When Nintendo enjoyed a virtual monopoly over the handheld videogame market in the 80s, it may have anticipated that it could one day face competition from some other manufacturer of video games consoles; when the Sony PSP came around, Nintendo thought it was ready. What they weren’t ready for so was the way people would one day come to own little handheld phones that were virtually full-blown computers. And that these would play and compete head-on with a dedicated handheld. Certainly, both Sony and Nintendo sell millions of units all over the world and are very successful in video games. But if there is one startling fact that the handheld video game business needs to feel fearfor, it has to be this – the Nintendo DS has about 5000 titles; the Sony PSP has more than 600; the iPhone has more than 20,000.
Not that Apple isn’t aware of the way its phones are becoming the de facto standard for the handheld videogame user. Each iteration of the iPhone comes with faster processors, better operating systems and more memory to better play games. In other words, the iPhone and other smartphones, with their gameplaying capabilities, are going far beyond what dedicated handhelds are capable of. Everyone watched all agog as Steve Jobs announced the iPad 2 in February. Most people weren’t aware though, of how the president of Nintendo had a videogame developers’ conference right there too. And he was talking about how smartphones with their $1 and $2 video games, were driving down the quality of what video games were capable of, for the whole industry. And they were making videogame development an unprofitable venture for most developers.
Certainly, cheap games for smartphones have led the charge in completely changing the way people experience videogames. Nintendo is worried
that since video games for smartphones are so cheap, developers interested in putting together a truly wonderful game will stop finding it profitable. Games will just not be all that profitable anymore. Still, perhaps it might just be a case of sour grapes. Developers may be forced to sell their games for under five dollars on the app store; but there are millions of app customers worldwide who could more than make up in volume what they lack in buying power. You have to admit that smartphone games aren’t as deep or as fully featured as the current games you get on a handheld video game machine. But that could change as smartphones become more powerful and more entrenched.