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Could Apple kill the Nintendo DS? I doubt it

Brian Caulfield, writing for Forbes (TechMeme coverage), believes that Apple could represent a threat to Nintendo's dominance in the gaming arena. I'm certain that no matter what Steve Jobs pulls out of his pocket at WWDC on Monday, Nintendo isn't going to be worried.
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Written by Adrian Kingsley-Hughes, Contributor on

Brian Caulfield, writing for Forbes (TechMeme coverage), believes that Apple could represent a threat to Nintendo's dominance in the gaming arena. I'm certain that no matter what Steve Jobs pulls out of his pocket at WWDC on Monday, Nintendo isn't going to be worried.

Monday, however, Nintendo will likely face a new and far more dangerous foe: Apple. Steve Jobs' computer and gizmo maker will likely launch a long-promised feature, dubbed the App Store, which will let outside developers pour software into the iPhone and iPod Touch. And while it's unlikely that, say, a mobile version of Oracle's wonky database will make anyone stand up and cheer, we already know putting games on the iPhone is a pretty powerful combination.

The ability to pour fresh software into the iPhone, wirelessly, at the touch of a button already has game developers interested. When Apple detailed its software developers kit for the iPhone and iPod Touch earlier this year, one of the most impressive demos was Sega's version of "Super Monkey Ball" for the iPhone. Players will be able to maneuver a monkey through a three-dimensional landscape by tilting the iPhone.

Let's think about this reasonably for a moment. Assume for one moment that from Monday the iPhone will come down to a more reasonable $199 and so price isn't an issue (although AT&Ts cut would still be), the platform is still a long way off being ready for gaming prime time. To begin with, a platform needs a good base of games. Yes, EA will release a version of Spore for the iPhone/iPod touch, and there's a demo of Sega's Super Monkey Ball that makes use of the iPhone's accelerometer feature, but that hardly transforms the iPhone into a games platform. Nintendo has already secured a broad base of games for the DS, and Apple would have to play catch-up for a long time to get even. It's also worth noting that the best selling games for both the DS and the Wii are Nintendo titles and I can't see these being licensed to Apple any time soon.

Then there's storage space. The DS and Wii get around the issue of where to store games by using storage cards. Games on the iPhone have to fight it out for storage with music, videos, TV shows and other games. I can see this being a real limiter. Also, to get your games onto the iPhone it's likely that a PC or Mac will need to be involved (given the download sizes). The DS or Wii is a standalone device.

Here's another issue. Games for the DS or Wii (or for that matter other consoles and PCs) are available from a large number of outlets. You can buy games on an impulse from a store or get great deals online. Apple, given its control-freakery, is likely to want to closely control where games are sold.

Then there's target audience. While the iPhone has broad appeal, Nintendo has managed to capture the hearts and minds of customers falling outside the iPhone generation. Specifically, Nintendo has strong brand recognition amongst the pre-16s and post-55s groups. People who wouldn't give the iPhone a second look are buying and using Nintendo products (for that matter, people who don't consider themselves gamers are buying Nintendo DS and Wii consoles). Also, while parents seem happy for littl' 6-year-old Johnny or Jenny to have a DS or a Wii, they're unlikely to feel the same way about handing over an iPhone. The DS is a much tougher device than the iPhone and this means fewer worried when handing one over to a clumsy kid (or adult for that matter - my DS has hit the deck several times).

Oh, and let's not forget the most important part. Nintendo has Mario on its side.

Thoughts?

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