Amid speculation over what the newfangled iPhones and iPad devices will be capable of, Apple’s conference in San Francisco on Wednesday is rumored to include a major push into the video game space. Depending who you talk to, it’s either about time or too little too late for the computing giant.
But don’t bet against Apple. Mobile gaming is expected to total $3.31 billion dollars in revenue next year, and Apple has sold tens of millions of iPads and iPhones — de facto mobile gaming consoles to bright toddlers or bored commuters. With so much money on the table, Apple’s smartest move to enter gaming lies not on a single-player effort, but in a cooperative partnership with a company that shares a similar vision, ethos, and market demographic: Nintendo.
Nintendo has already started releasing games for iOS devices, like Pokemon Shuffle, but its effort thus far has been a feel-the-waters kind of thing; Nintendo is partnered with developer DeNA in a relationship that functions like a rich kid letting his friend play with his toys. The games include Nintendo characters and Nintendo worlds, but aren’t being being built by Nintendo developers.
It was smart to let the mobile gaming experts do the heavy lifting, but at some point old habits will kick in. Nintendo is notorious for overseeing everything with its name attached and it has been haunted by letting others take control. That’s where a partnership with Apple comes in.
Both tech companies want what the other has. Nintendo seeks a wide market penetration, which Apple has with a 44.1 percent share in the United States. If Apple wants to start gaming seriously, then who better to join them than Nintendo, the globally recognized innovator in family-friendly titles that lend themselves to casual gameplay?
Together, their user bases intersect almost perfectly, as women and families favor both the iPhone and Nintendo. While Xbox and PlayStation do sport a wide audience that includes women, mobile gaming is how women generally play. “Nintendo could make a breakout product against its competition if it focused more on making original mobile games that could expand on its success with its 3DS handheld system,” research director Brian Blau at Gartner told U.S. News.. For better or worse, Nintendo has positioned itself as the Disney of the gaming space, fitting with Apple’s own family-centric business practices.
The New York Times concurs that Apple should focus on casual gaming. Apple may never attract the Dota 2 or Halo crowd, but they can entertain those, in the words of the Times, “who find traditional game controllers complicated and who enjoy lighter, less epic forms of content.” Nintendo, which took the world in 1985 with two buttons and a D-pad and again in 2007 with a few wiggles of a Wii remote, would be right at home with taps and possibly the “Force Push” technology.
Nintendo’s unlikely to team with Apple so soon into the DeNA deal. It won’t be long until we see Mario or Donkey Kong on the iTunes store, but it may be longer until we see the real Mario or Donkey Kong in their genuine form.
Bringing classics like Super Mario Bros. and The Legend of Zelda to Apple devices would be a gargantuan play by Apple, and new games featuring Nintendo mascots — imagine Super Smash Bros. on the iPad — could make Apple a force to reckon with.