A lot of the initial reviews of the Sony Ericsson Xperia Play have criticised it for offering an inferior gaming experience to what is expected from the Next Generation PSP. But viewed in the context of the latest US gaming software revenues from Flurry, they may be missing the point.
In 2009 iPhone games accounted for 19 percent of total revenues in the US portable games software market. Flurry reckons that iOS (including the iPad) and Android (Android sales will have been minimal in 2009) games combined for 34 percent of the portable games market in 2010, which amounted to over $10 billion, and was more or less flat, year-on-year.
There are a few mitigating factors. Portable gaming accounted for 29 percent of all games revenue (excluding PCs) in 2009, but only 24 percent a year later, as the console market showed greater innovation. That trend may well reverse this year as next generation portable gamers from Nintendo and Sony are launched.
But the underlying trend is definitely for smartphones to account for a greater proportion of the portable gaming market, doing to standalone gamers what they've done to so many other single function devices, such as the camera, camcorder, PDA and satnav.
The Flurry report concludes that stand-alone portable gaming devices are under significant threat from smartphones. Nobody is arguing that the gaming experience is superior on a smartphone, but it's becoming increasingly difficult to justify owning a separate device, given the choice, price, and ease of purchase of games from app stores.