Portable gamingThe talk of smartphones and tablets replacing traditional portable handhelds is one that’s been constantly debated about, and now that we’ve got some statistics to back up those claims; things don’t look too good for consoles. According to data from Flurry, a mobile analytics firm and the NPD (National Purchase Diary), Android and iOS now make up 58% of the portable game market, with the Nintendo DS taking up 36% and the Sony PSP with the remaining 6%.

While this may not seem like a big deal, if you roll back time two years ago, Android and iOS only made up 19% of the portable game market in 2009 while the DS had 70% and the PSP had 11%. Granted, smartphones weren’t extremely popular back then, and most people were still happy with their feature phones, but in today’s world it’s a whole different ball game. To date, only 149 million units of Nintendo DS and 70 million units of the Sony PSP have been sold, while the number of iPhones and Android phones should be in the hundreds of millions by now.

This massive user base has allowed developers to charge lower prices for the games since they have a much larger audience to appeal to as opposed to dedicated consoles. Mobile platforms also have a lot of “free to play” games that make money off in-game purchases and advertising, which could is one of the explanations behind its dominance. Portable consoles still rely on consumers purchasing games for an upfront fee and usually give away extra content for free. While this means that gaming companies won’t have to sell as many units to make a profit, it doesn’t provide the constant flow of income that free to play models bring in.

Another reason for the mobile platform dominance could also be attributed to the hardware. Smartphones and tablets are getting more and more powerful by the day, while dedicated portable consoles are only upgrade once every few years which means they get outdated pretty quickly. What once used to be an advantage of dedicated consoles (they could run better, and more beautiful-looking games) is now turning into something that tablets and smartphones have instead of them.

But in the end, it really boils down to the quality of games, and if every shifts their focus to develop games for mobile devices, we’ll see a drop in the DS/PSP market share regardless. But as of now, if Sony and Nintendo don’t step up their game with their portable devices, they could possibly lose out on the whole pie chart.

What do you think Nintendo or Sony could do to improve situation? Change the way they charge for games? Focus on releasing more “casual games” to compete with smartphones? Drop us your thoughts in the comments below.

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