Although you may not realize it (and the transition is extremely subtle), Apple is becoming more and more game-orientated and it’s pretty clear to see why. In 2010 (the latest year for which I could find accurate figures for), revenues in the games industry totalled a massive $60 billion, with a market capitalization of around $100 to $105 billion. This is a pretty big market – and Apple certainly wants a slice of it.
On the App Store, there are currently around 116,000 apps in the “Games” category (as of mid June 2012) and on average, around 90 new games are submitted each day. The average game costs around $1.05 (with Apple taking 40% commission of course) and the App Store can turn relatively unkown game makers into worldwide superstars (just look at the success of Angry Birds or Doodle Jump, to name but two examples).
Apple’s Gaming Transformation
In April 2010, Apple announced the Game Center, which allowed social gaming between users of iOS devices. It will also feature in the upcoming version of OS X – Mountain Lion – and hit 67 million users last October. I’m not really a user of it (especially with my mates) but there’s something satisfactory about being able to record your individual achievements on games or see where you stand in the global ranking.
There has been a bit of recent chatter about Apple releasing a gaming console to try and compete with the big three: Sony’s Playstation 3, Microsoft’s Xbox 360 and Nintendo’s Wii. But when you think about it, they already have some existing weaponary in their arsenal, namely the iPod Touch and the Apple TV. Allow me to elaborate.
The iPod touch is pretty much marketed as a gaming device. Head over to the relevant section on Apple’s website and you’ll see an entire page dedicated to gaming on the iPod Touch. It’s pretty cheap (starting from $199) and, judging by the marketing strategy, is designed to compete with handheld consoles such as the Nintendo 3DS and the PS Vita. What’s more, you’ve got a far greater choice of apps on the iPod touch than the other two consoles and notice that most of the “top iPod touch apps” tend to be in the gaming category.
And then there’s the Apple TV. Word on the grapevine is that Apple is developing an actual TV, not a set top box, touted by some as the “iTV”. I’ll put money on it that there’ll be some sort of gaming aspect there, along with the ability to use your iOS device as a controller. Apple hasn’t yet opened the floodgates to developers allowing them to write apps specifically for the Apple TV but I’m sure this will be coming up soon.
So, What’s Nintendo Got To Be Afraid Of?
Unfortunately, the success of one technology company often leads to the demise of another, and the victim here (in my opinion anyway) is Nintendo. I’ll probably get a lot of stick for this in the comments section, but Nintendo’s primary console, the Wii, is marketed more towards the casual gaming market.
It’s great to wind away a lazy afternoon playing a virtual game of tennis or riding a cow while trying to combat scarecrows but it does leave the more serious gaming community a bit disappointed. The graphical capabilities certainly can’t match those of the PS3 or Xbox 360 and the control system, although novel, doesn’t beat a controller when it comes to games like Grand Theft Auto or Gran Turismo.
But, who am I to speak? Maybe this was, after all, Nintendo’s original intentions (they did say they wanted to target a broader demographic than the competition). All I’m trying to say is that Nintendo really do need to step up the game a bit if they want to compete with Apple, otherwise they are going to feel the full force of Tim Cook and his crew. Given the progression in technology (and the regularly yearly update cycle of most Apple devices), mobile gaming is becoming even better and far closer to the quality you’d expect from your favourite games console. The pricing is far more consumer-friendly as well – in Germany (where I currently live), the average chart console game will set you back around €70 ($85), far more than an iOS game.
Nintendo shouldn’t back out of the market either. The Wii is one of the best-selling consoles of all time (and has sold more than the PS3 and Xbox worldwide) and has broken the all-time monthly sales record in the United States in December 2009, a full three years after it went on sale. All I’m trying to give them is a bit of a friendly warning – either change your marketing strategy to suit not just the casual gamer, but instead the whole market, especially when the Wii U is scheduled to be launched at the end of this year. Otherwise, they are likely to be relegated to the book of gaming flops, like the Nintendo 64DD, the original N-Gage, or the North American game crash of 1983.
And a world without Nintendo would be, especially given the sheer range that they have developed, quite a sad one indeed.
What Do You Think?
I’m sure this piece will raise a few comments (both good and bad) and of course, I’d love to hear all of them. Do you think that Apple is slowly snaking its way into the gaming market and do you think that Nintendo’s marketing strategy for the Wii is the right one? What will happen to the gaming sections of both companies in the near future? Get debating in the section below.