Two days ago Japan got its hot little hands on the PlayStation Vita. Since then 321,400 handhelds have been sold, according to Japanese retail tracking firm Enterbrain. The Nintendo 3DS saw 371,000 units sold in the same time frame earlier this year, beating out Sony’s system by a mere 50,000 units.
Sony and Nintendo are locked in an heated uphill climb in the portable gaming market. In 2009 Nintendo reaped 70 percent of all portable gaming revenue with its DS line, while Apple’s iOS devices and Android combined gleaned 19 percent. Sony came in last with a 11 percent share courtesy of PSP sales.
In two years the market has done a clear 180. Nintendo has sink to 36 percent of all handheld revenue, Sony has hit rock bottom at 6 percent, and iOS and Android have a greedy 58 percent share. The market is clearly tipping towards more casual and convenient gaming devices — who doesn’t play a couple rounds of Robot Unicorn Attack on their iPhone during their morning train commute? Smartphones function as more than just gaming devices, they allow owners to place calls, surf the Internet, and fiddle around with popular applications in addition to casual gaming. An iPhone 4S will set you back $200 with a two-year contract — much cheaper than a 3G PlayStation Vita or Nintendo 3DS with all the software fixin’s.
“Portable console gaming no longer has a practical place in the current landscape of casual flick, drag, and swipe games,” said Jeff Bakalar of CNET in a discussion earlier this year on portable gaming systems. “There is no room for the 3DSes and Vitas of the world when all-in-one functionality is now more important than high-tech, gaming-focused mobile systems.”
Will the Vita crush the competition, or with the Nintendo 3DS pickup its sales slack and win back the hearts of wandering gamers everywhere?