Why Apple Could Kill The Nintendo DS
With third-party apps for the iPhone and iPod Touch looming, games (for once) could become Apple's killer app.
BURLINGAME, CALIF - There's only one company on earth that has come back from behind to wrest a multibillion-dollar market away from Sony, beat back a grasping Microsoft and delight tens of millions of customers around the world in the process.
Sorry Apple fanboys, we're talking about Nintendo. The Nintendo Wii has turned the gaming world on its head, with motion-sensitive controls and family-friendly games. The Nintendo DS has had a good run, too, dominating the market for handheld gaming gizmos despite determined assaults by Sony and Nokia.
Monday, however, Nintendo will likely face a new and far more dangerous foe: Apple. 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.
To be sure, the Nintendo DS won't be an easy kill. First released in 2004, Nintendo freshened the design of the aging system in 2006, with the release of the thinner, lighter DS Lite. Yet developers continue to toil away on ever more sophisticated games for the aging DS, with an ambitious adaptation of "Guitar Hero" in the works and a slick adaptation of the PC strategy series "Age of Empire" already on sale, thanks to the console's sophisticated dual-screen interface. Moreover, Apple has struggled to master gaming on the Mac, with a far wider array of titles available for machines running Microsoft Windows.
Nevertheless, Apple is the first to master a pair of tricks that have made Nintendo's latest products so compelling--a touch-screen interface and the ability to pick up on motion. The key difference: Unlike Nintendo, which has created a gaming console with a motion-sensitive controller and a touch-sensitive handheld gaming system, Apple has crammed both capabilities into its iPhone and iPod Touch.
The ability to pour fresh software into the iPhone, wirelessly, at the touch of a button already has game developers interested. When Apple detailed its software developers kit for the iPhone and iPod Touch earlier this year, one of the most impressive demos was Sega's version of "Super Monkey Ball" for the iPhone. Players will be able to maneuver a monkey through a three-dimensional landscape by tilting the iPhone.
The worst sign: Sophisticated games such as Electronic Arts' ambitious new god-game, "Spore," are already slated to be released for the iPhone at the same time it goes on sale for PCs, Macs and the Nintendo DS. Travis Boatman from EA showed off a project based on Spore that the videogame giant's developers cobbled together in two weeks that took advantage of iPhone's accelerometer and touch-screen interface to guide the evolution of a hungry microorganism.
Looks like the handheld gaming business, so long dominated by Nintendo, could be about to undergo a little evolution too.
And I almost went crazy, but then I looked at my bracelet, What would Jesus Do...
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