Oh, how the mighty have fallen. According to new research from mobile analytics firm Flurry, iOS and Android games now generate more revenue than all of Nintendo and Sony’s portable games combined.
Nintendo and Sony have been duking it out for control of the portable market for years, with the two of them generating $2.2 and $1.6 billion in game revenue in 2009 and 2010 respectively. This year though, Flurry projects their combined revenue at a relatively small $1.4 billion while iOS and Android will pull in a projected $1.9 billion.
If Flurry’s projections hold true, then mobile gaming will have outshone their more traditional counterparts for the first time. Flurry attributes the spike in iOS and Android game purchases to their low price tag and to the high adoption rate of new smartphones and tablets.
It’s a startling turn-around, but I think Sony and Nintendo have to come to grips with the fact that iOS and Android are capable of much richer play experiences than PSP or 3DSs are. Sure, it requires a very thoughtful developer and the right hardware, but novel concepts like Disney Mobile’s AppMates take what could have been a straightforward movie tie-in game and turn it into something very special. It’s also been made clear by franchises like Rovio’s Angry Birds that dead-simple gameplay and ubiquity are capable of creating a huge following.
In spite of all that, Nintendo still refuses to dip their toes into the mobile gaming pool. Company president Satoru Iwata stated unequivocally this past September that the idea of Nintendo creating games for smartphones was “absolutely not under consideration,” much to the consternation of mobile gamers. It’s funny that he took such a hard line on it, considering he took a 50% salary cut after dropping the 3DS’s price tag.
That hasn’t stopped a number of Nintendo-friendly franchises from taking the leap though. The Level 5-developed Professor Layton series is set to make its first appearance on iOS sometime in the future, and a few of Square’s classic RPGs are currently Android-bound.
Sony, to their credit, seems more open to the possibilities of expanding their presence in the mobile space. Their PlayStation-branded Xperia Play attempted to marry game-oriented hardware with a special catalog of mobile games, and the forthcoming Playstation Vita has a built-in 3G radio to facilitate head-to-head gameplay.
Even so, I don’t expect the mobile gaming trend to slow down any time soon. Every developer wants to create the next the big thing, and for $.99 a pop, it’s much easier for potential customers to take a leap of faith on an app than on a $30 cartridge.