In a few weeks, we will welcome mobile phones like Redmi Note 12 Turbo, Realme GT Neo5 SE, Meizu 20 series, and Honor Paly7T series. Over the past few weeks, we have had mobile phones like the iQOO Z7 series, OPPO Find X6 series, Huawei P60 series, and Huawei Mate X3. These are all regular and foldable mobile phones. However, since the start of the year, three months now, the launch of gaming phones seems not to be happening. According to reports in the industry, manufacturers of gaming phones are not having a good time.
Lenovo cuts off its Legion gaming phone business
Makers of gaming phones appear to be quiet in 2023. While we waited patiently for the launch of a new gaming phone, what we got is that Lenovo is cutting off its Legion lineup. Lenovo Legion is responsible for its gaming phones. Two days ago, a user who has been verified as a Lenovo staff claims that two days prior, Lenovo officially confirmed that it is discontinuing its Legion lineup globally. The company is now left with the Motorola mobile division which it bought in 2014 for $2.9 billion. Lenovo mobile phones have not been able to become a pillar like PCs after 20 years of ups and downs.
Black Shark is not any better
Another popular gaming phone brand in the industry is Black Shark. However, like Lenovo Legion, it has been pretty inactive. In 2022, Black Shark was not stable in any way. At the start of last year, there were reports that it will be sold to Tencent. However, this did not happen, at least not last year. In May of that year, there were reports that Tencent planned to cancel the acquisition of Black Shark. At the end of the year, reports had it that Black Shark is cutting down its jobs.
According to reports, Black Shark has done a total of 5 rounds of layoffs since the end of August 2022. The company has reduced its workforce from more than 1,000 to roughly 100. “The pay plan is N+1, and the compensation scale may exceed 80 million yuan,” a former employee of Black Shark Technology claimed. Black Shark doesn’t appear to have enough money, though, to cover these compensations. With all of these going on, it is obvious that Black Shark is in crisis.
The failure to introduce external capital and Tencent’s decision to cancel the sale of Black Shark in the second half of 2022 are the root causes of Black Shark’s problems. The real cause, however, is that the Black Shark mobile phone industry is struggling with a sudden cooling of the market and the removal of competitive edge. Without financial help, the company cannot survive.
Gaming phones sale dropped by 40% in 2022
The entire gaming phone market is poor and selling gaming phones is extremely difficult. According to reports, there were 244 million mobile phone shipments in the Chinese market from January to November 2022. This is a 23.2% drop year over year. Even worse are phones for gaming. The cumulative sales of gaming phones from January to September 2022 rounds up at 3.2 million units. This is a 40% year-over-year fall and the cumulative sales will also drop by 39%.
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Moreover, Xiaomi will actually be the company that sells the most gaming phones in 2022. According to research from Whale Staff, Xiaomi’s market share in the sector of gaming mobile phones will reach roughly 45% in 2022. As of September 2022, Xiaomi had sold over 1.4 million units. With sales of 544,000 units and 320,000 units and a market share of 17% and 10%, Vivo and OnePlus rank second and third respectively. These are not producers of gaming-specific mobile phones. Black Shark, a maker of gaming mobile phones, came in sixth place with sales of 128,000 units, or roughly 4% of the market. This is far less than the market share of leading companies like Xiaomi.
Why can’t gaming phones continue?
First off, it’s because pro gaming mobile phones don’t have hardware that can compete with normal flagships, or worse. Consider the recently launched OnePlus Ace 2, a mid-to-high-end mobile phone from OnePlus, and the Lenovo Legion Y70, both of which have similar prices. Given that both devices are powered by the Snapdragon 8+ mobile platform, their potential performance is identical. The OnePlus Ace 2 has LPDDR5X storage, which offers even greater storage performance than the Lenovo Legion Y70’s LPDDR5 storage.
Too similar to regular mobile phones
Secondly, mobile phones in general are the same as gaming phones. It has strict criteria for the portability and experience of mobile phones as portable digital products. The volume and weight of mobile phones cannot be fully ignored only to achieve the highest level of performance. For instance, the Red Magic 7S Pro, which has air-cooled heat dissipation, weighs 235g. This is similar to the weight of the recently launched Huawei Mate X3 foldable phone.
Moreover, gaming phones often forgo the phone’s aesthetic appeal in order to deliver the best possible gaming experience. Many gaming phone brands have ditched the hole-punch screen with a high screen-to-body ratio in favour of a non-punch-hole screen with two wide black borders at the top and bottom. This leaves a subpar visual impression. This is done to give players a free and open control range and field of view. The design of the mobile phone is also intended to be an e-sports style that will fade if used in public. Though it appears like a regular mobile phone, gaming phones can not pass as regular phones. It is not portable, and its outlook is wack. There are too many missing links.
Finally, since mobile phone performance is crucial for gaming, core chips in phones designed for this purpose will be overloaded. However, this also led to the high cost of gaming phones, and the price of $4000+ at every turn turned away many buyers. Gaming phones also gave up the camera effect to balance the pricing. Nearly all game phones have horrible cameras. Sometimes when you want to snap a picture, your camera’s pixels are like those from a landline. This is completely unsuitable for daily shooting demands.
Due to the factors listed, gaming phones are not widely accepted by consumers, and their sales volume is lower. Due to the abrupt decline in sales, they now have a far weaker voice in the supply chain than regular mobile phone makers. As a result, when buying the same parts, gaming brands can get a far higher price than regular mobile phone brands. This leads to a vicious circle of high purchases and low sales.