Almost 60 percent of mobile gamers now play using smartphones and tablets, suggesting that dedicated handheld devices as well as games consoles are becoming niche products.
"Mobile Gaming 2012," the latest piece of research by the NPD Group into the growing market for app gaming, reveals that 59 percent of total game playing is now via smartphone or tablet and that 23 percent of app gamers play exclusively on mobile devices.
The survey of 5,923 gamers carried out in September and published on October 12, discovered that almost half of respondents claimed to be playing more mobile games in 2012 compared with 2011, a change in behavior driven by the growing number of free apps (37%) as well as the growing portability and convenience of smartphones and tablets (34%).
But it isn't just a greater proliferation of free games that is helping to grow the market, as almost 30 percent of app gamers claimed to have made in-app game purchases or upgraded from a free to a paid-for app. However, smartphone gamers are different from their tablet-toting contemporaries. Tablet gamers were the most likely to have made both in-app purchases or to have upgraded to a premium app. However, considering that people as young as 2 years old are included in the survey's data, there is a clear suggestion that the differing behavior is a question of disposable income, rather than purely device-related.
In June, technology market research group ABI published findings that claimed smartphones and tablets were already eating into the market for dedicated handheld gaming devices such as the Sony Playstation Vita and the Nintendo 3DS, noting that while 38 million such devices were expected to ship in 2013, it is well below the 2008 peak of 47 million units.
Last week Electronic Arts (now EA) founder Trip Hawkins told IGN that console gaming was also set to become a niche activity reserved for hobbyists and that he believes the future of mass market gaming will revolve around convenience, the ability to play games wherever a user happens to find themselves, whether in a hotel room, on a train or sitting at the desk in the office. "The console market is always going to be with us, because there's always going to be a hardcore segment, a segment that likes innovation. But it's going to become a smaller market, and it's going to be more like a hobby market. You look at airplanes. Most of us just want to be a passenger, but there's a hobby market for people who are really into aviation and want to take flying lessons and maybe someday have their own airplane. I think that's what's happening to the console market," he is quoted as saying.