In a long-ranging interview with VentureBeat, Nintendo of America’s executive VP of sales and marketing, Cammie Dunaway, said the gaming company is not very concerned about Apple’s growing presence in the mobile gaming space.
Nintendo’s Wii is the dominant home gaming console and its DS is miles ahead of Sony’s PSP but there’s growing evidence that the iPhone, or smartphones in general, will replace the need for dedicated mobile gaming devices. For example, the Plants vs. Zombie iPhone game recently made $1 million in only 9 days. It’s not just small, independent studios either, as massive players like Electronic Arts, Sega and Konami are rapidly porting franchises to Apple’s smartphone.
Dunaway said Apple’s mobile gaming prowess may be a bit overstated.
“As for Apple, it is interesting that for all of the talk of competition from Apple last year, here in the U.S. we had our best year ever, selling 11.2 million units. That has never been done by any game platform ever,” Dunaway said. “Consumers are still finding fun with our products, and there is a lot of room to grow. If you look at the penetration of the market, the DS franchise here in the U.S. has a long way to go. In Japan, one in two consumers has a DS. Here, it is one in four. So we have room to grow.”
Nintendo still has a few things in its favor and at the top may be pricing. A DS game still costs about $30 while App Store games are always feeling that downward pressure to be less than a buck. The major studios are also a bit more comfortable with this model and have established developer infrastructure around it. I also think dedicated buttons are a better way to control a wider variety of games (I have no idea how Street Fighter 4 on the iPhone won’t be awful). Additionally, I’d say Nintendo is one of the few companies that has a better brand recognition for what is does than Apple. Ask any kid or grandma and they’ll tell you Nintendo equals gaming.
Still, I’m worried that Nintendo may be discounting the era of convergence we’re facing. Nintendo has been printing money because it appealed to the casual markets and it’s becoming too much of a pain for the average Joe to carry a dedicated gaming device around, especially when you phone is capable of the same graphics. Not to mention the built-in app stores essentially provide a warehouse of games in your pocket and cellular connectivity means you can always find someone to play against. These comments may just be marketing bluster but I hope Nintendo realizes Apple is a major threat.
Of course, I always thought the Wii was dumb and wouldn’t be too successful, and we all know how that turned out. This is an issue that’s sure to come up at next week’s Game Developer’s Conference, so stay tuned for that. Be sure to check out the rest of the interview because it’s an interesting read.