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5 Companies That Could Use A Super Bowl Ad

Anyone from the video game industry

Seriously, Nintendo? Your new Wii U system is outsold in volume by your old Wii, your new 3DS handheld is being sold at a loss, you just recorded a $460 million loss in the past fiscal year -- your first in three decades -- and we can't even get so much as a Super Bowl commercial out of you as a sign you're fighting back?

It's a shame, but it's about par for the video game world these days. According to market research firm NPD Group, sales of consoles, physical video games and accessories all fell 22% last year to $13.3 billion. That's on top of a 9% decline between 2010 and 2011 and includes a particularly dismal holiday season during which sales fell from $4.1 billion in December 2011 to just $3.2 billion last month.

Video game companies are putting $300 consoles and $60 discs gamers have to wait for up against smartphones costing $200 or less, online versions of disc games that stream right to a computer and casual game apps that cost less than $10 or are free. Meanwhile, the cost of producing top-tier games such as Activision's (ATVI) Call Of Duty series or Take Two (TTWO) subsidiary Rockstar Games' Grand Theft Auto franchise have soared into the multimillions as production of other games plummeted. In December, the industry's Top 10 games accounted for 46% of all game spending, compared with just 36% in December 2011.

Meanwhile, both Microsoft (MSFT - Get Report) and Sony (SNE - Get Report) have hinted that new Xbox and PlayStation systems may be on the way this year. Great. Tell us how that worked out for you last year, Sony. Remember when your company released the PlayStation Vita handheld console for hard-core gamers at $250 and $280 apiece last february? Remember when the Vita was outsold that same month in Japan by the PlayStation Portable console Sony originally released eight years ago? Remember how it sold only 1.2 million units in the U.S. to date, or just 200,000 more than Nintendo's Wii U home console despite a nearly nine-month head start? Remember how it's cemented itself to dead last among console sales? No, you probably don't, as you're too busy selling off your New York office and trying to keep your whole operation afloat.

Here's the big issue: According to Flurry Analytics, smartphones now make up 60% of the handheld game market after coming in at 19% in 2009. NPD Group says the number of gamers playing on smartphones now exceeds those playing on dedicated consoles. The gaming industry -- perhaps with the exception of Wii-era Nintendo -- has insisted that core gamers glued to multiple screens of first-person shooters and multiplayer online role-playing games would save the day with their obsessive spending. That hasn't been the case, and casual gamers have been loath to part with wads of cash for the latest iteration of some long-running, hours-long series or the maps and other downloadable content that come with them.

The new state of gaming is quick, somewhat easy and relatively cheap. The future isn't the new Elder Scrolls, it's the new Temple Run or Fruit Ninja. When the gaming industry got Crysis complex, casual gamers went running for the next Pac-Man or dance game. Now their smartphones are the new arcades and the big gaming companies forgot how to play quarter-by-quarter.

The Super Bowl could show otherwise, or it could just remind everyone why their console has been off the whole time. It's pretty easy to get a quick round of the updated You Don't Know Jack in on a tablet during a TV timeout.

-- Written by Jason Notte in Portland, Ore.

>To contact the writer of this article, click here: Jason Notte.

>To follow the writer on Twitter, go to http://twitter.com/notteham.

>To submit a news tip, send an email to: tips@thestreet.com.

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Jason Notte is a reporter for TheStreet. His writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Huffington Post, Esquire.com, Time Out New York, the Boston Herald, the Boston Phoenix, the Metro newspaper and the Colorado Springs Independent. He previously served as the political and global affairs editor for Metro U.S., layout editor for Boston Now, assistant news editor for the Herald News of West Paterson, N.J., editor of Go Out! Magazine in Hoboken, N.J., and copy editor and lifestyle editor at the Jersey Journal in Jersey City, N.J.
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