Nintendo Getting Petty over iPhone Success

Nintendo CEO Satoru Iwata is getting petty over the success of the iPhone and the iOS eco-system, as during a keynote at the GDC, the head of the gaming giant claimed that Apple’s devices are transforming – and damaging – the gaming industry, from retailers to developers. While Iwata is correct about the transformation the gaming industry is currently going through, we’re not so convinced that Apple is actually destroying it. Iwata’s comments are related to the current weakening of the traditional portable console market, a market that has been dominated by Nintendo since the launch of the original Game Boy back in 1989. According to Iwata, the model used by the App Store encourages developers to inundate the mobile gaming market with low quality games, and drives the value of mobile games down: “[iOS developers] don’t care about quality, because their profit comes from quantity.” While Iwata is partially correct, we’re tempted to add, ‘so what?’ Many iOS developers target casual gamers, and even though their games may not be as polished as Nintendo’s most famous game franchises such as Super Mario or Zelda, they also cost a lot less, and are often as fun to play. Moreover, the App Store is now seeing an afflux of high quality games, such as Infinity Blade, or even Super NES era smash hits, such as Secret of Mana or ports of some Final Fantasy games. And if gamers now prefer small – yet incredibly fun – games such as Tiny Wings over Nintendo’s latest creations, again, so what? While gaming giants like Nintendo repeatedly proved to be amazing game developers, they completely ignore the fact that the mobile gaming market is not the same as it used to be back in the 90’s and early 2000’s, when the market was shaped to keep small developers at bay, thanks to a cumbersome licensing model imposed by Nintendo itself – something Iwata conveniently forgot to mention. Iwata also believes that iOS game developers simply cannot “keep their heads above water.” Interestingly enough, Iwata’s claim is at odds with a tidbit mentioned by Apple CEO Steve Jobs during the iPad 2 announcement keynote earlier this week, as overall, iOS developers made more than $2 billion since the launch of the App Store. Regardless of Iwata’s opinion about the App Store and the mobile gaming market, the App Store model is here to stay. Instead of spending its energy fighting the App Store model, Nintendo would likely be better off looking into ways of embracing it. [Pictures courtesy of Apple and Nintendo]