Video game manufacturers are turning their attention to mobile phones as sales of handheld and console gaming systems stall as a result of consumers’ reluctance to invest in new gaming systems in a struggling economy.
Factory unit shipments of video game consoles will total 52.3 million in 2010, up about 0.2% from 2009 figures (about 52.1 million). Sales projections for handheld game systems are worse, with factory units declining 2.5% (38.9 million in 2010 as compared with 39.9 million in 2009, notes market researcher iSuppli Corp).
Sales of game-capable cell phones, on the other hand, are forecast to reach 1.27 billion, up about 11.4% from 2009 figures (1.14 billion).
“The formidable lead enjoyed by cell phones capable of gaming will continue in the years to come with no hint of decline, and their near-universal presence gives them the potential to become a viable competitive threat to dedicated gaming platforms, primarily handheld devices,” said Pamela Tufegdzic, consumer electronics analyst at iSuppli.
In fact, sales of game-capable mobile phones may approach 1.8 billion by 2014, while console and handheld gaming systems continue to suffer from flat growth, iSuppli’s research shows.
Apple iOS has taken a significant lead in gaming among smartphone platforms, but the number of games available for Google’s Android OS is on the rise. In addition, Microsoft is strongly encouraging developers to bring games to Windows Phone 7 by tying this upcoming operating system to the Xbox.
A Growing Consensus
Other research would seem to agree with iSuppli’s forecasts. Strategy Analytics estimates that mobile gamers will increase from 532.1 million users to 835.7 million between 2010 and 2015, representing a 9.4% compounded annual growth rate (CAGR).
Game downloads are also expected to increase at a 10.4% CAGR, slightly higher than the overall growth of the gamer population, indicating an increasing activity of mobile games on handsets, noted this market researcher in earlier reports.
The Future of Consoles
One other factor that is turning the tides against console and handheld gaming is the saturation in those markets. The Sony PlayStation 3 and PlayStation Portable platforms, the Xbox 360 from Microsoft Corp., and Nintendo’s DS and Wii platforms have all reached maturation in their individual life cycles and have attained market saturation, adds iSuppli. Consumers may also be confused by rumors of impending next-generation systems, which may add to their reluctance to spend money on new gaming platforms.
All is not lost for consoles, however. Forecasters note that as more multimedia services become available online, consoles will evolve into true entertainment centers, allowing media streaming and other video or picture content to be delivered directly to supported devices like televisions and computers.
As a result, as gaming stalls and begins to fade for dedicated consoles, richer entertainment possibilities may provide new avenues and opportunities.