Why Nintendo Should Fear Apple

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.

Apple Game Center

Apple's foray into the gaming market has so far been a good one - Game Center boasted 67 million users in October 2010.

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 Weapons

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.

iPod Touch

The iPod Touch on Apple's website, with gaming as "what the iPod Touch was made for".

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.

Nintendo-Wii-Casual-gamers

The Wii is, in my opinion, more marketed towards the casual rather than the serious gamer.

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.

Nintendo DD

The Nintendo 64DD (an add-on disk drive for the N64) was a commercial failure and only sold 15,000 units.

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.


  • http://blog.matthewjanssen.com Matthew Janssen

    No, no, no. You talk about ‘hardcore’ vs ‘casual’ and saying that ‘going casual’ will be Nintendo’s downfall and that they should be going ‘more hardcore’ to compete with Apple. I fail to see how Apple’s approach (or any mobile-phone game approach) is considered ‘hardcore’. When do you play games on your phone (and by ‘phone’, let’s throw in the iPod touch also for the sake of this article)? You play games on your phone when you have 10 minutes to spare waiting in line at the airport (or other generic place where you wait in line). You don’t play games on your phone during a 3-4 hour long gaming session on the weekend. If that’s not the definition of ‘casual’, I don’t know what is.

    You also mention the controller – ‘the control system, although novel, doesn’t beat a controller when it comes to games like Grand Theft Auto or Gran Turismo’. Until Apple gets serious enough to make a controller with actual physical buttons (like the PS3/360 controller that you say is the standard) your argument holds no weight. Touchscreen controls (like on iOS, not like on the Nintendo DS/3DS which have physical buttons) don’t make for an enjoyable experience – especially since your fingers are covering a quarter of the screen.

    I, personally, am a HUGE Nintendo fan as well as a HUGE Apple fan. Do I think Nintendo needs to be aware of what Apple’s doing? Certainly. Do I think Nintendo needs to be worried about what Apple’s doing? No. Nintendo’s done pretty well with the Wii and the even Nintendo 3DS, which after a rocky start is now selling at a faster rate than even the Nintendo DS at the same point in its life (which is the best-selling handheld console of all time). If anyone should be worried it should be Sony with their flop of a system, Vita.

    I could rant more about this but I don’t feel like getting any more worked up. Let’s face it, people pick on Nintendo because they like to pick on Nintendo.

    • CK

      @ Matthew Janssen:

      The writer’s point wasn’t that Apple was for hardcore gamers. Quite the opposite; the reason Nintendo should fear Apple is because Apple is targeting the same casual gaming market that Nintendo has. That’s why they should fear Apple more than the Playstation or X-Box.

      Your point regarding the controller is more or less moot, as well. If Apple decides to really spearhead the gaming market, they’re certainly going to come up with something beyond ipods and iphones for controllers. To do otherwise would drastically limit their possible market share. Given the trends lately, it’ll probably include some form of motion sensing, possibly with an optional physical controller more akin to common gaming controllers. Then again, with Apple’s way of taking the ‘common’ and turning it on its ear, who knows how we’d interact with their gaming system.

      Frankly, Apple only has 2 real hurdles to jump if they won’t to put Nintendo in jeopardy. The first is actually getting games for TV based gameplay, as opposed to games currently on the market that are targeted more toward the iphone, ipad and ipod touch. The second hurdle is developing a worthy system to play them on, which I can’t see them having much trouble with, given the rep they have for developing reliable, sturdy computer systems.

  • Daniel

    How original…. This is the one of thousand of articles that say exactly the same thing and they are all from people who have no idea what they are talking about. This article is SOOOOO full of contradictions it’s incredible. Think about what you are writing before you actually type.

  • dynames

    I think this: You are wrong.

  • Oliver

    Meh.

  • Sigilist

    Another “why [blah-blah] should fear…”

    Are you really trying this hard to look like a machead? Aside from inconsistencies in the article and the many old apple’n’oranges comparisons, this is just tired and old in its approach.

  • http://iynque.com iynque

    Who would win in a fight: Shigeru Miyamoto or Zombie Steve Jobs?

    • Mr. Hilarious

      mushroom vs. apple

  • MrMan

    Nintendo should sell older games on the app store, problem solved!!

    Nintendo can share apples success, not be destroyed by it.

    We need pokemon yellow or heart gold on the app store with internet multiplayer!!

    …. and some special device that has a gameboy cartridge interface to a dock connector so we can import our saves!! haha!!

    NINTENDO! SELL ON THE APP STORE PLEASE!!!

    • Mr. Hilarious

      (Hopefully) NEVER EVER!!!

    • Jenn

      haha I am so worth you on the pokemon for iPhone legally. even if they just have the gameboy colour and advanced versions.

    • Germán A.

      You are insane, aren’t you?
      Why would pokemon need internet multiplayer? Not everything is better with multiplayer, you know.

  • Daniel

    MRMan: NO.

    • http://blog.matthewjanssen.com Matthew Janssen

      @Daniel Agreed. This is the LAST thing that Nintendo should do.

  • Nicholas Fisher

    Apple takes a 30% cut. Most apps run $.99.

  • noko

    I think Apple’s game store is more of a direct competition to Steam than it is to Nintendo consoles, and everyone knows Steam has no equal, I’m pretty sure the AppStore, which is secluded into its own little bubble with no cross-platform capabilities or flexibility like Steam has, is not a even a treat. And while the iToys have gaming capabilities they’re not full-fledged video game handhelds, their purpose is entirely different, thus they aim to entirely different markets. Casual and Hardcore are just buzzwords so most of your argument is pretty invalid anyway.

  • shadow master

    HAHAHA apple need to learn quality not quantity. For example lets look at apples best reviewed game cut the rope that got 93 at metacritic now nintendo: 97 ocarine of time, 97 super mario galaxy and hell theres many more. Pullblox blows cut the rope blows cut the rope. The only improvements for nontendo are more education,cheaper prices and making apple look like idiots. THANK YOU!!!

theatre-aglow
theatre-aglow
theatre-aglow
theatre-aglow