Last week, Nintendo announced a near 1 billion dollar fiscal loss for the second half of this year. Today, Sony is slated to announce a near $1.2 billion in losses (up from the already projected $769 million). Both of these losses came with the release of each company’s new hand held preferable, the just released Nintendo 3DS and soon to be released Sony Vita. If those figures aren’t already a blow to the stockholders’ wallets, the announcement from Rovio that their often free, and at most 99 cent game (depending on the platform) just surpassed the half billion downloaded mark is a sure fire hit to their egos. Many of you know the game in question, and I’m sure having played it as well, that game being “Angry Birds.”
So how does a 99 cent game take down two of the worlds largest game developers? This is a game that cost no more than $140,000 to produce (pennies, when you consider the developer profits reach into the millions a month), so simple a toddler can play it, and has graphics a 10 year old game boy could produce. Well, it would seem the question is already answered, but consider ease of play, simplicity, and affordability. The addiction factor doesn’t hurt either.
This is a hard topic for me to cover because as a gamer I always wanted to get into portable gaming, but could never find a reason. From the early Game Boy days to the latest 3DS, and countless others in between (Nintendo Virtual Boy included), I just wasn’t interested. Sure, I would pick up Tetris every now and then, and I’ll admit to being a Pokemon Blue and Red fan boy. But the heart of gaming, the event of sitting down 4 feet in front a massive TV and playing for hours, just could not be had with a portable device. I would always read about engrossing “Castlevania” adventures, and amazingly deep “Kingdom Heart” games, but never could sit down and let the game consume me. Even the just released brilliance that is “The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D” couldn’t tug at my heart like the original did, and that’s saying something.
Now here is the twist: I am absolutely obsessed with mobile gaming. The ability to pick up a game for a couple minutes and feel fulfilled is what the proprietary handheld market is missing. Sure, they should continue creating these experiences for the hardcore gamer, but hardcore groups can only push a system so far. The latest sales of the Nintendo 3DS are a pure representation of that. Angry Birds is just the tip of the iceberg as well. Games like “Plants vs. Zombies” and “Words with Friends” are all massive hits that have an either ridiculously low price tag, or are free. And that’s where the real success of these games comes in, the “tossability” of them. Don’t like a game? No big deal, it was only a 4 second down load. But that 4 second download could lead to a game like the aforementioned “Angry Birds”, a game that’s going on its two year anniversary this December, 2 spin off games, and one being intertwined with a major motion picture.
In the end, the real downfall to these “portable gaming” devices is the times. Technology is becoming smaller and more streamlined. The consumer has become accustomed to their mobile devices multi-tasking their lives, and the inclusion of gaming on that one device makes the allure of carrying a dedicated gaming device on top of that a hard sell. Coupled with the idea that many of these games are available on multiple mobile devices (iOS, Android, Windows, ect) only adds to the revenue, exposure and popularity of these games. Both Sony and Nintendo have taken steps to incorporate the casual gamer into their audience, but is that enough to convince the consumer to carry around an extra device for gaming on the go?
So where does this leave the “Big N’ and Sony in the portable market place? Well, as of now, a billion dollars in the hole, give or take. But with the inclusion of Netflix and Hulu onto both devices multimedia abilities, a plethora of exciting new games for both purchase in the physical and streaming market, plus a dedicated core of fans, should at least stabilize the sales in there respected market. Both should survive. With the Vitas ability to stream PS3 games, and Nintendo reporting that they are holding back key titles until release next year, the sales should do nothing but increase from this recession in portable gaming sales.