The question, of course, is whether or not gamers still seek the kind of ‘rich’ handheld experience that portable games consoles offer.
One man who has always thought and still thinks the answer is yes is Nintendo president Satoru Iwata. He’s heard all the arguments, read all the dooms of prophesy. But his conviction remains firm.
But don’t mistake this for madness. Iwata also recognises that if, in fact, he is wrong and the sector’s detractors are correct, then yes, his business strategy will lead to failure.
"I think that if we are able to provide experiences on handheld devices that consumers cannot get on another device, then we will continue creating software and hardware going forward, and if it comes to a point when we’re not able to do that, I think, yeah, you will see portable handheld gaming devices go the way of the Dodo, I guess. I don’t think that opinion is completely nonsensical," he told Kotaku.
"I was asked during the Game Boy Advance period by folks who said, ‘Hey, now you’re able to play games on mobile phones so maybe the time of the handheld is done’. Because we understood that, that’s what drove us to create the Nintendo DS. And I believe we were able to offer on the Nintendo DS an experience that you could not get on phones that were available at the same time … after the DS that kind of slowly faded into the background.
That being said, with more smartphones and more tablets being on the market now and becoming very popular this conversation has risen again. Obviously it’s a fact that smartphone technology is advancing very quickly and the things you can do on a smartphone are much different than what you could do on a regular cellphone back in the day."
And as popular as 3DS bashing is at the moment, don’t forget that the hardware is outperforming its highly successful predecessor the DS on a like-for-like basis. And it’s not just the hardware, either.
"3DS software sales [are] exceeding DS software sales," Iwata added. "I think this is proof that even though we see an increase in smartphones and tablets and whatnot and there’s obviously a huge flood of games in the market, I think the software sales that Reggie alluded to [at E3] and pointed out really prove that these people, even with this flood of free games and whatnot for these portable devices – [these] non-game-centric devices – are not keeping people from purchasing software for dedicated hardware.
"I’m not saying there aren’t people out there who aren’t going to purchase a dedicated handheld device based on the availability and the fun factor in their smartphones. The examples you gave are factual. I’m not saying that that’s not true. I do want to say that there are still people buying our devices and that is also factual.
"I don’t think there’s not a bright future for handheld devices but I understand that the competition, again with the rise of smart devices is different, and I do recognize that.
And the games available for smartphones, I’m not saying that none of these are interesting, rich or fun experiences, because I know that there are some. And one way we can ensure that there’s a market for handheld gaming devices is by continuing to bring out entertaining and engaging software that will provide users experiences that they cannot get on these other devices."