The Apple/Nintendo rumor mill has existed for a few years now, usually popping up quarterly or biannually with either a rumor about the two companies, or simple posturing about them. This leads to armies of geeks believing a merger is imminent, even though there is no proof or even any grumblings from either company about it. People simply look at how similar the two companies are, and somehow put two and two together (even if there is nothing to put together).
But maybe we are getting smarter about this inane trend. This time around, Forbes looks at how the iPhone might kill the Nintendo DS. The article cites the iPhone’s touch screen and accelerometer abilities as combining the features of the Wii and the DS. It also claims that the ability to quickly and easily download software wirelessly will make gaming simple and painless. Fair points to be sure, but it fails to address several massive advantages that the DS has, as well as some simple facts from the past. I may be treading very old ground with some of these, but let’s collect them all together:
– Apple has never widely supported gaming, and as long as they have final approval for what apps make it to the service, lord knows how many quality games will make it out. Or we may see only a few good titles, while a lot of diamonds in the rough fail to make it off the cutting room floor.
– Price. The DS is cheap as hell, and durable to boot. Even after price drops the iPhone is in 360 and almost PS3 price territory. Add in a near $100 a month phone plan, and it becomes a prohibitively costly device for kids, teens, and all but the most tech savvy/spoiled college kids. That is quite a limited market compared to the DS. Apple fanboys are quick to point out that a $200 iPod Touch would soil Nintendo in a hurry. Too bad that the lowly iPod Nano is in that price territory, still years after its introduction. There is no proof Apple would make such a drastic price cut to the Touch just to get into the gaming market, but years of history have shown how little they care about gaming. The land of “if”‘s is a finicky one, especially in the games biz.
– EA and Sega are touted as major weapons in the iPhone’s arsenal. The writer unfortunately doesn’t know enough about the industry to understand that Sega will put Super Monkey Ball on anything, and EA will publish on anything, including the NGage and the Gizmondo.
– No one can stress enough the fact that the DS is built for games. Its hardware is meant for developing games, and good tools already exist to make them. The handheld is able to use its touch capabilities while retaining excellent battery life. If you want to see what could happen with Apple, look at the PSP. When it was touted as a multimedia device, no one cared, and the miserable battery life was a problem. Since then, Sony has abandoned the UMD movie market, made a better battery, added game related features like Remote Play and PSN downloads, and emphasized the gaming capabilities almost exclusively. The music, movie, and internet features still remain, but they are less a focus and more a set of nice extra features. Sony may not catch up with Nintendo, but the PSP is finding its own success after bringing the games to the forefront. There is no chance that games will be brought to the forefront of Apple’s touch devices, and unless that happens there is no way it will even challenge the PSP as a portable game device.
– The final trump card that a fanboy may claim is that the iPod name alone is sure to attract its army of fans to Apple gaming. I have also seen claims that teens will abandon the kid friendly DS. I’m glad Apple can grab a piece of the market. Any gamer who knows the DS’s consumer base globally knows that any notion that it is solely played by children is a flat out lie. Everyone played the DS, and most continue to after all these years.
Hell, let’s just look at the numbers. Since 2001, Apple has sold 150 million iPods. That’s the entire iPod family over seven years. The DS, with just one revision (same hardware), has sold half of that in almost half the time. 70 million consoles. The Forbes article states that “The Nintendo DS has had a good run,” which is the understatement of the year.
And so to wrap it up, we have Apple’s half-assed gaming support against Nintendo’s decades long ability to print money with their handhelds. Nothing more needs to be said.
(PS – this is my own personal opinion, but the fact that the DS has two screens is a big reason for its success, at least when it comes to games that use the touch screen abilities. You can have a bullshit interface on the bottom screen, while the top screen contains all the action. A chubby set of fingers all over an iPhone screen may work for typing letters, but will surely get in the way of the action on screen in a game).
Now on to the next topic. I have a DS, and one of my first games is Elite Beat Agents. The game has got me by the balls, like any good rhythm game does. It is just the right mix of challenge, tunes and Blues Brothers style. What I want to talk about however, is the once large group of dissenters that surrounded EBA. The story isn’t anything unique; essentially a bunch of Japanophiles refused to play it over Ouendan (the Japanese game that EBA is based on), insisting that the J-pop in the original game is much preferred over the pop that sometimes populates EBA.
Suffice to say that their argument defies all logic. They don’t like American pop because it is trash. Fair enough, but what is J-Pop other than Japanese trash? In fact, when it comes to Japanese idols, J-Pop is an even more extreme example of wrapping a starlet in a prepackaged image with accompanying music. It is still crap, just in a language you can’t understand. Is it really more palatable when you don’t know the words? Maybe, but that is offset by anything with a squeaky voiced Japanese singer. In the end, it is all a wash.
And so the fact that these people feel an entire island nation’s worth of sugary music is better than the equivalent in the States is a tough pill to swallow. No matter how much of a defense is mounted, it screams of elitism and typical otaku culture. EBA sold far less than expected, and I wonder how much better it might have done if some fans weren’t insist ant on importing Ouendan without giving both games a shot. Shame on them.
Maybe its just me, but listening to a cover of an Avril Lavigne or Sum 41 song seems strangely appropriate in this game. They have their hooks and a whole lot of cheeriness, and that’s what really matters. Besides, a cover of Sk8ter Boi sounds a lot more like a palatable, cheezy piece of fluff than it did when Avril was pretending she was a punk.
I know it is a late calling, but if you’ve still missed out, I urge you to give EBA a shot. Otherwise you may be too much of a music snob.