Winning back the smartphone gamer.
SONY last week launched a gadget that could determine the fate of the portable gaming market.
The Playstation Vita offers Australian gamers unprecedented technology for a portable console, including an OLED touchscreen, quad- core processor and built- in 3G internet connection.
The pocketable device, a followup to the Playstation Portable, also arrived with a host of big- name launch titles, including Uncharted, Wipeout and Motorstorm.
But while analysts predict the console will be keenly welcomed by dedicated gamers, they forecast a bitter battle ahead as smartphone and tablet game apps claim a larger share of mobile gaming.
One report claims smartphone games already account for 58 per cent of portable game revenue, leading one expert to assert that ‘‘ maybe the horse has already bolted’’.
Unveiled in January last year, Sony’s Playstation Vita is the most technologically advanced portable game console yet.
While it resembles its PSP predecessors, the Vita features a 5- inch OLED touchscreen, a touchsensitive rear panel, two joysticks, quad- core processor, space for a memory card and game cartridge, plus wi- fi connectivity.
The top- tier PS Vita will also deliver 3G mobile internet access, which is a first in a portable console. Vodafone is offering a 12- month plan.
The console will cost $ 349 ( wi- fi) or $ 419 ( 3G) outright at launch, a price Swinburne media and communications senior lecturer Dr Mark Finn says surprised some pundits.
‘‘ Sony has come into this with a price that is much, much lower than many people expected,’’ he says. ‘‘ It’s coming in with a price that is cheaper than [ its predecessor] the PSPGO, about $ 100 cheaper. It’s almost an impulse buy.’’
But while Finn praises the Sony Vita’s power and price, he predicts the company, and fellow portable gaming giant Nintendo, will struggle to win back some gaming fans who have opted for apps over game cartridges.
‘‘ We’ve had a bit of a gamechanger in the shift towards mobile devices becoming game platforms,’’ he says. ‘‘ Tablets and high- end smartphones have taken away a lot of the thunder from traditional game companies.’’
Research firm Flurry estimates Google Android and Apple IOS games took up 58 per cent of all game revenue last year, up from 19 per cent in 2009.
Nintendo’s share dropped to 36 per cent, according to Flurry, while Sony’s share fell to 6 per cent.
But IDC predicts dedicated portable game consoles are in for a ‘‘ rebound’’ this year, helped by Vita’s launch and a big price cut to Nintendo’s 3DS console ( to $ 249).
Gaming research manager Lewis Ward says the entire mobile games market will generate $ 14.7 billion this year and predicts gaming apps will increase their revenue share by 4 per cent by 2015 because of bargain basement prices.
Another advantage of portable games consoles is the quality of their games, Bond University communications and media associate professor Dr Jeffrey Brand says.
While app stores offer a wide variety of games, smartphone titles range from crudely made and ‘‘ experimental’’ games to polished experiences.
‘‘ Some gamers are looking for a very rich and deep experience without some of the failings of converged devices [ like smartphones and tablets] such as stability, screen size and game quality,’’ Dr Brand says.
In a strange way, portable game machines may also benefit from the popularity of smartphone games. ‘‘ The game audience is much more diverse than it was only five years ago and . . . smartphones have contributed to that,’’ he says.