We like to think we’re pretty up to speed on the whole mobile gaming thing, with our Jungle Runs and our Crushes of Candy and our Birds which are either Angry or Happy. But our infatuation is nothing compared to that of Japan where, according to the Japanese Consumer Entertainment Supplier’s Association, mobile game revenue for the past year has hit $5.1 billion. Impressive indeed, but is also something of a watershed moment for gaming, as this means it took in more dosh then traditional consoles, which raked in $4 billion.
What’s really impressive is the speed with which mobile gaming has exploded (metaphorically speaking of course, that wouldn’t lead to such high sales). In 2011 the Japanese mobile gaming industry was worth a paltry $370 million. That is staggering growth whichever way you slice it.
Even so, you could have seen this coming. Over the past few years the sales of home consoles has declined rapidly, while the sales of handheld consoles such as the DS and PSP have remained high. Yet even this changed with the dawn of the 3DS and PS Vita, both of which started reasonably strong but are now beginning to flat line.
For Japanese gamers portability seems the be all and end all, and given that mobile phones are now powerful enough to replicate the experiences on dedicated handhelds, the allure of having an all in one machine for gaming, music, chinwagging and general geek related activity seems hard to resist.
So what does this mean for the traditional console gaming giants of the Far East? Well it will naturally mean that the likes of Sega, Capcom and Square Enix will be shifting their focus to accommodate this change in tastes. Probably harder hit will be the console manufacturers Sony and Nintendo. The challenge for them now is to implement what makes mobile gaming so popular into their next handhelds, or else they could find themselves marginalised.
And of course, is the trend set to continue over here? Well not until handsets and internet speeds increase in power to match those found in Japan, but that will (we hope) happen eventually. Yet console gaming is bigger in the West then it ever has been, so there is unlikely to be any shift there. Again it’s the handhelds like the PS Vita and 3DS which may struggle, so again the onus is on Sony and Nintendo to turn their respective ships around.