RPG releases on portable systems hit new heights between 2004 and 2009. Where the PlayStation 2 was on its last legs and current generation consoles were closely linked to high development costs and a comparatively low install base, the PSP and Nintendo DS could easily have been seen as the most viable platforms for RPG releases. Unfortunately, there has been a noticeable decline in new RPG releases on portable systems since.
While some might assume that handheld gamers are less likely to buy an RPG due to the "pick up and play" nature of the platform, the release data indicates otherwise as time-consuming RPG subgenres are the most numerous. Portable systems boast a high concentration of JRPGs, action RPGs, tactical RPGs, and dungeon crawlers. Looking at the subgenre totals, there is also a strong variety — meaning more options for RPGamers to hold entirely in their hands.
Year-over-year, strategic RPGs, JRPGs, and tactical RPGs are in decline. Action RPGs and dungeon crawlers have somehow remained at consistent levels of frequency, despite other subgenres fleeing the system for more cost-effective avenues. Since 2009, JRGs have seen the largest year-over-year drop in portable RPG releases.
While the market leader role was originally handed down from the Game Boy Advance to the Nintendo DS in 2005, the PSP, despite significantly lacking in North American releases, has been the leading platform for RPG releases since 2010. Part of this can likely be attributed to the overall releases for the Nintendo DS winding down as Nintendo shifted its focus to its new platform. Unfortunately, as of late 2012, PSP RPG releases are down and the PS Vita and Nintendo 3DS have failed to fill in the gap. It would appear that portables have started to lose their traction among developers as financially viable systems in the advent of mobile gaming.
While many portable devices remain great platforms for RPGamers, the full experience is inhibited for those in the west as more than half of RPG releases never reach them. Over the past ten years there were 292 RPG releases that were exclusive to Japanese audiences.
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