For so many years now, Nintendo has always dominated the handheld market. Ever since the Gameboy first launched in 1989, other companies have repeatedly tried to compete against the wildly popular device, and all have failed to even put a dent in the big N’s market share of handheld gaming. In fact, few devices even came close to being a threat to the Gameboy and its successor, the DS, with the exception of one: Sony’s PSP. When first announced, the PSP had a lot of hype surrounding it-there were rumors that it would be the next walkman, and that it would overtake Nintendo’s firm grip on the handheld market. Arguably, the PSP never fulfilled these goals and hardly ever became as popular as the DS. Even so, it was the closest anyone has gotten to being a threat to Nintendo-until perhaps now with a device that’s already in the hands of millions people all over the world.
When first launched, the iPhone was a huge hit-people lined up for hours to purchase it, and there were many shortages in the first few months (sound familiar?). However, the big complaint at the time was that there was no way of downloading 3rd party applications. This problem was fixed when the app store launched alongside the iPhone 3G, about one year after the first iPhone was released. Following these launches was an explosion of third party developers creating new apps for the device, including games. Titles ranging from puzzle games to adventure games, and even third person shooters, were soon cluttering the app store, and people were buying them thanks to the very competitive pricing. With the average game being somewhere around $8, few people could resist buying them, and this pushed developers even more to make bigger and better games. Even certain games that were only developed by a single person would become so popular that they would make national news, like the developer behind the game ishoot. Ironically, this explosion of gaming has been fueled not only by techies and gamers-but by everyone. From the business man to the soccer mom, everyone has at least a few games on their iPhone.
But does all this popularity mean the iPhone is a threat to the DS? After all, it’s still a phone right? Would anyone actually label the iPhone a threat to the DS? Yes-Nintendo would. In an interview several weeks ago, Nintendo exces specifically said that they consider the iPhone as being a threat to the DS’s market share of portable gaming. Perhaps they should feel a little nervous. After all, to date there are 21 million iPhones out in consumers hands, and all of them are capable of downloading any game. In fact, the statistics from Apple show that there are over 13,000 games available to download from their app store, and that games are usually the most downloaded apps over any other type.
To give a testament to the iPhone’s popularity, Sony recently announced that the PSP will have new “mini” games that will come in at under 100MB. This new type of game that Sony’s marketing is literally what the iPhone’s app store has been providing for over a year now. The PSPGo itself even looks similar to the iPhone when its closed. Sony understands that there is a market for portable casual gamers, and with the new PSP, they’re obviously trying to capitalize on this. However, it remains to be seen if they’re too late to the party.
Getting back to the iPhone, you could argue that popularity-wise it seems to have an advantage, but what about the games themselves? Surely games on a phone can’t be anywhere near the level of quality to that of an actually gaming devices? You might have been right a year or so ago, but this is a truth that is slow fading away with more and more developers pushing the iPhone’s hardware. Games like Brothers in Arms, and Resident Evil Degeneration look pretty close to what a DS title would look like, and Assassin’s Creed for the iPhone is literally the same game that was released on the DS. Perhaps in the future more DS games will be ported to the iPhone, especially now that developers know the money that can be made.
However, an even bigger reason why the iPhone could overtake the DS is because of the casual games. Something that the DS has always pushed was that it was great for casual games, and now another device has come along and has become extremely popular in the very same department, and possibly even more casual and with an even bigger reach than the DS’s. Today, you are much more likely to see someone playing a game on their iPhone than a DS, and for good reason. The device is almost as powerful as the DS, and is much more accessible to non gamers, with the current trend the iPhone could potentially take away sales from the Big N and do what countless other companies before it couldn’t do before.