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Enter the low-end gamer

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Far from mobile gaming killing the console, the fun has just begun, says ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK as the Nintendo 2DS enters the South African market.

We still call them, quaintly, video games. Their roots go back to the days of hooking up primitive consoles to TV monitors, as if you were playing a video. If that sounds archaic, be grateful we don’t call them “cathode ray tube amusement devices””, as the first computer game patent application put it back in 1947.

Now, 66 years later, and past the retirement age, the world assumes video games have been put out to pasture. Or, at least, those based on consoles and ‚””video‚”” screens. Now that you can download endless free games on smartphone and tablets, why would you need to buy a console and spend a fortune on each individual game?

But guess what: Console gaming is having a healthy second career. And that console brand that everyone seemed to think was going away? Nintendo? It has a strange way of saying goodbye.

‚””Everyone thinks mobile gaming is cannibalising console gaming,‚”” says RJ van Spaandonk, executive director of Core Group, distributors of Nintendo in sub-Saharan Africa. ‚””What we used to call the casual gamer is now using mobile games. But a lot of people who are for the first time introduced to gaming via the mobile platform suddenly have an interest in console gaming as well.‚””

As a result, despite the prevailing view, console gaming is still growing.

And, in most European countries, the Nintendo 3DS is the leading platform in terms of sales of both handheld and ‚””home consoles‚””.

Worldwide, the Nintendo 3DS is the second best-selling console ever, having sold about 155-million units since 2004. And it’s closing in on the best-seller, Sony PlayStation 2, which has sold 158-million units since 2000. The most telling evidence of Nintendo’s endurance is games sales. The world’s top-selling game for the first week of October 2013 was Pokemon for the Nintendo 3DS, selling 4,1-million units, more than double the 1,4-million racked up by runner-up Grand Theft Auto V for PlayStation 3 and Microsoft Xbox 360 combined.

Van Spaandonk was talking after the launch of the new Nintendo 2DS in South Africa last week. As opposed to its predecessors, the DS and 3DS, which both had dual-screens that folded over each other into a neat little box, the 2DS presents similar dual-screens on a single surface. It comes with connectivity and sharing functionality, but minus the 3D.

The most telling element of the launch was the news that Nintendo had agreed to drop its price for South Africa, in order to make it affordable to a growing market of aspirant gamers. At R1499, it will be 15% cheaper than in the United Kingdom.

This is recognition of both the nature and potential of the local market.

‚””Console gaming has a future at the bottom end of the market, because people do not have advanced smartphones and tablets, don’t have broadband at home, don’t necessarily have 3G contracts or data allowances,‚”” says Van Spaandonk. ‚””For them, mobile gaming is out of reach. That is also why our value offering consists of two devices that don’t require data connectivity.‚””

With the launch of the 2DS, he says, Nintendo now has a comprehensive range of ‚””console solutions‚””, consisting of the mid-range price points of the Wii U and 3DS, and the ‚””affordable and value market‚”” of the 2DS at R1499 and the DS Lite at R999.

Don’t plan on any goodbyes yet.

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