it’s not primarily a gaming device. It’s getting better games as time goes on. It actually does have something for everyone at this point, but it’s much too difficult to find games worth playing or test. Because of how free the market is, pricing is not an indicator of anything anymore. Heck, there are even paid apps that still have ads in them.

    The major gaming sites really can’t cover everything, let alone be able to sift through content for us. It’s a boon for the gamer, but it’s a win for Apple because it’s mostly consumers educating consumers or customers taking chances without the same type of information that they’d get on a dedicated hand held. I personally prefer Nintendo’s and Sony’s offerings, but there are a few games I’ve noticed on the Touch and Droid markets that I want to get into. those devices aren’t appealing enough for me to buy them at this point, but they have my interest. I used to completely dismiss them, but quality speaks volumes.

  20. @XC

    U do realize that there are already 3d phones on the market in japan right? Nintendo has already been beat to the punch with this tech

    The difference is people aren’t buying an iPhone strictly as a console. People are already paying the costs already because they need the cell phone. Any which way people are paying for a phone contract whether they have a DS or not. So in essence u can’t add the cost like that and compare like it’s apple to apples.

    I’m the biggest nintendo fanboy out there but I wouldn’t be so quick to dismiss this mobile gaming movement. It’s only going to pick up more steam as the games get more complicated and deep.

  21. “People are already paying the costs already because they need the cell phone. Any which way people are paying for a phone contract whether they have a DS or not.”

    I don’t pay an exorbitant amount for my cell phone. I have a basic plan (and not AT&T) and it’s pretty affordable. I’m not paying what Apple and AT&T ask for their popular gadget, and this lets me get a cell phone that’s better at being a phone than the iPhone (no dropped calls because of a weird casing flaw), and a gaming system that offers the best version of every type of game.

    Besides, I’m about to the point where I don’t even need a cell phone. Most cell phones these days, especially smart phones, are used for text messaging and email. The “phone” part is even losing out to something I can do on ANY computer thanks to cloud computing. Speaking of which, there are millions of “apps” on the internet that I can use for free, including games. In fact, most of the games on the iPhone that ask a price I can play the exact same game, on the internet, for free.

    And since I’m around computers all day long, why have a cellphone that costs more and does less, even if it is from apple and looks shiny and some people on the internet prattle on about how Nintendo is doomed because Apple is in the games market now?

    Also, I challenge your claim that games on the iPhone will only get more deep and complex. Firstly, the controls on the iPhone attack this notion outright. Not much you can do with JUST a touch screen. Sure touch screens are neat, Nintendo knew this when they took flack for it with the introduction of the DS in 2004. But they also included buttons. Secondly, Games would get deeper on iPhone if the market wants them too. And so far they don’t, they only want tiny casual games and any attempts at deeper fare have failed. Lastly, deeper games are more expensive to reflect the added labor of content and manpower to create them. All of the deeper games will be asking prices upwards of $10 or even $20 when big titles come around. But the iPhone users have shown they mostly get free or $1 apps, meaning making deeper games on the iPhone is something their market punishes developers for making deeper games, which is why you haven’t seen big established developers really approach the iPhone in earnest. They give it the old “can-we-wrestle-handhelds-away-from-Nintendo” old college try, but so far the results have been less than impressive.

  22. I think Nintendo should concentate on a super-cheap handheld for kids too young to have their own phone. As much as I want the 3DS just for it’s wow factor, a super-cheap handheld for kids would probably be a smash hit. Bring back the original gameboy or gameboy color in miniature and have it cost $20 and have games cost $5 or something.

  23. What I’d like to see is every Gameboy, NES and SNES game available for purchase (say $5 each) and downloadable through some interface on the 3DS. This would get me to stop playing NES games on my Droid2.

    What’s stopping Nintendo from doing this? Is it the risk of piracy? Is it the lack of profitability?

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