For a long time we've heard chatter suggesting that smartphone gaming could pose a serious threat to dedicated handheld devices like the Nintendo 3DS and Sony PlayStation Vita. A new report from App Annie shows that these claims might be substantiated after all, as gamers actually spent more money on iOS games than dedicated games in the first quarter of 2013.
The chart below breaks down consumer spending for games on iOS, Google Play, and gaming-centric handhelds during the fourth quarter of 2012 and first quarter of 2013. As you can see, dedicated gaming devices suffered a significant decline between the two quarters. But while this responds to normal seasonal patterns, as gamer spending tends to go up over the holiday period and drop in Q1, the interesting part is that the amount spent on iOS games in Q1 was higher than dedicated handhelds during the holiday season peak.
Google Play also experienced quite a bit of growth, finishing just slightly below video game handhelds in Q1. It was well behind iOS but it's still quite an impressive amount of growth over a very short period of time. App Annie predicts that consumer spending on Google Play will pass gaming handhelds in the second quarter of 2013.
The 3DS and PS Vita have had a slower start than the previous generation of handhelds. With the Vita's heavy integration into the upcoming PlayStation 4, it will be interesting to see if that causes a spike in the popularity of the handheld. For the time being, it looks like gamers are leaning towards playing on their smartphones and tablets, which is a scary proposition for Sony and Nintendo.