Nintendo’s Christmas presents or What is happening to mobile gaming?

Often I try to have firm reasons for pieces I write but I don’t for this one. This one is more of just letting a feeling out.

A feeling that’s been driven by looking at the home screen of my Nintendo 3DS recently.

Over the last couple of months (and a few days), Nintendo has given, GIVEN me as a 3DS Ambassador 20, TWENTY game titles. Not dumb accessories, not betas or demos… TWENTY full games. And though they may be last generation, they aren’t your bargain bin throwaways…they include Zelda, Fire Emblem, Mario, Donkey Kong, Metroid, F-Zero…all very arguably the crown jewels in Nintendo’s IP portfolio. Add to this, the other free game they literally gave me (because of coins I redeemed by reviewing the free games) of Xevious 3D AND the free (Zelda 25th Anniversary Celebration) Zelda Four Swords…that’s TWENTY-TWO free titles I have, from the company that has spent decades fighting piracy. It’s ridiculous, when I look at my Nintendo 3DS screen, I have FOUR Zelda titles on the SD card now, that’s more than half of their entire mobile lineup for the Zelda series. Of course it makes me incredibly pleased and smug.

But I also feel a little bad for Nintendo too.

According to Flurry Analytics, the Nintendo DS family held seventy percent of mobile game revenues just two years ago. With Sony’s PSP, the game portables held close to ninety percent. This year the shares of both of those have dropped to almost half of that.

That’s really frightening. No doubt it has people like Nintendo and Sony spooked. But so am I. Don’t get me wrong, I’m so happy for my iPhone and the fact that my two year old can use an iPad. I’m happy for the smartphone revolution and am astounded by the explosion on smartphone gaming I see in buses and elevators and coffeeshops. Oh and I’m sure developers are happy. They can’t stop talking about the “ecosystem”. But not like this.

Not at the expense of companies’ that have brought us Final Fantasy and Zelda. Not a future where if they lose, my only portable game interface is a touchscreen where I rub my fingers continually on a piece of glass.

The PlayStation Vita just launched in Japan and I hope they do fantastic. Looking at the gamecards, it kinda makes me smile cause they remind me of the SD/MMC cards that Nokia once tried with their N-Gage device. I wonder what kind of protection and DRM Sony would be placing on those things. Still I really want them to succeed. I want a future where there’s a healthy choice for the next generation of gamers beyond Infinity Blade and Angry Birds. I know my boys will have iPhone 7s, but I’ll be one of those parents who would happily splurge on a PS Whatever or DS Something too…instead of being a cheapo who goes “…here’s an iPod Touch – here’s the iTunes Store, here’s gaming on Facebook…knock yourself out”

I guess all I’m saying is, even though it may be a bad analogy, there’s breadth in music. You can like music but you can like so many different types of it. Similiarly when it comes to portable video gaming, I hope the traditional players find their focus in the industry and not play the one title we all can’t afford to lose – the zero-sum game.

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