CNET también está disponible en español.

Ir a español

Don't show this again

Smart Home

Can the iPhone beat the DS in the handheld gaming war?

Can the iPhone and iPod Touch combo take out the Nintendo DS in the handheld gaming market?

A quick glance at Apple's list of the top App Store downloads of 2008 reveals a staggering trend: video games dominate.

According to Apple's internal figures, Texas Hold 'Em takes the second spot in the list of the most popular paid apps in the store and other titles like Crash Bandicoot: Nitro Kart 3D and Super Monkey Ball are also present in the top 10 list.

On top of that, Apple's iPhone and iPod Touch have proven extremely successful and given that success, it's not unreasonable to believe that both devices' sales will easily outstrip the current handheld gaming leader, the Nintendo DS.

Taking all that into account, it's incumbent upon us to consider the possibility of Apple (yes, Apple), controlling the handheld gaming market and stealing it away from the company that has dominated it since its inception: Nintendo.

And although it may be difficult for some Nintendo apologists to believe that the DS could fall victim to the iPhone, it is within the realm of possibility.

Well, that is, if you believe the iPhone and iPod Touch are "real" handheld gaming devices.

To say that the iPhone and iPod Touch compete with the Nintendo DS is like saying a MacBook Pro competes with a Netbook. Sure, they provide the same basic functionality, but one is designed for pure computing and the other is made for casual use. I don't think it's unfair to say the same for the DS and the iPhone and iPod Touch.

Look, I'll be the first to admit that the iPhone plays games relatively well and people are more than willing to pick them up. But let's not forget that it's a phone first, iPod second, and handheld gaming device third. On the other hand, the Nintendo DS is a handheld gaming device first, and everything else falls in line behind that functionality.

Let's put it another way: the Wii, Playstation 3, and Xbox 360 are direct competitors because each device's first priority is playing games. The same can be said for the DS and the PSP. But if an iPhone's first priority is phone calls and an iPod Touch's first priority is music, can we really say that they compete directly with the Nintendo DS? I don't think so.

And that's why we currently find ourselves in a strange place of logic: What constitutes a gaming platform? Is it the games? Is it the device's core function? Is it the device's manufacturer? It's tough to say.

Some, I'm sure, would say that any device that plays games and can be held in the hands should be considered a part of the handheld gaming market. To that I would ask when we draw the line. Archos devices play games and so does the BlackBerry. Old Palm devices had games and Windows Mobile products offer some, too. Should they all be considered a part of the handheld gaming market?

The only fair way to measure competitors in a market is to base it off a device's core function. The Nintendo DS and Sony PSP are designed with gamers in mind and all the extras they offer are a bonus. The same can't be said for the iPhone and iPod Touch.

Say what you will about the success of the games in the App Store, but as far as I'm concerned, the products they're compatible with have no impact on the handheld gaming market.

Sorry, Apple. If you want to beat Nintendo, you'll need to offer up a handheld gaming device. Until then, Nintendo is safe.

Check out Don's Digital Home podcast, Twitter feed, and FriendFeed.