Sunday, November 8, 2009

JFGI: The Boxed Game is Dead

The mobile gaming market is looking increasingly erm ... mobile. While established mobile platforms from Sony and Nintendo are currently being eclipsed by johnny-come-lately handhelds in the form of the iPod Touch and the iPhone, Google's Android OS may be about to cut a swathe through mobile market and upset the Apple iCart as Android 2 includes free sat nav.

The new Nintendo DSi, which incorporates features commonly found in mobile phones in an attempt to make the platform more appealing and stem the loss of sales, is already redundant as Nintendo prepare to launch the DSi XL in the spring. The XL is a thicker, heavier version of the DSi, with larger screens and bundled apps (see this brief games news piece from yesterday's Games Review in The Guardian's Guide supplement). A visual comparison of the DSi and the DSi XL can been seen in this Wired article. According to this BBC news story, Nintendo DS sales have dipped by 15% over the last year while, in the same period, sales of iPhone and iPod touch have doubled. (That BBC news story, which moots Android 2 as a threat to Nintendo, Sony and Apple, also contains a nice video clip of Android's satnav running on a Motorola Droid but, irritatingly, the video clip isn't embeddable.)

Sony's response to the stiff competition was to restyle the niche PSP as the overpriced PSP Go (at £225, it's almost the same price as a £250 PS3) and introduce "Minis" -- downloadable games at affordable prices. (Click on the image for an insightful review of the PSP Go at ArsTechnica.)

The rise in downloadable content for handhelds may be the beginning of the end of content on a chip in a plastic box, as the overheads and distribution costs are considerably less. This is likely to have a trickle-down effect on the high street for box-based retailers like Game, and also an effect on the second hand market. Just how does one sell-on a download when you've finished with it? What do the people who rent you games games publishers think of the whole second-hand thing anyway? See, for example: Sony's Clampdown on second-hand games; Second-hand games sales are "a huge issue" -- Epic

On a less fraught front, the open source handheld market, specifically the GP2X, is keeping up with developments too, in the form of the GP2X Wiz, available at an affordable £129. There's a five minute video showcasing the Wiz's capabilities below:

Another open source development is the intriguing Pandora. It looks like a great device: a cross between a handheld console and pocket version of the netbook. It looks like a great device for developers and fiddlers, especially as the technical specs refer to an "un-brickable design with integrated boot loader for safe code experimentation". It has a TV-out (composite and S-Video) but not, apparently, a VGA port. The Pandora isn't quite available everywhere yet, but can be had for $330 from limited outlets. Check out the specs on the Pandora website, or see the preview video below.

1 comment:

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