Could the app economy be changing the gaming industry?

gameby digitpedia

It’s unofficial: dedicated gaming devices may be losing out to phones
[Via Ars Technica]

Here’s a good weather vane for the gaming industry: ask people what they’ll be taking on the plane as they fly to the Game Developers Conference, or GDC. This year, the amount of DS’s and PSPs may be at an all-time low as people are simply playing games on their mobile phones or tablets. We no longer have to carry a dedicated gaming device to play a first-person shooter, real-time strategy game, or even a dungeon crawler, and many of us are moving on.

It’s not that games on phones or tablets are better than what you see on Sony and Nintendo’s handheld systems—it’s that for many travelers they’re good enough. People need to justify the weight and bulk when they pack things, and if they are already carrying something that can play games, why bring a second gaming-only device? Before every big conference the call goes out on Twitter, asking what iPhone games should people buy for the plane.

These games can be both casual or hardcore, they usually cost under $10, and they play on a device that you’re already packing. New DS games cost around $30, and you’re going to need to bring yet another device, and perhaps a charging cable. The 3DS isn’t helping things, with a system that offers limited battery life and games that are even more expensive.

I’ll be the first to admit that this is a trend that’s hard to track, and is largely anecdotal, but at this year’s DICE everyone was talking about smaller games that play on devices that are not primarily gaming devices. Even those who make the larger, higher-budget games for our consoles—such as the executives behind Blizzard and Bioware—are spending their time playing games on their phones, not a gaming device. One of the founders of Bioware lauded iPhone games when asked what he’s been playing. “Every week it’s like what’s new? It has become so easy to play them. Trying to play Scott Adam’s Pirate Adventure on an Apple II with a tape drive, that was hard to do. It’s very easy to play on the iPhone,” Dr. Greg Zeschuk said at DICE.


Not only are apps much cheaper for the iOS devices, they get new upgrades much more rapidly. Angry Birds has had close to 100 new puzzles added. When they come out with a new version, I’ll buy it. I can download it quickly and have days worth of fun with something I am already carrying.

And the App Store allows more apps to  be sold in 20 days than had been sold in a year before.

And it is possible to create a game that can easily be used on mobile devices, laptops and desktop devices, allowing income to be made at each stage. Again, Angry birds is the leader here, with a version for phones, a version for the iPad and a version for the Mac. With about a month’s worth of development time.

The handheld gaming devices depend on a gaming development cycle that is much longer and more expensive. As stated, often their battery life is abysmal.

I’d be vey worried if I were them. The market is changing and they need to adapt. They’ll still make a  lot of money selling their dedicated hardware, but I wonder how many games will still be developed for them and how large that market is?

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