|Numbers of console sales thru March of 2011.|
Let's look at the console market, for example. Excluding the holiday season, the Xbox 360 has been selling somewhere around 250K to 300K units a month lately; the PS3 (prior to the price cut to $249) somewhere around 200K units, and the Wii about 175K units. Of course, they all have installed bases in the tens of millions; the Wii is the champ there at around 90 million sold worldwide, the Xbox 360 around 55 million, and the PS3 around 45 million.
Those numbers represent a pretty solid market base to sell games into. Sure, there are many more computers, but consoles are mainly for games, and computers are used for many different things. How does this compare to smartphones? Android smartphones are selling at the rate of about 18 million per month right now, with over 100 million out there already. Apple's iOS devices have an installed base around 200 million, if you include all the iPod Touches and iPads; the phones alone are around 120 million. And iPhones sell at the rate of about 7 million per month. Yes, these are not primarily game devices; at the same time, it's true too that games represent one of the biggest (if not the biggest) types of apps sold on smartphones. So gaming is clearly important to smartphones.
|Smartphone worldwide sales in Q2 2011|
Finally, let's look at tablets. Apple has sold about 30 million iPads so far, and they are currently moving out the door at about 3-4 million per month. Android tablets are perhaps half that. Again, games are the largest category of apps sold for these devices, so while gaming is not the primary reason people buy tablets it's clearly important.
How about handheld consoles? Well, the 3DS was selling about 100K per month before the price cut; we'll have to wait awhile before we see what the new level is.
I think you can see why smartphones and tablets are catching the attention of game developers. While it's very hard for most games to get any traction, if you do have a hit you can do very well indeed. Those companies who have figured out how to get their games before a large audience are doing quite well; other companies are busy trying to figure out how to emulate their success.
This also explains why game developers should be paying attention to Amazon's rumored tablet. If Amazon can sell 1-2 million tablets a month, which is not unreasonable to expect, that's a substantial market opportunity, especially for developers who can be there at the beginning.