Despite many publishers, developers and pundits believing that dedicated handheld consoles are losing ground to mobile games, Nintendo President Satoru Iwata is confident that the handheld market isn't shrinking, and that many gamers "are looking for something that is more rich" than mobile apps can currently provide.
"I think a lot of this discussion is based on the premise that the handheld gaming device market is shrinking or vanishing and I don't think that is true," Iwata told Kotaku. "As of last week, 3DS sales in Japan reached seven million, and that's the 77th week post-launch. If we look at DS and DS Lite which people were saying, ‘oh my gosh this thing is selling like hotcakes, it's crazy!' it reached the seven million mark at week 72. And for the Nintendo DS that was two Christmases. For the 3DS it's only been one Christmas. And we also had a large earthquake in Japan. And of course now there's a smartphone boom in Japan, we're right in the middle of it."
Though freely admitting that the market has swung in a direction that they didn't fully anticipate, Iwata believes that mobile gaming and dedicated handhelds can exist side-by-side in different ecosystems, fulfilling different demands from the gaming audience.
"I think within games you have two needs that people fill," he elaborated. "One is the time-filler need. The other is that it's a very important time for me and I want to have a rich experience. Those are two separate needs, I think."
"The other thing is how much are consumers willing to pay to play. I think that consumers who are willing to pay money for a gaming experience are looking for something that is more rich and are willing to spend some of that valuable time on that experience. I believe that as environments change and as the world progresses we're going to have different ways in which people want to spend their time. That being said, I don't think we're going to see the desire to have, again, rich and deep sort of gaming experiences... we're not going to see that vanish. That's not going to go away."
We discussed the future of handheld consoles in a recent PWNcast, coming to the conclusion that mobile and tablet gaming is fast eroding the foundations of the 3DS and Vita with games that continue to increased in quality and depth while providing superior battery life and continually improving hardware. However, we also stated that, "if there is going to be another handheld generation, it's because Nintendo wants it to happen."