Forbes’s Brian Caulfield thinks that Sony and Nintendo ought to be panicking because of Apple:

Here’s the news. Apple announced Monday that users have downloaded more than 2 billion apps through its App Store. That’s the service Apple users to distribute applications from software developers to anyone with an iPhone or iPod Touch. Of the 85,000 applications available through the App Store, something like 80% are free. More than 21,000 of them are games.

I don’t disagree with Caufield’s main point, which is that the iPhone could put the PSP and DS in great peril. The iPhone’s games are crazy-cheap and crazy available. Not having an iPhone or a DS/PSP, I don’t know what difference there is between the quality of the games. I would wager that the $26 games are significantly better and the $3 games are rather simple. Ultimately, though, I’m not sure how much that matters. When it comes to portable gaming, I think five simple games are better than a single complex one. For the big, complex games, those are better for the consoles where you’re sitting down to play for a longer haul.

Of course, actual consoles get barely a mention in Caufield’s piece. And even then, the primary mention is to gloat that Forbes was right about the failure of the Gamecube. I’m not sure it’s really a great idea to gloat over an article entitled “Nintendo’s Game May Be Over”. The death of Nintendo is oft predicted and yet they are doing phenomenally well. I remember a couple decades ago when people were talking about how the PC was going to put the console out of business. Then people argued that the PlayStation and xBox were going to put Nintendo under because they were falling behind. Nintendo’s true value has always been creating games that are quick-to-be-learned and fun to play and of course the Wii has exploited that to great success. So kudos, I guess, for Forbes calling the GameCube a failure early on, but they haven’t earned the title of prescient just yet.

Anyhow, reading the article, you might believe that Sony (or at least Sony’s gaming division) and Nintendo are in the primarily portable game business. Or that portable gaming will supplant traditional consoles. This is typical Apple-booster thinking, of course. If Apple does it, it’s important. If Apple doesn’t, it’s irrelevant. Just as some gomers are congratulating themselves for being so bold as to predict that people are going to trade in their PCs for smartphones, and yesteryear congratulated themselves for boldly predicting that the PC was going to replace the gaming console, is the new prediction that people are going to trade in playing their game consoles on their 30″ LCD screens and surround sound for $2 games on a 4″ monitor because the iPhone is just that awesome?

Caufield doesn’t say that (and may not think it), but I do have to wonder if that’s where this is going. Until Apple TV lets people play games. Then consoles will become important again.

Category: Theater

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2 Responses to Earth Has An Apple Core

  1. web says:

    The N64 and Gamecube were both unqualified failures; the mistake in predicting Big N’s “demise” was forgetting about the handheld market, where Nintendo has reigned as king and virtual-monopolist ever since the introduction of the original Gamecube (yeah, Sega tried two devices, Nokia tried the N-Gage and Sony has the PSP, but in terms of market penetration each barely got a foot in the door). No publishing company has been able to ignore Big N save that their business model ignored the mobile-games market entirely.

    Nintendo execs have even admitted that they never expected the Wii to be as much of a success as it has been, though that’s a relative term (it’s mostly a “success” because they sell the console itself for a profit, their associated-game sales are 25% of the benchmark set by other consoles). Their original campaign intended that they be the “also there” in every house, their own press releases indicating that they’d be happy if every household were a “Wii60” or “PSWii” place where the primary console was the 360 or PS3, and everyone had a Wii as a “backup” just for games like Mario and Zelda. To this day, they’re not far off-base, since they have a few standout hits (Wii Fit, Mario, Zelda, Metroid, Wii Play) and the rest of the console’s lineup is either poorly done ports of games for the other two consoles or outright shovelware.

    In terms of the mobile-games market, your point about “short and simple” games is apt. The PSP took a lot of grief because Sony’s primary software plan was the porting of older Playstation “hits”, which tended to be games where you have to play 1-2 hours between save points. Even with a “power suspend” option on the handheld, that makes it rough to use.

    As for the Cult of Apple… yeah, they can get like that. It’s not quite unique to Apple Cultists, either: there was a similar oddity about the very quick turnaround of PlayStation3 fans when Bioshock was finally ported to their platform rather than being PC/Xbox360 exclusive.

  2. web says:

    Also, the idea that the Nintendo DS/Gameboy market will be supplanted by the mobile-phone market (or in particular the iPhone market) is somewhat comical if you’re not a member of the Cult of Mac. iPhone market penetration is still incredibly low in terms of raw numbers; if you want to make a game sell well, you’re better off making it a Java game so that it can be put on the iPhone, Google Android phones, Nokia phones, LG phones, etc. The price of an iPhone is particularly high compared to other phones, not to mention the monthly cost of a data plan for it in order to use the various features and the cost of purchasing “apps” in the generalized $10-per-app range.

    Then there’s the fact that almost without exception, those I know who have an iPhone have repeatedly “jailbroken” it and are less interested in the purchase-games market than the free software they can load. The exceptions to this are all over 60 years old and completely disinterested in games, and only purchased the iPhone because of younger Apple-cult relatives insisting how “awesome” it was.

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