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Editorial: Niche Appeal

In recent weeks, nothing has incited more debate around the games business than the question of Nintendo and Sony's new handheld platforms, and specifically, the question of where they will find their audiences and how large those audiences might be. It's an important discussion, because the outcome of this situation is going to be hugely influential on the shape of the games business in the years to come.

Strong opinions have been heard from all sides, some more valid than others. At one extreme we have those who claim that the rough ride experienced by Nintendo's 3DS is entirely down to mis-handling by Nintendo and is no sign of any overall malaise in the dedicated handheld market, and thus bears no ill omen for Sony's PlayStation Vita launch. At the other extreme are those who believe that both devices are doomed by the rapid rise of iOS gaming, which has left their hardware looking functionally anaemic and their software libraries looking ridiculously overpriced.

Both of these viewpoints are naive, at best, but they merely express the outer edges of a discussion which has covered all points in between. The conclusions of more moderate views in the middle are a bit more balanced. Yes, Nintendo mismanaged the 3DS launch terribly, while Sony seems to be approaching Vita with more forethought and flair, but equally there is a real threat to dedicated handhelds from iOS devices and other smartphones. This threat, however, is by no means an automatic death-knell for the sector - and while Nintendo seems much slower to react than Sony thus far, both companies have the potential to shift their business models and strategies to effectively combat or integrate iOS gaming concepts.