A final stand?—
The debate about the end of handheld game consoles is nothing new. Pundits have been trying to bury the platform for years and have been ready to announce their demise and announce RIP.
But in an odd twist of fate, Sony may have single handedly advanced the fate of handheld game consoles with its Sony Vita machine. The debut of it in Japan sold a respectable 320,000 units over two days but plummeted to just 72,000 the following week.
Not good. Not good at all.
A disconnect from reality
The Sony Vita handheld game console is slated to launch during February 2012 in the U.S. for a relatively hefty $249—a price that is more expensive than the cost of a Kindle Fire or one of many popular smartphones available.
Nintendo’s 3DS handheld retailed for $249 at its launch, but due to poor sales numbers, was quickly discounted to $169 after only a few months on the market.
Sony’s Vita may very well be headed for discount land once it reaches U.S. shores because of the price resistance from the public.
A dedicated fan base
Although handheld game consoles may be on the downswing, the fan base for these devices is loyal and passionate. For this segment of the gaming community, there will always be a market for handhelds.
But the real challenge for Sony and Nintendo is to grow its user base. But with the proliferation of smartphones and associated game purchases starting at only 99 cents, economics rule over dedicated game machines at the moment.
Content is catching up
One of the criticisms about games for smartphones is their relatively simplistic and arcade-like gameplay. Big adventures and heavy action are not the norm yet, but mobile games are getting much better and may rival handheld games soon at only a fraction of the cost.
A new direction
The main battleground lies with pricing. If handhelds continue to retail for $249, growth for the industry is sure to remain static or take a downturn because new customers see no advantage in owning a dedicated handheld game machine when they can already play games on their smartphones.
Tablets have recently dropped significantly in price and consumers are flocking to inexpensive tablets such as the NOOK Tablet and Amazon Kindle Fire.
Handheld manufacturers could probably take a page out of the playbook from Barnes and Nobel and Amazon to jumpstart their businesses by lowering their prices.
What price? $99 would be a good start.
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Written by: Frank Ling on Thursday, December 29, 2011 – 2:23 PM