Friday, January 21, 2011

Is the 3DS the New PSP?

Chris Kohler seems to think so. Universal praise, predictions of demise for its competitors, and a promise of "hardcore" gaming appeal - hardly typical of Nintendo, masters of mass-appeal gaming.

There is one difference in the position of the 3DS and Sony's yet-to-be-revealed new handheld (I await the day when the corporate masters deem it worthy for our eyes to feast on) is the position of Nintendo in the gaming market. Back in 2007, Sony was the dominant "home console" gaming company looking to destroy Nintendo's monopoly on the handheld gaming industry. Analysts and gaming afficianados alike predicted that Sony's PSP would force Nintendo into third-party game developer status. The reverse happened: Sony made a sizable dent into the handheld market, sure, but Nintendo sold more handheld machines than it ever had in the past. Now, Nintendo is unquestionably more dominant on both the handheld and home console fronts, with Apple's IPhone slowly emerging from it status as the "spoiler" competitor in the handheld gaming wars to a formidable gaming platform. And that's my prediction for the latest cycle of "console warz": Apple is going to take over the gaming market.

When Nintendo first unveiled it's "blue ocean" business strategy in 2006, gamers decried it as an abandonment of Nintendo's commitment to providing quality video games for a gradually expanding market. Analysts either dismissed it as a concession that Sony (and Microsoft to a lesser extent) had "beaten Nintendo at its own game" or predicted a massive drop in its stocks due to such a risky business venture. The rest is history: Nintendo usurped Sony's premiere status in a fashion no one thought possible.

But there's a funny thing about that whole "blue ocean" strategy Nintendo was bragging about circa 2007-2008. By targeting mainstream consumers as potential gamers, Nintendo may have put the nail in its own coffin. Since gaming has become so much more mainstream, it joins a list of other entertainment commodities that vie for the consumer's attention. Specialized products (think Amazon's Kindle) fall to "All-in-one" products like the IPhone and IPad. I believe the same will soon be true for gaming. The less "niche" gaming becomes, the more it will have to adjust to a market demand for multiple forms of entertainment. This is a bittersweet pill for gamers to swallow: it might mean a "decline" of hardcore games overall (not just for Nintendo, but for the industry as a whole), but it also means the days of social isolation for gamers are numbered. I believe that Apple is the company most poised to take advantage of this new "all-in-one" gamer demographic, especially given the increasing prevalence of downloadable content in all sectors of the marketplace. Nintendo is infamously negligent at utilizing the internet for its games, and as the above article shows, things don't look to be changing for the 3DS.



dustin (The 16-bit Catholic) said...

I don't think the 3DS will go the way of the PSP. I hate playing in-depth games on the iPhone: the touch screen sucks when you're trying to play FIFA or Mega Man.

I think there will be room for a "hardcore" device like the 3DS along with the iPhone for the simple reason that "serious" gamers are willing to fork over more money for games than the casual gamer, which will keep dedicated gaming systems around for the long haul.

Nice writeup.

Ricardo Sene said...

I see your point, and, in fact, is believable possible.

What we know that makes a platform a winner? The first thing is the content, and apple/3DS looks like have.

But other thing that really matter, specially in these days where 'money justify everything,' is the cost; and in this matter, looks like Apple is the winner.

So, it's possible that Apple gain the biggest audience, yes.

However, small cheap games don't create big franchises like Resident Evil, Elder Scrolls, Mass Effect, Uncharted, etc..

For this market, I don't see Apple as a treat, cause it requires huge investments. So, for the console market, no way, but for the portable market, which now is more casual, is indeed possible.

Paul said...

I agree, I believe that after a while game consoles will evolve over time until they more or less become no different from a PC. And portable consoles will become all-in-one devices like the iPhone already is. However, I don't think hardcore gaming will decline. There will be a huge mainstream audience that developers will cater to, most definitely. But the big developers will still exist (like Nintendo, Blizzard, Valve, etc.) and still produce hardcore gaming experiences, because the hardcore gaming market will never disappear.

Mr. Gamer said...

I think it is possible for the hardcore gaming market to decline. Any serious study of sociological trends would demonstrate the dynamic nature of these transient features of certain periods.