What’s different about the post-iPhone world of mobile computing is that the buying decision is no longer about or, it’s about and. Pre-iPhone, someone interested in a handheld game device would choose between Nintendo’s offering or someone else’s. Nintendo did well in that world, selling more than enough devices to succeed. Today, though, someone deciding to buy a dedicated handheld game device is, more likely than not, deciding whether to buy something to carry in addition to the mobile device they already carry everywhere.
The future of portable gaming is clearly on post-PC computing platforms. (The future of living room gaming may well rest on these platforms, too.) A dedicated camera takes better photographs. A Mac or Windows laptop is far more powerful for numerous computing tasks. A simple dumb phone will last for a month on a single charge. An iPod makes for a lighter weight, more durable music player. Yet all these things are losing sales to iOS and Android post-PC devices. DS-style handheld gaming platforms are no different, and perhaps in a worse situation than the others. Priced for the low-end (like the upcoming 2DS) and they pale in terms of graphics. Compete on graphics and they pale on price compared to carrier-subsidized phones.
Gruber nails it with his follow-up, especially in the passages cited above.
With the exception of a good, pocketable SLR-style camera, I want to carry as few devices with me as possible. My iPhone and iPad do it all for me, so I don’t need, say, an iPod or camcorder. While these dedicated devices still exist, as Gruber notes, their sales are slowly but surely dwindling. Except for cases like having a stronger camera, better to consolidate these dedicated devices into one device — i.e., smartphones. Pocket computers.
As for Nintendo, I won’t speak to their problems but I will say they hold a nostalgic place in my heart. My brother and I got an NES for Christmas one year, and we played the hell out of that thing. Then my brother got a Game Boy later and played the hell out of that, too. Hence, it’s out of nostalgia that I am sad to see Nintendo struggling as they are; I wish them well.