Market research firm Influence Central has revealed a new study that suggests Nintendo is losing the battle against smartphones and tablets when it comes to winning the hearts and minds of youngsters.

The company's latest report states that the average child is given his or her first smartphone at 10.3 years of age. This early introduction of mobile tech appears to be contributing to a decline in the dedicated handheld sector; Influence Central reports that on car trips, Nintendo's handhelds are now the fourth most popular choice behind tablets, phones, and DVDs when it comes to entertainment. Just 24 percent of children are choosing to take them on the road with them.

Influence Central's data comes from research conducted online in the months of January and February, and is based a survey of 500 women. It appears to correlate with a 2014 study in the UK which claimed that kids are more likely to game on a tablet than a handheld console, like the Nintendo 3DS. Another study by the NPD from the same year pointed out that usage of smartphones and tablets among US children was "outpacing all other electronics".

The rise of smartphones and tablets has unquestionably impacted the dedicated handheld sector. While Nintendo has traditionally enjoyed incredible commercial success with its portables - it has sold almost 120 million Game Boy consoles, 81 million Game Boy Advance consoles and 154 million DS consoles worldwide - the 3DS has struggled to emulate the same commercial performance, and currently stands at just over 58 million units sold. Its rival the PS Vita has fared significantly worse, and would appear to be Sony's last handheld.

Much of this has to do with the arrival of smartphones running Android and iOS, both of which now have massive online stores packed with thousands of games, many of which can be downloaded free of charge. A market for tablet devices - also running Google and Apple's operating systems - has grown alongside this, further reducing the amount of attention dedicated games consoles receive.

Nintendo has been uncharacteriscally reluctant to reveal a successor to the 3DS, and it is speculated that the forthcoming NX will be a hybrid system which combines the company's domestic and handheld markets. Meanwhile, Nintendo has taken its first steps into the smartphone gaming arena with Miitomo, and will follow up with Fire Emblem and Animal Crossing apps soon.

[via gamasutra.com]