Game Marketing Tips, Analysis, and News

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Apple Gaining On Nintendo

Since Apple doesn't release sales figures very often, it's hard to be sure. But one research firm has done their homework and says that over 40 million Americans use Apple devices (iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad) to play games... compared to Nintendo with 41 million DS installed base in the US. Plus, the latest sales trends are not exactly favoring Nintendo... Apple is selling over 1 million iPads a month, and more than twice that in iPhones and iPod Touches. Meanwhile, handheld sales are down 25% over last year's dismal sales numbers, which no doubt accounts for Nintendo's dropping the DS pricing by $20. (By the way, manufacturers reduce pricing only when they feel they need to because sales would be better. They will never do it out of the kindness of their hearts because their manufacturing cost dropped... they'll cheerfully pocket the additional profit as long as sales stay high.)

Nintendo is hoping the 3DS will revitalize their handheld sales. I think it will, to some extent; but Nintendo's market share will continue to erode as Apple's sales continue to increase with new models of their handhelds coming out every year. Also, the Android platform is growing like crazy, and games are an important part of that market, too. Nintendo may have a 3D display in the 3DS, but in many other ways the hardware is inferior to these other handhelds; processor, display resolution, orientation sensors, network connectivity, size of the software base, average software price an order of magnitude higher on Nintendo. It's hardly a fair fight any more, and it's only going to get worse.

Nintendo is losing the fight for developer mindshare, too. Even big developers are seeing great returns from iPhone software (like EA, for instance). Plus developers, large or small, prefer the unfettered market of Apple or Android to the regimented, bureaucratic, expensive and unpredictable Nintendo regime.

Bottom line: If you're already a Nintendo developer, you can probably make money continuing to do products for their handhelds. If you're not already a Nintendo developer, you should first make your products for Apple or Android, with far lower risk and expense. If you have a hit there, then perhaps think about a Nintendo version. If their handheld devices still matter by that time.

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