The number of paying smartphone and tablet gamers will surpass the number of paying GOH gamers worldwide in 2013 and rise at a rapid rate through 2017, IDC forecasts.
The gaming-optimized handheld (GOH) market category, typified by Nintendo's 3DS and Sony's PlayStation Vita, has recently been overshadowed by gaming-capable smartphones and tablets and this trend is likely to continue.
The number of GOH bundles shipped, meanwhile, should fall at an average of nearly 7% per year over the next five years, IDE says. The installed base of GOH's is being overwhelmed by smartphones and tablets that are used for (primarily casual) gaming.
If there's a silver lining for devices like the 3DS and Vita it's that the GOH category should lead in a crucial metric through 2017: average revenue per user (ARPU). Total mobile/portable gaming revenue, including digital and packaged game software, GOH hardware bundles, and direct advertising revenue going to platform suppliers and game developers/publishers, is forecast to approach $23 billion in 2017.
"Android remains quite fragmented but the platform is on its way to becoming a massively popular gaming platform in Asia/Pacific in particular," says Lewis Ward, research manager of IDC's Connected Consumer: Gaming service. "In order for Nintendo's and Sony's gaming-optimized handhelds to remain ahead of smartphones and tablets on key metrics such as ARPU, these companies and their game card developer and publisher partners will have to redouble their efforts in a number of respects. Digital distribution has reached an inflection point in mobile and portable gaming, and future success will largely boil down to finding a unique balance of freemium business model excellence and that ability to deliver compelling social experiences."