News Article

Number-Crunching Reveals That Nintendo's Handheld Market Is "Stable"

Posted by Damien McFerran

3DS matching the sales performance of both the GBA and Nintendo DS

Lots of industry experts are arguing that the expansion of mobile phone and tablet gaming is having an impact on the fortunes of dedicated games consoles like the 3DS, but Gamasutra's Matt Matthews has taken a closer look at the figures and found that the truth is somewhat different.

Matthews has taken the recent shipment figures for the Nintendo 3DS and compared them to the Game Boy Advance and Nintendo DS across the same time period - around 21 months following launch. The results show that Nintendo's latest handheld is actually tracking quite closely with its predecessors, a fact which refutes accusations that the system is struggling in the face of iOS and Android.

The report also covers the phenomenal success of the DS console, and why it has perhaps skewed people's perceptions of how popular the 3DS has to be before it is considered a worthy successor. Make sure you give it a read.


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User Comments (27)



BenAV said:

Can't complain too much with that.
Hopefully it will continue to gain momentum with a solid library now and a lot of great looking titles on the way.



King_Boo said:

If I understand the graph right, they need some big games out. I just don't know what that would be, metroid or zelda maybe, or just a good shooter. An advance wars or battalion wars sounds like a good choice.



Alienfish said:

I like stuff like this that just totally goes in the face of the haters. It looks like there will be another spike too since we're now in the holiday season.



erv said:

@King_Boo true. But considering the way there's a lot of life left in it, I think they're going to do great on 3ds.

Also, to be honest, having this much of an install base in much worse economic times is a very positive sign. Here's hoping nintendo can make the most out of it!



Burning_Spear said:

The only catch is that Nintendo had to sell millions of 3DS units at a loss to achieve those numbers.



GameLord08 said:

Touché, @Burning-Spear. To me, the Wii U looks to be a slight replication of the 3DS situation - only this time, it's noticeably better prepared.

It's pretty apparent we will see a spike in 3DS figures come this holiday season and Q1 2013 so with the established well-being of the 3DS, I have no idea what all the fuss on sales figures and analysts is about. It's obvious we have little to worry about here for the timebeing, and any "haters" saying otherwise are either clearly underinformed or trolling. Enough with all this never-ending "research" being conducted, we ought to know already.

As for the whole "social gaming/mobile gaming is taking its toll on the industry", I really believe people need to up and realise by now that their respective markets are still not directly intertwined. Yet.



Boo_Buster said:

@Burning_Spear So then Sony and Microsofts numbers have the biggest catch in the history of catches...?
Most game companies sell consoles at a loss and sell software for profit. PS3, Xbox360, and Vita are all this way from the start. I'm not knocking them, just pointing out facts.

Has anyone ever thought that handhelds have kind of just reached their limit for install base with the DS era? I mean those who want to play a handheld are going to get one, save for those who are really hurting in these tough economic times. I don't think the numbers can really grow that much more than they did with the DS, which was a great system for everyone, young and old, puzzler to RPG dungeon crawler to artist. If the 3DS can reach nearly the numbers of the DS I have to consider it a success.

Edit: And I'd think the same way for the Vita and PSP.



Wheels2050 said:

It'll be interesting to see how the trend continues, as keeping pace with the DS now doesn't necessarily mean that the 3DS will be as successful (which is a tough ask for any console - the DS sold ridiculously well).

Keep in mind that the DS didn't sell that well to begin with though, and Nintendo have expressed their disappointment that the 3DS isn't selling as well as they expected, so using the first year or so of the DS as a benchmark perhaps isn't quite the golden standard it seems. However, the 3DS is far from a failure, and it's nice to see some hard numbers.



Burning_Spear said:

@Boo_Buster Relax. I'm merely pointing out that selling at a loss is a new page in the Nintendo playbook. I'm with the camp that believes that mobile devices aren't going to cause the extinction of dedicated gaming devices. But it wouldn't be fair to present these numbers without noting that the product needed a 30 percent price cut — below the profitability line — to match its predecessors.



AVahne said:

Only handheld having trouble in the face of opposition against smartphones is Vita. Now when is Sony going to make an Xperia Play 2? If released next year or the year after, judging by how mobile processors are progressing, it would match Vita or surpass it graphically which eliminates one of Vita's main selling point. However, at least for a few years, Vita will still be getting better games and exclusives unless it continues to perform as poorly as it is now. So the Vita's final fortress: it's controls. I don't think the Play 2 (if it ever exists) would have the touchpad on the back, so Vita has one thing left to itself, not the mention the buttons and analog inputs on the Play 2 wouldn't be as full-fledged as the Vita. I would gladly own both though, so Vita should try to stay alive.
3DS should have Vita to have friendly competition with, not phones or phones with slide-out gamepads.



Boo_Buster said:

@Burning_Spear lol I didn't mean it in a harsh way brother, I'm calm. I'm calmer than you! lol jk. My bad if it felt that way, honestly. You are right though, I agree. Totally new for Nintendo to do that, as they historically go with the Gunpei Yokoi approach to systems.



Bulbousaur said:

Anyone that says mobile gaming is killing dedicated handhelds can shut the hell up in 3, 2, 1...



Ernest_The_Crab said:

@Burning_Spear Well this isn't factoring in a lot of things. The original DS didn't launch in a recession for one. It had about 4 years before our most recent recession started. The 3DS launched about 2 years after this recession started and is still stuck in the recovery stage of the economy.

Within the first year of the 3DS launch there was also a major disaster in Japan (which also affected the Vita).

The 3D addition really isn't that strong of a pull as the allure of the touch screen at their respective times.



JavierYHL said:

both the 3ds and vita are great...Loved gravity rush,smart as and AC liberation on the vita...hoped it will have some success like the 3ds...playing Little king story on the vita now



ecco6t9 said:

As long as the 3DS can meet or beat GBA sales, it should be considered a success. Since the DS market skewed to a different demographic.

Secondly, I would not be surprised if next holiday season we see a few neglected series come back. Metroid,F-Zero, and of course a new entry into Kirby will help out next years sales.



Mk_II said:

ive said it a gazillion times before: phones and handheld consoles are DIFFERENT MARKETS and certainly not mutually exclusive. And analysts don't know about the real world.



citizenerased said:

doomed! doooooooomed

(to be fair, the GBA had the SP and the DS had the Lite to boost the sales incredibly, 3DS won't have that)



rjejr said:

The Vita begs to differ.

The 3DS is still a kids toy and there will always be kids who don't need cell phones w/ monthly bills. Eventually tablets may become an issue if they can get down to $149 and get really good games, at which point they are game consoles.

The argument isn't about whether or not cell phones beat handhelds, the question is can cell phones beat Nintendo? Until real Mario and Pokemon games come out on phones the answer is no.



HugoSmits said:

am I the only one who sees this as negative ? the 3DS is clearly struggling!

It's like comparing a new triple A title that only sold 200.000 copies to a best seller NES game and conclude 'see.. we are a hit too.. we sold just as much!'.

Times have changed, markets have grown. If your numbers are on par with previous systems over almost a decade ago... you clearly did something wrong!



Dodger said:

The Vita also has like, no games that look interesting out or in development. I kinda like the system, but it doesn't really seem to be trying to appeal to anybody except PS3 fans. Not because smartphones are better.

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