Yesterday Patently Apple posted an IP report titled “Apple invents a variety of future Game Controllers to be magnetically attached to an iDevice & include smart foldable carrying cases.” The timing of the patent is interesting, as a new analytical report from Counterpoint shows that handheld gaming device sales are once again on the rise.
Today’s Counterpoint report written by Emily Herbert out of Toronto, states that “Compared to the last few years, 2021 saw much more activity in terms of handheld announcements on new devices, new technical standards and new sales records.
Seven years ago, the popular Sony PSP (PlayStation Portable) was discontinued after selling over 73 million units in 10 years. Nintendo too discontinued numerous handhelds over the years. So why are handhelds again gaining popularity in these times of connected home consoles and PC gaming? It is the technological advancements and increased interest in mobile gaming that have brought handheld gaming back into focus since the last year. The ability to save hundreds of dollars by opting for a handheld device to play a new game with new graphics standards has also appealed to the new-age gamers.
Fall and re-emergence of handhelds
The Nintendo Switch was the most sold console globally in 2021 with around 25 million units. The crossover console also released a new edition of the Switch family with the Switch OLED, which features a bigger and brighter screen, a sturdier dock with a LAN port for high-speed gaming, and larger storage. These technological boosters and quick upgrades are the reasons why the Switch model is doing so well and exactly why the PSP had a rather large falling-off in the gaming market.
The PSP had to compete with advanced mobile gaming, but the graphics and tech upgrades to it could not hold up. But Sony’s latest graphics capabilities combined with the Switch’s popularity could put it back in the realm of possibility.
Another new feature that will be required for the comeback device to succeed is the ability to withstand cloud and digital download gaming, as many game developers are now moving to streaming platforms. In the absence of these enhancements, the home console and PC gaming will continue to triumph in the overall user experience.
Outlook for handhelds
Even as new technological standards are being set for handhelds, the next step will be to make the wider scope of gaming accessible in this format, including PC gaming. This segment has already been penetrated by the world of mobile gaming through smartphones. OEMs are pushing up and advertising refresh rates and display resolutions aggressively to appeal to this rising market. Brands like Asus and Lenovo have been topping the market for the phones targeted at the gaming segment.”
Apple certainly understands the gaming market, as it’s one of the world’s largest videogame companies. A report in October 2021 noted that “Apple raked in more profits from games than Xbox maker Microsoft Corp., gaming giants Nintendo Co. and Activision Blizzard Inc. and PlayStation maker Sony Corp.—combined—in its fiscal year 2019, according to a Wall Street Journal analysis of figures released as part of the company’s recent antitrust trial.
Apple’s operating profits from games that year totaled $8.5 billion, according to the Journal analysis, exceeding the other four companies’ combined gaming incomes in the same period. The tech giant said operating margins discussed during the trial were flawed and as a result are too high.” There’s a lot of stats and more details in the Canada News Media report here.
Apple’s patent, published yesterday, was actually in-the-works since in 2020, so it’s clear that Apple has been working on their gaming accessories for some time. Yet it’s published timing is in tune with this mobile gaming trend outlined in Counterpoint’s report.
When you think of the high-end price for the Stream Deck being US$649 and an iPhone SE with 256 GB SSD costing US$579 with a more powerful A15 chip and graphics, you can understand why Apple has designed a scale of iPhone gaming accessories from the very simple, by added gaming control handles for an iPhone, through to complex foldable devices for more serious gamers.
At the end of the day, it would natural for Apple to introduce next-gen gaming accessories for the iPhone, especially for their SE model that could crush a Steam Deck device in graphics power. It’s very promising, but only time will tell if Apple makes the leap themselves or licenses their patents to interested third party Apple developers. Below are two examples from Apple’s patent below, from simple to complex.