Why Apple will never kill the Nintendo DS

Forbes wrote that Apple could kill the Nintendo DS. But after reading that, Don Reisinger thinks it's time for a wake-up call.

Nintendo DS
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Has Brian Caulfield of Forbes totally lost it? In a piece entitled, "Why Apple could kill the Nintendo DS", Caulfield contends that Apple's new App store for the iPhone and iPod touch could be the first step in replacing Nintendo in the handheld gaming space.

"Monday...Nintendo will likely face a new and far more dangerous foe: Apple," Caulfield wrote. "Steve Jobs' computer and gizmo maker will likely launch a long-promised feature, dubbed the App Store, which will let outside developers pour software into the iPhone and iPod Touch. And while it's unlikely that, say, a mobile version of Oracle's wonky database will make anyone stand up and cheer, we already know putting games on the iPhone is a pretty powerful combination."

We do? Ostensibly Caulfield is alluding to games that we saw at the iPhone SDK event earlier this year where Sega unveiled Super Monkey Ball for the iPhone and EA showed off Spore, but I don't know where else he sees this "powerful combination."

And if he knew anything about the handheld gaming market, he would probably know that Nintendo's past is littered with the remains of companies that have tried to supplant it as the leader in the market and failed -- miserably.

But to suggest that Apple could conceivably command the market and wrest control from the one company that has controlled it for over 20 years, is both foolhardy and downright ludicrous.

Here's why:

So far, Nintendo has sold just over 73 million Nintendo DSs. Compare that to the iPhone's lofty goal of 10 million units sold and the iPod touch's sales, which have yet to be released, and you can see how much work Apple has to do just to catch up. In fact, last quarter, Apple sold about 1.7 million iPhones and 10 million iPods, although the exact number of iPod touch sales were not given. Considering Nintendo's April DS sales were 414,800, I just don't see how Apple has a chance

The DS is currently on pace to not only destroy the Game Boy sales record, but it has the opportunity to do so in about ten years assuming the same rate of sale can be maintained. Can Apple truly produce that many products and then convert those users into gamers? I seriously doubt it.

And perhaps that's where Caulfield's logic really falls off the tracks. Apple will most likely try to make some inroads in the handheld gaming business, but the sheer number of DS units already in the wild is enough to ensure that the iPhone and iPod touch will never come close.

Let's face it -- Apple is struggling to sell 10 million iPhones. How can it truly expect to supplant the Nintendo DS in the handheld gaming space if it's still more than 60 million units behind?

But maybe I should give Caulfield the benefit of the doubt. Perhaps his title about "killing" the Nintendo DS was a little too strong and it's not about the numbers. Of course, I'm not quite sure how he can run from the sales figures so easily, but that's another story altogether.

Maybe, just maybe, Caulfield meant that the iPhone and iPod Touch would kill the Nintendo DS by selling more games in the App store. If he believes that, he's probably even further off than even I want to admit.

Can anyone see any way for Apple to kill the DS by selling games through the App store? If the sales figures (oops, there they are again) aren't nearly as high as the DS, which has about a 4.7 game attach rate, can we really expect Apple to beat it?

Assuming we're going to judge the "killing" of one device in the handheld market by software sales, each iPod Touch and iPhone would need an attach rate that has never been achieved in the history of gaming: 34 games per device assuming there are 10 million iPhone and iPod Touch units in the wild.

Now that is doing something.

Sadly, Caulfield makes, well, no sense. Regardless of how hard he tries, he can't run from the overwhelming discrepancy between the DS sales figures and those of the iPhone and iPod touch. And although he has faith in Apple's upcoming App Store, does he really trust it that much?

I certainly don't.

And although I haven't mentioned it due to the overwhelming evidence that can be found elsewhere, what about the 800-pound gorilla in the room? You know, that whole issue with Apple not understanding (or even caring) about gaming at all. How does Caulfield account for that?

I understand that some folks would like to believe that Apple can control every industry it may have some impact on, but I guess I'm not that naive. Suffice it to say that in some markets, Apple can't (and won't) be the leader.

Is that so hard to accept, Mr. Caulfield?

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About the author

Don Reisinger is a technology columnist who has covered everything from HDTVs to computers to Flowbee Haircut Systems. Besides his work with CNET, Don's work has been featured in a variety of other publications including PC World and a host of Ziff-Davis publications.

 

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