News Article

In Q1 2013 More Money Was Spent On iOS Games Than On 3DS And Vita Software Combined

Posted by Damien McFerran

Times they are a changin'

A recent study has revealed that in the first quarter of 2013, more cash was spent on iOS games than on 3DS and PS Vita software combined.

This marks a slight change from the previous quarter, where it took iOS and Google Play's combined spend to overshadow dedicated handheld gaming systems. This quarter, iOS alone has eclipsed its "traditional" rivals.

How does this impact us 3DS owners? You could argue that it means absolutely nothing, and you could state that the iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad "aren't proper gaming devices". While it's clear that the experience offered by the 3DS is vastly different to the experience offered by a smartphone or tablet, this isn't a trend we can simply ignore anymore. If developers can make more cash on iOS than on 3DS, that's where they will publish their games — irrespective of whether or not the devices have proper buttons.

Of course, this doesn't mean that the 3DS is going anywhere. It has just posted impressive first party software sales for 2013 and has a line-up of games which would make even the most blinkered smartphone gamer jealous. But this does show that the market is changing; just as the Wii edged ahead of its rivals by attracting the "casual" crowd, smartphones and tablets are appealing to a demographic which may not be packed with hardcore players, but is still fully prepared to spend a lot of cash on games. In an industry where talent usually migrates to where the money is, that has to be of concern to Nintendo and Sony. Indeed, both companies are making a concerted effort to appeal to indie developers — whether or not this move has come too late remains to be seen.

Do you think the rise of tablets and phones could cause long-term problems for Nintendo, or could we possibly see casual gamers switching to the 3DS after becoming disenchanted with the typically shallow experiences offered by iOS and Android? Is the era of dedicated handhelds coming to a close? Share your thoughts with a comment.

[via ubergizmo.com]

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User Comments (60)

Ichiban

#1

Ichiban said:

Not to be rude, but who gives a rats tail? We're all console gamers here

AcridSkull

#2

AcridSkull said:

Not surprising when you consider the number of stories reported where kids have "accidentally" spent thousands of pounds/dollars on in-app purchases; you can't do that on a 3DS or Vita.

goldbricks23

#3

goldbricks23 said:

@MeowGravy Yes and as console gamers we may become obsolete if the people producing the games we play stop making them for consoles and only produce for smart devices. It was basically explained in the article why we should give a "rats tail".

mjhopkins81

#4

mjhopkins81 said:

Not for nothin', but frankly, if they released games worth purchasing (aside from two or three games in three months), maybe they'd get some return on their investment. Not to mention the fact that the iOS is littered with all types of games that appeal to all types of gamers. It's really not that shocking, honestly.

idork99

#5

idork99 said:

Let's see, there are five iPod touches, five iPhones, and four iPads that have been made from 2008-present that can access the App Store. So far, only the 3DS and 3DS XL are the only systems that can access the eShop and have only been around since 2011. Gaming aside, the iOS gadgets are far superior pieces of tech then the 3DS in many ways. Hence, they're more popular devices because they're common communication devices that can do gaming and some. So it's only natural that if an individual had a choice between a smartphone or 3DS, the smartphone is going to be the first choice as it is a daily necessity in today's society to communicate with the world. But if Japan should teach us anything, it is that Animal Crossing sales 3DSs. So it is possible that if one is bored of touch only gaming, and has the money, to look into a dedicative gaming device like a 3DS or Vita. Or a home console system. But in today's society, the phone comes first so it's almost not fair to compare.

DESS-M-8

#6

DESS-M-8 said:

iOS is a totally different market. It will not detract from handheld and home consoles. The games in themselves are totally different as is the interface and whole structure. it's good that that market is strong, but a hell of lot more people will own phones than gaming devices.

I'm guilty of buying angry birds and shinobi IiI on iPhone, but I will only ever play them at a loose end waiting in waiting room, or for long queue to pass the time. If I have time on the go to actual play a video game, the 3DS comes along.

The micro playin time of this new casual gamer market is not what the 3DS is for, it is for mobile gaming intended to replicate the software you have at home. Something which android and iOS are years behind with.

I'm not putting anything down, they both have a strong product and an even stronger market presence. But to directly compare them is totally irrelevant.

I wonder if you compared software revenue against installed base which products would show the most money spent per user???? Surely THAT is more relevant as a guide to what is actually happening.

I'm sure 570,000 copies at £39.99 would show more profit than 6,000,000 copies at 69p??

C-Olimar

#8

C-Olimar said:

In other news, people spent more on food last quarter than on Vita and 3DS combined! :o

Mahe

#9

Mahe said:

Nobody's buying Vita games, so it's basically just 3DS against a much higher iOS install base. 3DS sales will improve, but it's just one console.

Ichiban

#10

Ichiban said:

@goldbricks23 Then thats the day i become a full retro gamer;)
Sorry if i upset anyone, i just cant stand this whole mobile phone gaming craze. It even bothers me when gaming websites review the latest smartphones!

NMH-TRI

#11

NMH-TRI said:

Yup. The market is changing, but it's not the same market. I don't think the people interested in handhelds are missing handheld titles because of their phone. Tablet, maybe just a litlle. This is a new cash pool, not an existing one. Take iOS market away, the handheld gaming profits wouldn't be drastically different imo.

tsm7

#12

tsm7 said:

At the same time as this change, we have games being made for the genesis and snes again. Interesting times.

tsm7

#13

tsm7 said:

Oh, sorry, "mega drive". I swear it took me forever to realize they were the same thing. I was always confused.

Alienfish

#14

Alienfish said:

Times they are a changin'... back to what they were. Casual gamers will always play the easiest thing to get into and phones with dollar games fit that bill perfectly. Things are changing, but they aren't moving forward for the games industry. Instead, video game consoles will soon become a thing that, like ten years ago, only gamers had and used. There will always be a market for gamers that require more input than a touch screen can offer. That said, games on consoles and dedicated portables are going to be fine, but production should probably be scaled back so the market doesn't get inflated with more product than consumers can afford.

Musharna

#15

Musharna said:

how do we know if there wasn't a few paid apps in here like notepads or something like that?

Bulbousaur

#16

Bulbousaur said:

What a pointless comparison. The total amount of iPhones sold versus the number of 3DSs sold is more than 50:1. Of course more money is going to be spend on phone games overall with those ratios. And even just now this website reported that 3DS first party software sales were up by over 50%. All this means is that the mobile games industry is growing. There is little to no effect on dedicated handhelds by smartphones.

adrenochrome

#17

adrenochrome said:

the comparison is pointless because
1) on apple-store nearly everything is paying
2) most of the sales are 1-5€ "games"
3) the 1-2€ games are not really games compared to consoles games

aronatvw

#19

aronatvw said:

I think it is important to point out that the amount of gamers have risen as well. Aruna the last time your mom has played halo with you. I don't know about younger generations , but I've never seen my mom play a video game in my entire life basically until angry birds. lol the markets bigger, there's more money to be made. The towns big enough for.more than one sheriff.

WiiULoveSquid

#20

WiiULoveSquid said:

the 3DS is doing well enough that i have no fears for the next few years. im sure nintendo will win with what comes after 3DS as well and have most of all those 3DS owners on board for that future.

WaLzgiStaff

#21

WaLzgi said:

It's like comparing apples and oranges. They're both fruit, so does that mean they're in direct competition?

ultraraichu

#22

ultraraichu said:

I wonder if they count in-app purchases in that total.

A game can be free but can cost $50 in months just to beat it, get the best/useful items/outfits, or unlock all the features.

Boukman

#23

Boukman said:

I will buy ANY machine if it has got decent games on it. That's all that matters. Good games. So, I don't play games on an i-phone. And for that same reason I don't have a WiiU yet.

HeatBombastic

#24

HeatBombastic said:

@DESS-M-8 But if the iOS devices market start going for hardcore gamers, and start making high-quality games, that's what people speculate will be the end of consoles.

DamoAdmin

#25

Damo said:

@adrenochrome @LzQuacker @Bulby It's not a worthless comparison at all. As stated in the original article, development talent moves to where the money is. When developers start migrating to iOS and ignoring dedicated consoles, that's when you have to worry - and that's happening right now.

rjejr

#26

rjejr said:

"If developers can make more cash on iOS than on 3DS, that's where they will publish their games"

A lot of good comments here but I didn't see anybody hit on this 1 - did any ONE developer make more money on iOS then the big companies made on 3DS (what's a Vita?)? OK, the Angry Birds folk are rolling in it, but the majority of developers are not making tons of money, they are for Apple, who collects 30% from everybody, but most developers are not.

Sega, Capcom, Konami, SquarEnix are not about to give up making $60 retail games to sell all their stuff for a buck on iOS. If they're smart they'll make a few $1 games, but not all of their games will be $1.

To summarize - the thousands of companies games for iOS are COLLECTIVELY making more money than the few dozen traditional game companies, but those developers are not individually making more money.

Spuratis

#27

Spuratis said:

@LzQuacker You weren't aware? Apples and Oranges are mortal enemies!

@Damo To us console users, I think that would only start seriously concerning people if big names in development like Nintendo, Ubisoft, and Konami for example, started their primary focus on iOS. Right now it just seems to me that we may lose some indie devs, but honestly, a lot of the indie dev games are so bad they aren't even worth having. Not to say that there aren't any good ones though. I'll be worried when I hear big name companies who make my favorite games resorting to iOS only.

hypercoyote

#29

hypercoyote said:

iOS games are cheaper than 3DS/Vita games, but generally people jump from one game to another in less than a week, whereas on the 3DS/Vita, people generally buy one game every few months. So we can say that, roughly, people spend about the same per day for each system. So then you have to consider how many 3DS and Vita units are there out there and how many iOS devices are out there. At that point, the higher numbers will simply go to the side with more devices, which I believe will easily fall to iOS.

Spoony_Tech

#31

Spoony_Tech said:

@rjejr That's a very good point. At 1-5$ a company would have to sell anywhere from 10-70 times the amount to match a 3ds or hd console game. Even just talking handheld we are still looking at a 10-55 times ratio.

DamoAdmin

#32

Damo said:

@rjejr Those developers are making more money because the publisher model is removed in iOS. You're not working to create a game which then generates profits for a publisher - you're earning all the cash (minus Apple's share) yourself.

Given the sheer number of console developers moving over to iOS, I think it's fair to say that they're doing better financially via this method.

adrenochrome

#33

adrenochrome said:

@Damo
currently the comparison is not valid : the games are not the same, the prices are not the same
you may think that tomorow all dev will go where the money is but i dont : i cant imagine fire emblem, animal crossing or zombiu on phones, the experience cant be the same
the devs wont go to phone because it's not the same money, it's another, diffenrent source of money

Nestalgic

#36

Nestalgic said:

I'll say it again, as more people switch to tablet/phone gaming because the games are more casual-gamer-friendly and much much cheaper, we're going to see fewer sales for traditional handheld consoles. That's going to mean fewer titles being offered and hence, higher prices as retailers have to figure out ways to cover their costs via higher margins on a per unit basis because they just can't come up with the quantity numbers they had in the past.

You'd be foolish to believe that tablets and smartphones are a fad. They are easier to access and always on hand. I could see Nintendo working with Google to put out an android handheld (like the Nexus 4, 7, or 10) but that also has access to the eshop. Or it could look like one of those Chinese-made WiiU gamepad clones. That would probably sell amazingly.

Dreamcaster-X

#37

Dreamcaster-X said:

@Damo But then there's also developers who sell more titles on 3DS vs iOS & Android. Gunman Clive being one example. There's also much more profit for these guys on the Vita & 3DS side. Alot of the iOS & Android games barely make money at 0.99 a pop.

zenverak

#38

zenverak said:

This isn't just a fad, but at the same time, you have to look at what was bought. I would also like to see how much was actually made off each game. My guess would be that very few games on Ios and Android individually make as much as games for a console might. There are probably a few that do, but overall, I would doubt it. Having said that, all it will take is someway for controls to nearly flawless for a device that is a phone and the handheld gaming market might go down.

zenverak

#39

zenverak said:

This isn't just a fad, but at the same time, you have to look at what was bought. I would also like to see how much was actually made off each game. My guess would be that very few games on Ios and Android individually make as much as games for a console might. There are probably a few that do, but overall, I would doubt it. Having said that, all it will take is someway for controls to nearly flawless for a device that is a phone and the handheld gaming market might go down.

zenverak

#40

zenverak said:

This isn't just a fad, but at the same time, you have to look at what was bought. I would also like to see how much was actually made off each game. My guess would be that very few games on Ios and Android individually make as much as games for a console might. There are probably a few that do, but overall, I would doubt it. Having said that, all it will take is someway for controls to nearly flawless for a device that is a phone and the handheld gaming market might go down.

zenverak

#41

zenverak said:

This isn't just a fad, but at the same time, you have to look at what was bought. I would also like to see how much was actually made off each game. My guess would be that very few games on Ios and Android individually make as much as games for a console might. There are probably a few that do, but overall, I would doubt it. Having said that, all it will take is someway for controls to nearly flawless for a device that is a phone and the handheld gaming market might go down.

HawkeyeWii

#42

HawkeyeWii said:

I'm sorry, but why are so many people interested in those mediocre iOS game!!!?
I have bought one and it is Zen Pinball StarWars.
I have tried other games where you don't just scroll your finger around and where you actually control a character and it was the most awkward controls I have ever had in a game.

Royalblues

#43

Royalblues said:

Why should this come as a surprise? Neither handheld console has what I would call a killer app.

rjejr

#44

rjejr said:

@Damo - "Given the sheer number of console developers moving over to iOS, I think it's fair to say that they're doing better financially via this method."

Well the "sheer" number is why iOS makes more in total, and the developers that move are likely the ones who aren't good enough to develop a $40 - $60 game, which is why they make more on iOS, b/c they can make a 99c game.

@Damo - "Those developers are making more money because the publisher model is removed in iOS. You're not working to create a game which then generates profits for a publisher - you're earning all the cash (minus Apple's share) yourself."

um, doesn't that just make Apple the publisher? And don't some developers also have publishers on iOS? I'm pretty sure I've seen more than one name on several of my game credits. (Well on Android, I traded in my iPod Touch.)

Anyway, I'll be more impressed when the number gets bigger than home consoles. All this says is the Vita is a flop and the 3DS needed more games this quarter. Lets see the numbers after AC:NL and X+Y come out later this year.

bassoongoon

#45

bassoongoon said:

@idork99

" the smartphone is going to be the first choice as it is a daily necessity in today's society to communicate with the world."

I don't disagree with the fact that for many people a smartphone would be chosen before a handheld gaming console. Though this is certainly not the case for everyone (myself included).
However I do have to disagree with the fact that a smartphone is a daily necessity. Most key functions that differentiate a smartphone from a "dumb" phone can be performed on a computer. For some, the convenience of checking e-mail, or internet on the go would be a necessity, but not for everyone.
I am a undergraduate student, and perfectly happy with my "dumb" phone. I am content to check my e-mail and the internet on my laptop at home. I have yet to buy I 3DS, but I will after the new club Nintendo year starts. To me, smartphones and there plans are highway robbery, and a big waste of money. Still I can see how for some people a smartphone would be really convenient (I'm thinking primarily of business types, and professionals, not so much college/high school students).

LordessMeep

#46

LordessMeep said:

Personally, the handheld market will always have its audience for there will always be people looking for an on-the-go console experience. I have no problems with developers migrating to iOS in order to pursue another source of income. I honestly can't imagine the big name developers throwing away the income from $40-60 titles in favour of producing shallow $1 titles exclusively. If they're in it for providing the players with a memorable gaming experience, they certainly won't do so.

idork99

#47

idork99 said:

@bassoongoon Agreed. But in my social life (Southern California), it does seem that to everyone that their smartphone is their life. I'm glad you still utilize the "dumb" phone! It makes you smart! On the contrary, I feel that smartphones are making us more dumb as a society because we depend on it so much and tend to use our brains less. Anyhow, you're right on your comment. But for my social surrounding, the smartphone is a must unfortunately.

DamoAdmin

#48

Damo said:

@rjejr No publisher will take just 30% of your earnings, so no, Apple isn't the publisher. While there are some publishers working on iOS and Android, the vast majority of smartphone titles are self-published.

"Anyway, I'll be more impressed when the number gets bigger than home consoles"

Now that IS comparing two completely different market sectors. Smartphone and handhelds are both mobile formats, so the comparison makes more sense.

bassoongoon

#49

bassoongoon said:

@idork99

Interesting! It seems we certainly have similar opinions on the matter. I admit, it would be nice to have Trees of Doom, to kill time at the airport, or such.

I've met a handful of people that have them but don't really seem to need them. Some of my friends, for example, pretty much only use them for texting and calling (which kind of defeats the purpose).

rjejr

#50

rjejr said:

@Damo - "Anyway, I'll be more impressed when the number gets bigger than home consoles"

Yeah, that was kind of a throw-away line.

If you're simply talking about iOS and Android getting bigger than Vita, 3DS and any other handheld gaming consoles, I'll agree with you there. Why buy a Vita for $249 when you already have a $200 smartphone in your pocket? (Though contradicting myself, I do think Nintendo should dump the home market and stick w/ handhelds, kids don't need $90 monthly contracts, they need Mario and Pokemon.)

I brought in the home console market - I did, you didn't - b/c I thought you were implying that game developers would leave the home console marker for iOS and Android w/ this line:
" ... In an industry where talent usually migrates to where the money is, that has to be of concern to Nintendo and Sony."
If you are only talking about Sony and Nintendo's handheld presence then yes, my comment is irrelevant. I thought you were extrapolating to the home market as well. Maybe when Apple makes a home console, or when Ouya releases, we can see if 99c games matter.

armoredghor

#51

armoredghor said:

apple also had to pay $100,000,000 back to parents from kids buying games without their consent.

ruben602

#52

ruben602 said:

@Mahe you are so right
like who wants to buy a $50 to $69 dollar game chip that can get easily lost [no offense to anyone with a vita because they are great as well] but seriously though add me just coment if u did lol but it's 3DS against ios mainly though

Meaty-cheeky

#53

Meaty-cheeky said:

Nintendo needs a another new IP like Pokemon and Mario that can help the 3DS sale like hot cakes! The more people that get a chance to own a dedicated gaming handheld like the PS Vita or Nintendo 3DS, I seriously believe would considerably slow down people from buying smartphone and tablet games, because physical buttons and a system designed for games play so much better on a dedicated gaming system. Smart phones aren't designed for serious gaming in mind.

I have a iphone and ipad for my career in aviation, but I rarely play games on them, since the controls always annoy me. I play my 3DS for games.

Tasuki

#54

Tasuki said:

Phone gaming and such is just a fad. Just you watch in a few years no one will even remember it.

CrabGats

#55

CrabGats said:

This isn't a bad thing, it makes sense, I mean, it's just that more people have a smartphone than a 3DS, and popular games available for smartphones, especially those involving Facebook catch on rather quickly, and seem to yoink money out of your wallet without you even noticing. I'm frankly not surprised, it doesn't mean it's the end of handheld gaming, you have to understand most of these people don't even game regularly outside of their smartphone/pc when they're at home or something, these people are casuals, and in the end of it all, will not determine the fate of the handheld market, as real game consumers will focus on... well... handhelds! Although good quality games are becoming available on mobile devices, you just can't beat a handheld! They're designed for play on the go, playing on smartphones is simply an option, half of the time the battery isn't even built for it, you have to keep it charged all the time to play.

AceTrainerBean

#56

AceTrainerBean said:

I hate tablet and phone gaming its just not the same and it feels horrible to play plus most of those games feel cheap! I think the sales were higher because he games were more affordable but the buyer only played the game for a week then got another game where as on a consol the game is more expensive but keeps you satisfied for a much longer time eg Monster hunter 3 ultimate

mullen

#57

mullen said:

I think there are some more important numbers. First, how much can an iOS game earn on average, and the 3DS. Second, how much money is necessary to develop an iOS game on average, and the 3DS. It's surely that there are much more (with lots of them are low quality) iOS games, and very few famous exceptions that are big succes. But does that means iOS are really more profitable for general game developers?
Its also interesting to see that if iOS and 3DS can be compared as TV and movie.
Btw, I think we can ignore Vita in this discussion at this time

Nestalgic

#58

Nestalgic said:

@bassoongoon

You're an undergrad student but you make up a very small percentage of the global population. Right now more than 50% of phones in use in the States are smartphones. And any white or pink collar working adult pretty much has to have one. I'd imagine a lot of blue collar working adults probably have one as well.

Nestalgic

#59

Nestalgic said:

@mullen

A self-published smartphone game means the maker collects almost all the revenue. For a self-published eshop game, the game has to hit a critical mass of sales before the maker gets to collect any revenue. Someone making a marginal or bad game will probably look to the smartphone market first. And someone making a good game may do that as well. The probability for profits are just greater.

Compare it to the book market. A physical hardcover sells for $30. An ebook of the same title may sell for $10. But you only collect 15% of sales on your hardcovers. Meanwhile you collect 70% on your ebooks. So it's $4.50 per hardcover sale or $3 per ebook sale. On paper that looks like hardcovers (think 3DS) sounds better. Then then when you factor in quantity sold, ebooks are better (think smartphones) because they are cheaper and thus sell far more.

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