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How Apple Is Beating Nintendo At Its Own Game 425

Zothecula writes "In an industry obsessed with polygon counts and frame rates, Nintendo's Wii console and DS handheld were the proverbial knives at a gunfight. They were grossly underpowered compared to the competition, meaning Nintendo could sell them at a profit from day one. Their innovative control methods ensured they still sold like hotcakes. An animated GIF of Nintendo's Shigeru Miyamoto and Satoru Iwata holding a DS that printed money became the go to picture to run alongside quarterly announcements of Nintendo's gargantuan profits. If a disheveled man emerged from a time-traveling DeLorean with tales of a near-future Nintendo struggling to sell its latest handheld, I'd have been more surprised about the Nintendo thing. So what on earth happened?"
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How Apple Is Beating Nintendo At Its Own Game

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  • by wsxyz ( 543068 ) on Thursday August 11, 2011 @12:58PM (#37058694)
    Because iPhones & iPod Touches can do a lot more than just play games?
    • by bhcompy ( 1877290 ) on Thursday August 11, 2011 @01:03PM (#37058772)
      Always thought Nintendo kick Apple's ass if they just added GSM to the DS and given it a bluetooth headset with a dialer. DS has games, a web browser, a camera(newer ones), etc. Just doesn't have a phone. They could have done exactly what Sony is doing with the Xperia Play and sold it subsidized. Too late now, though.
      • Always thought Nintendo kick Apple's ass if they just added GSM to the DS


        Now in 3D!!

      • Always thought Nintendo kick Apple's ass if they just added GSM to the DS and given it a bluetooth headset with a dialer. DS has games, a web browser, a camera(newer ones), etc. Just doesn't have a phone.

        One big problem is that afaict the DS is designed like an old fashioned game console with the games accessing the hardware directly. Also I don't think the DS has any form of multitasking. So I think the only way to build a usable DSi based smartphone would be to have a seperate processor (on top of the two processors the DS has already) for the smartphone functionality and somehow build an emulated wifi chip that passed packets from the DS hardware to the smatphone hardware.

        • by LWATCDR ( 28044 )

          Not really a bit problem. Odds are good that the wifi chip in the DS uses SPI as the interface. You could add a small arm just to handle the phone side of things and have it emulate wifi adaptor.

          • That's completely ignoring the way smartphones are headed. Everything is moving to SOC to keep costs downl having 3 chips just so you can play DS games would add way too much to the price. Nintendo would have to completely redesign the DS architecture to make this viable.

      • by tepples ( 727027 ) <tepples@NOSpAM.gmail.com> on Thursday August 11, 2011 @04:16PM (#37061488) Homepage Journal

        DS has games, a web browser, a camera(newer ones), etc. Just doesn't have a phone.

        Or indie games. It costs $350 per year to develop for the iPhone: $1000 for a MacBook, $250 or thereabouts for an iPod touch, and $500 for a 5-year iOS developer certificate. It costs a lot more than that to develop for any Nintendo platform.

      • Dude, the DS web browser is pathetic. Maybe because the whole system has 4MB ram... still, it's not usable for the greater population in any meaningful sense.

    • Yeah, I mean, people aren't looking for more crap to carry around these days, they're looking to unify their portable devices...look at the market for standalone MP3 players in general. The only people I even know that still carry one are the ones still rolling with dumbphones. Otherwise, they use their phone as an MP3 player nowadays.

      • they're looking to unify their portable devices...look at the market for standalone MP3 players in general. The only people I even know that still carry one are the ones still rolling with dumbphones. Otherwise, they use their phone as an MP3 player nowadays.

        I dunno...I have several dedicated mp3 players. For one thing...I don't use the phone all day for music, I don't want the battery to run out in case I need to talk or txt or check email on it. I do use it at times for Pandora at work when I'm up for so

    • by bonch ( 38532 ) * on Thursday August 11, 2011 @01:05PM (#37058822)

      Could it also be because people can buy about 20 iPhone games for the price of one 3DS game?

    • The iPhones are not suitable gaming devices for anything other than casual gaming and possibly more hardcore card games. They just don't have the controls necessary to allow much in the way of gaming.

      The reason why Apple is moving so many more units is that people need phones, even if not smartphones and with AT&T not offering a discount for people that buy their own, the phones are a lot cheaper than buying a Ds on top of a phone.

      At the end of the day, it's mostly folks that are playing casual games th

      • They just don't have the controls necessary to allow much in the way of gaming.

        A touchscreen has infinite possible variations of controls.

        If you must have hardware buttons - buy them [icontrolpad.com].

        But frankly even FPS games do not HAVE to have hardware buttons...

        • But frankly even FPS games do not HAVE to have hardware buttons...

          No, but one thing that makes an FPS ridiculously better is a mouse.

    • by PRMan ( 959735 )

      Because iPhones & iPod Touches can do a lot more than just play games?

      Even more than this, they play a different TYPE of game. I am constantly trying to get my daughters to eat, go to bed, get in the car or whatever while playing the DS. The answer, "Just a second." and "But Dad, I'm almost to the point where I can save."

      That doesn't work for adults. We sit in the doctor's office or wherever and as responsible adults, need to turn the system off at a moment's notice. Games for phones are made with that in mind. DS games are not.

    • by guruevi ( 827432 )

      No, because practically all iOS games are between 0.99 and 15.00 and practically all Nintendo games start at 25.00 while having the same audience and technically comparable features and power. We don't expect handhelds to run Far Cry 2 at 120fps so that's not really an issue.

  • Region Locking (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Psx29 ( 538840 ) on Thursday August 11, 2011 @01:02PM (#37058752)
    This is the reason I will never buy a 3DS (until it is cracked, then..maybe) Every previous nintendo handheld was not region locked, I could safely travel anywhere in the world, purchase a game locally and not have to worry about it not working on my DS/GBA/GB. Now suddenly, Nintendo has decided to region lock 3DS games so if I go overseas I can't buy games for my console.
  • Misnomer (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Lysander7 ( 2085382 ) on Thursday August 11, 2011 @01:02PM (#37058760)

    The title should read "Apple is Beating Nintendo at a Completely Different Game".

    Honestly, it's not even comparable. People want iPhones because it consolidates multiple devices into one, eliminating the desire to carry a GameBoy around, and games from the app store hold an entirely different niche in the market than handheld console games. While yes, that niche is dominating the video game market, I don't think it's safe to call them "video games" as well.

    But of course, naming the title this is a way to get more hits, so I really shouldn't be surprised.

    • To use the article's lingo, bringing Angry Birds to an E3 convention is akin to bringing a salmon to a knife fight.

    • Re:Misnomer (Score:5, Insightful)

      by bonch ( 38532 ) * on Thursday August 11, 2011 @01:09PM (#37058872)

      You come off like an angry Nintendo fan. Nintendo has publicly stated that Apple is their biggest competitor, so they know all too well the threat of mobile gaming. You even refuse to classify app store games as video games, which is bizarre. A system that sells and plays games is a gaming system--if Apple is hurting Nintendo's sales, what other game could it possibly be beating Nintendo at?

      • Console/computer games are to app store games as the Sistine Chapel is to a Thomas Kincade painting, regardless of what even Nintendo may say. To suggest that an iPhone is a gaming system would also mean we also have to consider my old Nokia 3210 a gaming system because it had games on it too.

        Honestly, what I think is going on is there's just more people coming to the 'gaming market', which dillutes the overall numbers of those who purchase dedicated video game systems. Also, the new 3DS has shit batte
      • by jedidiah ( 1196 )

        No. He's probably just a casual observer that actually pays attention to Nintendo's target demographic.

        Apple creates devices of convenience. For the being they remain clearly inferior to more specialized devices in just about every category you can consider. It's not at all clear that Apple is a complete replacement for any similar competing devices.

    • I mentioned this in another thread, but I don't think we should even view IOS/Android games as competing against triple-A blockbuster titles. Mainly because I don't WANT them to try and migrate to a middle ground. I don't want the $15 or $20 game that's halfway between game dev story and Mass effect. Give me the two extremes. Do you want to have captain america at the multiplex and then come home to watch a hilarious amateur-but-well-done youtube series like epic mealtime or my drunk kitchen.. or do you wan

      • I'd have thought the middle ground between YouTube and blockbuster movies was TV. And, for the most part, yes I would prefer a season of a TV show that cost $20M to produce than a movie that cost $200M to produce, or a YouTube video that cost $20 to produce.
        • If the market can support all 3 "levels" of game, great, but I see a lot of talk about how "the market has to change, ios/android games are a wake up call to the industry" etc. with the game of convincing blizzard, bioware, infinity ward, 2k studios, turn 10, etc that they should be moving in that direction, and abandon the high concept, high polish, big budget, big development team projects.

          I think that is entirely the wrong lesson to learn from this. I think the right lesson to learn is that there may be

    • by harl ( 84412 )
      How exactly is that niche dominating the video game market?

      Consoles and PCs grossly out sell mobile games.
      Hell facebook games grossly out sell mobile.

      Mobile gaming can never dominate since it lacks things like a robust input device and screen size. Due to these two vast limitations mobile can never dominate no matter how much the media talks about it.

      Mobile gaming is simply a new niche.
  • by halivar ( 535827 ) <bfelger AT gmail DOT com> on Thursday August 11, 2011 @01:03PM (#37058788)

    A Nintendo 3DS that sells for a couple hundred, but costs $20-$30 for cheap little games?
    Or the iPad2, costs $500-$600, but costs $1-$5 for cheap little games. Oh, and you can watch Netflix on it.

    • by custerfluck ( 888788 ) on Thursday August 11, 2011 @01:11PM (#37058916) Homepage
      Netflix is on the 3DS...
    • by vux984 ( 928602 )


      Sure... if you equate ipad games with nintendo games. But even a 4 year old would rather play the nintendo games. There's a lot more value in "New" Super Mario Bro's DS than in Angry Birds and Plants vs Zombies. They just aren't even in the same league.

    • I hope you realize that there's a difference between a $1 game and a $30 game typically. There are definitely some games that are underpriced and others that are overpriced, but by and large the games that are listed for $1 wouldn't sell for even $10 let alone $30.

      There's also the matter of controls, the iPad2 does not have any provision for gaming built in, you're stuck with using the touch screen, which is great for games like angry birds, but if you're wanting to play even a classic platformer, you're la

  • Image matters (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Brannoncyll ( 894648 ) on Thursday August 11, 2011 @01:07PM (#37058848)
    We should not forget that people tend to associate handheld gaming consoles with nerds and children, whereas mobile phones are *cool*. Every day I see high powered businessmen suited up for a day at work playing Angry Birds on the subway, but I have never seen an adult using a Nintendo.
    • by blair1q ( 305137 )

      That's only because Nintendos don't run Angry Birds.

    • I'm not sure how true that is any more. Sure people in their 20s and younger are more likely to have time to dedicate to gaming, but I hardly think that it's the case anymore where people associate gaming with kids and nerds to that extent.

      Casual gaming via the iPhone is popular largely because it's casual and on a device that people are likely to be carrying with them. I'll often times break out my Nexus One to do a bit of gaming when I'm waiting somewhere, mainly because I carry my phone with me more than

  • by Jartan ( 219704 ) on Thursday August 11, 2011 @01:08PM (#37058866)

    I love how everyone acts like this really has something to do with Apple. The reality is it would of happened no matter what. Nobody wants to carry an extra device.

    The moment selling graphically powerful phones became normal was the moment handhelds were doomed. Apple brought this about earlier perhaps but Moore's law said it was going to happen no matter what.

    • by TheRaven64 ( 641858 ) on Thursday August 11, 2011 @01:25PM (#37059148) Journal

      It's not even new. My last phone, from around 2004, had a 3D version of snakes on it. For the last 5 or so years, any time I've been waiting for a bus, I've seen people pull out their phones and play games on them. People have been buying games to play on their phones for almost years, and many of these people would never consider buying a games console of any kind. Nokia tried to tap into this - established - market with the N-Gage in 2003.

      The difference with the iPhone is purely one of timing. Phones with a Cortex A8 CPU generally also have a relatively competent GPU on die. This means that they suddenly can run graphically intensive games, which makes them competition for dedicated devices. A modern handheld games device will have the same Cortex A8 or A9 CPU and the same PowerVR, ARM, or nVidia GPU as a modern mobile phone. The only thing that differentiates them is the input devices. There used to be clip-on control panels for adding things like d-pads to Nokia phones, and I'd be surprised if the same didn't exist for the iPhone and friends.

    • Well three thing that have changed.
      1. The distribution system. Console games have traditionally required physical media. That normal is costlier and take a little longer to distribute and restricted by the number of physical copies. The iPhone games as well as Android games are limited only the download speed of the network. For consumers who want games now, that is a difference.
      2. Development model. Android and iPhone games allow for independent and companies to develop games and distribute them whereas the
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      Nobody wants to carry an extra device.

      That's why I won't carry a phone.

    • by mgblst ( 80109 )

      I love how everyone acts like this really has something to do with Apple.

      You are right, and it has nothing to do with Nintendo as well. If there was another company making the 3ds, then it would be that company. The other thing, what a stupid point to make, you add nothing to the conversation.

  • Me being in the pub beats both of them at their own game. I'm spending money on things. How else is this story about products competing for your money. As for games on a phone being worthless. You tell me someone with an R4 cartridge did find that one out by game 20. Lots and lost of utter dross. Shame on the people that made it.
    • by blair1q ( 305137 )

      Me being in the pub beats both of them at their own game. I'm spending money on things.

      They still have a Pac-Man machine in that pub?

  • 3DS is doing fine (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 11, 2011 @01:12PM (#37058922)

    The sales figures for the 3DS were respectable, and the price drop will continue those sales.

    Electronics (and everything, it seems) have taken on the blockbuster movie vibe -- if it doesn't hit BIG IMMEDIATELY then it's a total flop.

    • Electronics (and everything, it seems) have taken on the blockbuster movie vibe -- if it doesn't hit BIG IMMEDIATELY then it's a total flop.

      I'd say it's more a matter of reputation and pedigree in this case. When was the last time Nintendo released a new portable that didn't print money for them?

      I'll grant that you'd have to assume the Virtual Boy wasn't "portable" and ignore rehashes (i.e. the Game Boy Micro), but whenever Nintendo's released a new portable in the past since and including the original Game Boy some twentyish years ago, they've had a history of dominating the market. Now, they're not. This is what's making people wonder.

  • Wow. I want to be a /. contributor with nothing to say! It's supa-kool!

  • by mbone ( 558574 ) on Thursday August 11, 2011 @01:15PM (#37058958)

    So, Nintendo brought a knife to a gunfight (bad) except that they could sell these knives for a profit (good) because they were underpowered (underpowered knives ?), so they could print money (good), except that if a disheveled man emerged from a time machine (say what ?) he would be surprised that they weren't selling after all, or something. And then

    A wild STEVE JOBS appears! STEVE JOBS uses DESTROY VALUE. It's super effective!

    And they say you don't need editors on the Internet.

  • The 3DS's major selling point over the DS is the 3D. I'm mildly interested in getting a hold of one just to see how well the 3d works, but I have no interest in owning one. I imagine a lot of people are just perfectly happy with their DS and don't see a need to upgrade for a function they're not interested in.
    • The 3DS's major selling point over the DS is the 3D.

      That's a shame, actually; I was mostly interested in it because it's a more powerful console than the DS/DSi, even without the 3D. In fact, I was fairly convinced we would've seen a value-priced DS2 next year, one that had all the 3DS's enhancements besides the 3D (especially given you can just turn off the 3D and lose very little, if any, of the gameplay).

      Maybe if Nintendo put more marketing muscle behind the 3DS's actual technical improvements over the DS/DSi instead of focusing all their efforts on what

  • by YojimboJango ( 978350 ) on Thursday August 11, 2011 @01:23PM (#37059126)

    I remember reading (cant find source) that some of the big wigs at Nintendo told their stock holders that the hardware was done, but they wanted to hold off the release of the 3DS till they had an impressive line up of launch titles. Stockholders wanted a quick pay day from the successor to the system that printed money, and forced it out early.

    The system then launched with no games. And gamers, well as much as we like cool new hardware, we actually seem to like games more. No games? No sale. Sorry, that's just how it works. Now the 3DS isn't selling well and there's this sentiment that it won't sell well in the future and everyone (stockholders) is all up in a panic. Actual gamers? Well when that must play game comes out around Christmas then I'll jump, till then... why?

    I'm not convinced that iPhones are killing the dedicated hand held market. Maybe diluting it a bit, but nothing like the scare tactics that we're seeing. You're not going to find a game with depth on your iDevice or android that you will with a 3DS or a Vita. If only for the reason that even last gen portable games often went over a gig in size (UMD discs could hold 1.9 gig on them). Your iPhone would be able to realistically hold about 5 games of psp quality before you'd have to delete the old ones to make room for the new. When you start looking at the vita, you're looking at 6 to 8 gig per game. You'd fit one? Maybe two games on your phone?

    This is all over inflated.

  • It should have read "Apple's boat swamps Nintendo's boat by accident". I don't think Apply set out to create some sort of challenger to handheld gaming devices. I'm sure they're pleased to take your money for all those crappy $0.99 games, but I doubt 'dethrone Nintendo' was on their list of objectives for the iPhone.

    That said, I find the whole thing a little troubling. One of the advantages of a dedicate machine is dedicated gaming inputs. Touch is cute, and can be quite a good input for some applications,

  • Lateral Thinking with Withered Technology.

    Gunpei Yokoi coined the phrase. As long as Nintendo adheres to it, they win every time. When they start blindly grabbing for MOAR POWUR, without offering any meaningful improvements to gaming but only pretty pictures, they lose. They can't compete on graphics-are-everything; that's Sony's and Microsoft's model, and they just plain do it better. Nintendo's only hope to compete is on actual quality, and when they bother to do this, they come out on top.

    You'd think tha

  • by ultramk ( 470198 ) <ultramk.pacbell@net> on Thursday August 11, 2011 @01:29PM (#37059218)

    I can't speak for everyone, and I know that there exist many /. UIDs with a strong preference for dedicated devices... but for myself and the people I know, it's all about portability and flexibility.

    There's an old saying in photography that the best camera to use is the one you have with you. The same thing goes for personal electronics. A few years ago, I used to carry around a backpack with the following in it:
    - Spiral bound note pad
    - Paperback book
    - 10" laptop
    - hand-held GPS unit
    - cell phone
    - portable CD player
    - CD wallet case
    - Canon Elph camera
    - assorted and sundry other stuff
    - extra batteries and charging cables for the above
    - (I never got into portable game players, my bag was full--and HEAVY)

    Today, I have two options. Either I just carry my iPhone in my pocket, or I include a small bag just big enough for my iPad and an external battery pack which can be used by either device. (if I bring the bag, I also tuck in a bottle of Ghost Pepper sauce--sealed up super tightly--because it's awesome.)

    The crazy thing is, I haven't really lost much if any functionality over my previous carry, and at the very worst, it weighs less than 1/4 what it used to. I've also added a ton of functionality: always-on internet access is a big one. Also video recording and conferencing. (And 650k scoville hot sauce, but I digress.)

    The absolute last thing I want at this point is to add yet one more device I would have to keep charged and haul around. I don't care if the games are 50 times better, 90% of the time that I play games I'm waiting in line somewhere and don't want a deep gaming experience anyway in the 2 minutes I have.

  • by boethius ( 14423 ) on Thursday August 11, 2011 @01:37PM (#37059320)

    .... the Nintendo DS became a non-starter for me. My middle "hyper-active" child destroyed 2 Nintendo DSes then after a Craigslist buy of a used DS went badly - the screen was broken - I had had enough of the overhead of the DS. I would find the cartridges all over the house and each new game was typically $35-$45 a pop (yes I know there are used games that can be had much more cheaply and there's also the flash drive attachment) but the fact was my kids were always losing the carts and/or simply breaking the DS much too easily.

    I was almost ready to get a new DS for my eldest child at Costco when I scanned over to the iPod Touch for another $30 or so and it occurred to me it was ultimately way, way cheaper to own the iPod and just use the free app store games - and the occasional $0.99 game as a "treat." I practically started a trend with my friends and relatives as suddenly all their kids had iPod touches after that.

    Now roughly 3 years later the Touch is still around - unbroken! - and we never lose games, pay only a buck here or there when we want a bit nicer game, and those paid games are stored in iTunes so we never lose them regardless. The iPod Touch just seems a whole lot sturdier too, if only because it doesn't have a swiveling base. Overall, for a family when you want your kids to have a road trip gadget, the iPod Touch is a way saner and ultimately less expensive choice - not to mention your kids can also have videos and music on the same device, which is also a huge win for those long road trips.

    • by Vyse of Arcadia ( 1220278 ) on Thursday August 11, 2011 @02:22PM (#37059904)
      Not to be "that guy," but it's time to be that guy. How do you justify buying your kids replacements for stuff they don't take care of?
      • How do you justify buying your kids replacements for stuff they don't take care of?

        It is in the nature of children to be immature.

        Adults tend to forget that fact, especially if they are (a) between 18 and 30 or (b) live in a relatively childless hipster haven such as the Bay area or Manhattan. Those demographics are relatively unexposed to children.

        Immaturity manifests itself in many ways that, in adult behavior, is clearly irksome. These include loud speech, intransigence, rambunctiousness, lack of foresight, and reckless or dangerous behavior. If you hold children to adult behavior

  • The 3ds looks like a sad device from the 80's, two tiny little screens surrounded with massive amounts of plastic in a thick case. I see kids squinting playing them and think that is they best they got? In 2011?

    Sadly (for us Sony haters), it looks like Sony is building some decent kit. Hats off. Decent sized screen, nice input buttons (if your going to have buttons, they better be good), still very portable. If I was in the market would likely purchase this over a Nintendo in a heartbeat (admittedly ha

  • by mveloso ( 325617 ) on Thursday August 11, 2011 @01:52PM (#37059522)

    I can play Pirates! on my iPad - WTF would I want any other gaming device,?

  • by SmallFurryCreature ( 593017 ) on Thursday August 11, 2011 @02:05PM (#37059684) Journal

    Nintendo got greedy and instead of producing high quality games worth a few tenners it charges 50 euro's for games that are free on phones. Play Ridge Racer. It is an insult at the price. It is the same exact game you paid for decades ago at full price. Where are the triple A titles? Zelda? A remake of an old game that wasn't exactly the best to begin with.

    And while I think there is a market for a GOOD handheld console, the 3DS just wasn't it. 3D and gyro's in the same system. How insane can you get? The screen brightness is a joke in even dim sunlight, the battery life is abysmal and the screen is smaller then the DSi XL. The styling? Decades out of date. This is a kids device but is harmfull for kids eyes according to Nintendo itself and costs a fortune and the games are insanely expensive.

    The GB and GBA came into a world with no competition at the their price point. The quality sucked but hey, they were cheap. Now the 3DS ain't cheap and there is plenty of competition.

    And I am not going to struggle with an insane 3D camera control in Splinter Cell all the while having to hold the machine perfectly still while trying to make anything out on a blackscreen blasted by sunlight.

    Meantime I can play free games all I want on a high-rez amoled screen that automatically adjusts its brightness according to the environment and not worry about the battery draining before it has booted up.

    Back to the drawing board Nintendo or you might just see Sony produce a handheld that does better then a gameboy.

They are called computers simply because computation is the only significant job that has so far been given to them.