Nov 09 AT 4:44 PM Dustin Earley 36 Comments

Game over: Smartphone game revenue leaves Nintendo and Sony in the dust


For the past two or three years now, there’s been a storm cloud hanging over Sony’s and Nintendo’s heads. Games sales for Android and iOS have been steadily gaining steam, with revenue slowly creeping up on the once indisputable giants of the handheld gaming industry. According to a new report out of Flurry Analytics, 2011 is the year that smartphones have finally taken the crown.

In 2009, Nintendo and Sony had little to worry about as far as game revenue was concerned. Nintendo held 70% of the market alone. Sony was at 11%, while Android and iOS were at 19%. But combined, Nintendo and Sony sat comfortably with 81% of the market. By 2010, those numbers were shifting. Sony was still hovering around 9%, but Nintendo had gone down to 57%. Meanwhile, Android and iOS were already up to 34% in just a years time. Now, in 2011, Nintendo has taken Android’s and iOS’ spot at just 36%, with Sony still holding 6%. Android and iOS revenue makes up a total 58% of the pie. And that number is going to continue to rise.

Of course things may change once the holiday season passes, and revenue is not the same as profit, but this is a telling sign of things to come. Nintendo has already taken a stand against smartphone gaming, while Sony has done just the opposite. The Xperia Play is only the beginning of Sony’s shift in mobile strategy, a move that could turn out very successful for the company. Nintendo is going to come out with a Ninten-phone sometime soon, but it may be time to start reevaluating their handheld sales model.

How about it? Would you buy a Nintendo branded phone just for the games? Or do you think they should start releasing Mario and Zelda games for currently available smartphones? Should Nintendo even be worried?

Source: Techcrunch

Dustin Earley: Tech enthusiast; avid gamer; all around jolly guy.

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  • inviolable

    I can’t play Battlefield 3, Uncharted 3, or Allan Asylum on my phone. Gamers know where the real games are, and it’s obvious why game revenue on smartphones are blowing up; more people have phones than game consoles, the games are multiple times cheaper, and a casual market is always larger than the hardcore.

    • inviolable


    • Sway_212

      Definitely agree with you mate. This article is slightly misleading,even the title is. The graphs concentrate on portable consoles,namely the PSP and the DS. Th 3DS has been a sort of disappointment and the PSP is 6 years old! The new PS Vita should increase Sony’s sales too.

      And then there’s the pricing like you mentioned. All true,you get what you pay for. You won’t get too many A+ titles like Battlefield,Halo,GTA,MGS,Mass Effect,etc. in smartphones.

      • Clips

        1. ARM chips are the mobile present and future. That’s pretty much it. When it comes to desktops/laptops, people who actually need a lot of power won’t venture outside out of actually strong hardware.

        2. Lower prices on games are a good thing but look at the cost. The quality in games is seriously night and day. You’d have to be crazy to think AAA titles will make it to touch screens. Playing a real game without buttons like Street Fighter, Uncharted, or even Dead Space for that matter is just incredibly uncomfortable. Now, of course I can see mobiles taking up a lot of the casual gaming market unless Nintendo wises up and releases an ARM based handheld for around $100-150 and ensure that software stays at a reasonable price but an ARM based future with BT based handset controls seems a little silly. Who wants to carry a separate peripheral for a phone/tablet just to play games comfortably?

        3. AAA titles will NEVER go to the likes on mobile because while profits are indeed a huge part of the general scheme of these companies, we also have passion. Development on mobile will never lead to amazing games like Uncharted, Metal Gear, Final Fantasy, etc. The most you can hope for on mobile phones are games like Infinity Blade. A great game for phones no doubt but would be a POS on the Vita to say the least. Can you imagine it competing with Uncharted and Little Big Planet? I certainly can’t.

        4. That seems like a huge hassle. I’d rather have my smartphone and a Vita. It has a controller and a screen on one device playing AAA games. If you’re only into casual gaming a tablet can be your dream device. But if you’re like me and love the experience of a game like Uncharted, God of War, etc, these mobiles will never be satisfactory.

        • piotr

          check out joypad then m8. you’ will see that consoles are slipping away

  • CTown

    Why can’t Nintedo just make their own phone? They already allow casual games and apps in the DSiWare Shop!

    • Antwan

      Why can’t Nintendo jump on the Android Market / Apple App-store Bandwagon? They could put Gameloft out of business!

      • Chad

        I’m with Antwan, if you can’t beat em join em! If Sony and Nintendo, specifically Nintendo join the mobile game platform and focused on making Mario mobile games or Pokemon mobile games along with a host of popular titles we’ve grown to love from Nintendo..they would own the mobile gaming market. There is money to be made so put some of that investment in a mobile platform.

    • Clips

      It would be a much better solution to just try to make a cheaper gaming alternative. I’d rather my fingers not touch the screen constantly with a virtual pad.

  • TGentry

    I wonder if the author actually PLAYS console or PC games. If they did, they’d know this article’s main points are both obvious considering the different markets AND no reason for Sony Microsoft or Nintendo to be fearful…

    • TruFactz

      Ummm, really? Sony? Scared? I dont think so. Last time I checked it was Sony who was making PS authorized devices???? Sony has been in the mobile game for a great while. Lets not forget they are about to BUY Ericssons portion of the phone buisness?

    • Ribbign

      Minecraft NEVER was an exclusive on the PSphone. It was a MOBILE exclusive on the PSphone for a while, yes but it existed on the PC long before that. And this wasn’t JUST because of the fact that the PSphone is the best gaming phone but also thanks to the fact that both SE and Mojang (creators of Minecraft) are Swedish companies.

      Just to get all the facts right.

      • Greenleaf

        he wasn’t implying that minecraft wasn’t on PC *facepalm*. But its just a timed exclusive on PSPhone, it’s coming out for all androids eventually.

  • Klaus

    Is this really a fair comparison? I mean people aren’t buying Android and iOS devices just to play games on them unlike when you buy a DS or PSP. And there are very few, truly high quality games available on mobile platforms, neither of which comes close to the games that Nintendo puts out for its platforms. Plus there’s ad revenue which Sony and Nintendo don’t utilize.

    Of course with the Tegra 3 soon to be in phones this argument could, and probably will, change dramatically. Not to mention what the competition will cook up to compete with the T3.

    • Dustin Earley

      It comes down to this: if you’re a game developer, who do you want to develop for? It’s all about the money.

      • caffeinedependent

        Yes, but it’s not quite that simple. The revenue comparison is interesting, but what really matters is the margin (i.e. profit) that a developer makes by developing for a mobile platform instead of a traditional portable system.

        Revenue from smartphone games has been increasing dramatically, but that entire model is about making simple games that can be sold for $0.99 because they’re so cheap to make. Sure it works in rare cases like Angry Birds, but for every Angry Birds there’s a hundred other games that don’t take off and end up losing money.

        So if you’re an established studio thinking of switching from handheld to smartphone development, do you take your chances and hope to make money by charging 3-5% of the price and competing in a horribly crowded marketplace with basically zero marketing support, or do you release on a Sony / Nintendo system to an audience of dedicated gamers who are willing to pay $25-40 for a better experience (with, like, buttons and stuff) and are made aware of your new game by well-established distribution and marketing channels?

      • Ribbign

        What do you mean “it’s all about the money”? If it was then all companies wold be like PopCap (makers of Bejeweled, Peggle and other casual-games). Remember that game developers are just big much nerds as android developers. Would you say “it’s all about the money” when it comes to android too? NO – ’cause why then are so many developers making stuff for free?

        The people at Valve, Blizzard, Nintendo and so on DO NOT WANT TO develop games for phones because they can’t do all they want with their games on a phone. And as the caffeineguy above me says it also comes down to the fact that people don’t want to buy expensive games for android and the whole production of a game of Nintendo’s caliber just cost too much for it to sell for under a dollar.

        Compare the hard core GTA China Town Wars for iOS vs something like Angry Birds. Which has sold more? Which has the biggest profit?

  • KindOfAngryGuy

    While I do like to read some comments from this blog I hate all those bias bullshit articles like this one. The graph gotta be the biggest nonsense graph in the history of bullshit nonsense graphs. Why the fuck would you base a comparison of gaming devices on the amount of users who use that (not-gaming-exclusive) OS? Of course the quality and quantity of games has risen with the upcomming of Android and iOS, but still: the fuck?

    Thank your for letting me express my kind words of criticism. TO THE BATCAVE!

  • Nathan

    Dam! These statics are something.

  • Silver

    As much as I love Android, I will still buy consoles because I’m not a casual gamer. Playing games on a system that is meant for gaming is quite different than playing games on a system where games is a “side effect” of the apps system.

    • brick

      Not home consoles–handhelds. The 3DS was an absolute failure–the few games available for the system are lousy and overly expensive (this is said with love, by the way–I’m a Nintendo fanboy). Meanwhile Sony is desperately trying to reclaim some of that market with the Vita and test the waters of the smartphone world with Xperia Play.

      The handheld market is huge for Nintendo and Sony. Nintendo has dominated it since the release of the Gameboy and have done so well there that they’ve been able to take risks and innovate with the home consoles to try and gain some ground there. Whether you like it or not, the Wii was a risk–but one that they had to take after the GameCube flop (and one that they may not have taken if they weren’t doing so well with the DS)

  • Jens

    One practical concern. Mobile consoles last quite long for gaming. And if battery is empty, you can’t game. If my smartphone’s battery is empty I’m lost. Smartphone batteries do not last as long for gaming now. Maybe I’m outdated.

  • Tornato7

    As a long-time investor in nintendo, I’m afraid that they won’t move into the smartphone market. I would gladly pay for a mario/zelda/pokemon game on my phone, but probably not an entire nintenphone…

  • spintrex

    I think we will eventually see Nintendo and Sony going into the smartphone world with some types of hybrids at first like the Xperia play. However the success of these hybrids might not be as great, kind of what N-Gage went through. In order for both Nintendo and Sony to be successful in the mobile world they would need to appeal to mobile gamers and truly convince developers and their audience that the next wave in gaming will accompany a phone. Cases like Xperia and Ngage seemed more like nifty gadgets with, like a previous commentator stated, has a ‘side effect’ of gaming.

    I believe it will take some time until these companies perfect this new system, if at all, as it will require the perks of a phone with the reliability of a portable gaming console.

  • Mark

    I’m sorry but touch based gaming on a 3 – 4″ screen will NEVER replace conventional gaming. Sure, lots of people will play phone games but if you want to play REAL games, you know what to buy.

  • KatSelezneva

    I think, smartphone games are going to win because you don’t need to buy a separate device for playing, and the choice of Android games is really huge. I like e.g. Androidify very much, where you can make your own Android portrait. My Top-10 Android applications

  • Ribbign

    “Nintendo is going to come out with a Ninten-phone sometime soon”
    No they’re not. They never will. I’m guessing you meant to write “is NOT going to”?

    They also will probably rather stop making games then start making games for Android. They make systems that are made for their games. Take N64 for example – Shigeru Miyamoto (Mario) was the one who basically said they needed to have an analog control stick to control Mario in 3D-space. Without the GAME the CONSOLE wouldn’t be as it is.

    But I do belive Nintendo are afraid. Not only for their own company but for the industry as a whole, as CEO Satoru Iwata has confessed. He (and i agree btw) feels that because poeple only want games that keep them entertain for a little while and has no real production values – fewer people want to spend the money necessary for a title of a higher caliber. i certainly don’t wanna end up at a place when I can only choose from Angry Birds or Cut The Rope or another casual game for my gaming experience.

    Also – yes there are “supposedly” hardcore titles for Android but the ones I’ve tried (like assasin’s creed, nova) just outright suck when compared to similar games offered on dedicated gaming hardware.

    I do love my android but when it comes to gaming I’ll stick with a Nintendo console. I’ll change my mind when Android offer’s something equally compelling, good, capturing, awesome as Mario, Zelda, Metroid, Pikmin, SSB, Mario Kart, F-Zero, Starfox, Donkey Kong, Kirby or even portable stuff like Pokémon, Advance Wars or Warioware. And that’s only first-party Nintendo stuff.

  • Jack

    Wow, really? First of all, the chart for 2011 is an estimate. Second, both Nintendo and Sony are in the process of transitioning to new hardware. Basically NO games for either the DS or the PSP have come out in 2011. Not really relevant…

  • frusak

    I think I wont buy any Nintendo or SOny game until the responsivness of the controls is improved :(

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