The main difference between Nintendo and Apple is self awareness

The difference between Nintendo and Apple

Apple and Nintendo both share a passion for great products, for fantastic hardware in the support of fantastic software, and both have suffered more than their share of detractors and doomsayers. Recently, many have suggested Nintendo might be better off making games for iPhone and iPad than sticking with their hardware strategy - including people who would spit-take at the idea of Apple licensing out OS X or iOS. Federico Viticci thinks that's because of a disconnect between Apple and Nintendo pundits. MacStories:

Nintendo's strength right now is that, once again, they can revolve around the fulcrum of portable hardware and game sales to sustain their operation, turn a profit, and buy more time to fix the mess that was the Wii U launch. Saying that Nintendo should shut everything down, go home, and start making games for iOS is an easy but flawed solution that just isn't supported by the facts.

It was probably tough, between the Jobs eras, and even during the early years of Jobs second act at Apple, to see a viable future for the Mac, much less the staggering success that would be iOS. Apple had also already tried and failed at licensing out their operating system, and Jobs had killed those clones upon his return. Most importantly, however, Apple and Jobs understood that Mac wasn't their business. It was just a product. Likewise, iPhone and iPad. New instantiations of the same ideal. This is something Microsoft under Steve Ballmer failed to understand, to both of their eventual detriment.

That's the biggest difference between Nintendo and Apple. What's Nintendo's business and what products can most successfully attain that business in the future. If the Wii U and 2DS are any indication, they may not know any more than Microsoft did. Because consoles aren't it (which is lucky, because there's probably not much of a future left in that business as mobile moves up and living room evolves.)

That's why I liked Guy English's idea of Nintendo getting out of the console game but staying in the hardware game by making dedicated MFi controllers bundled with their character properties.

Because that's Nintendo's business. Their characters and the gaming experience they create with them. Apple knew their business wasn't PCs and now they're kings of mobile devices and digital downloads. Marvel realized their business wasn't paper and ink comics, and now they're kings of the box office.

I love Nintendo. I've owned every console they've ever made with the exception of the Wii U. And that that they're so lost in the weeds right now breaks my heart. That their momentum is still great enough to mask the problems they face makes it even more tragic. John Gruber of Daring Fireball:

Nintendo, to me, looks incapable of producing handheld hardware that can compete with the iPhone or iPod Touch. I think they're out of the game and might never get back into it. If they can do it, great — where by "do it" I mean produce a device that's a better buy for $250 or so than an iPod Touch. But I don't think they can do it.

I'd take that one step further. Even if Nintendo could make the best console and handheld in the world and it wouldn't matter. Those products have no future. The era where a NES or SNES or GameCube or GameBoy could power what made Nintendo so wonderful is gone. It's the Mario and Donkey Kong and Zelda and Metroid and Pokemon gaming businesses that are limitless.

Source: MacStories

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Rene Ritchie

EiC of iMore, EP of Mobile Nations, Apple analyst, co-host of Debug, Iterate, Vector, Review, and MacBreak Weekly podcasts. Cook, grappler, photon wrangler. Follow him on Twitter and Google+.

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Reader comments

The main difference between Nintendo and Apple is self awareness


re: "Even if Nintendo could make the best console and handheld in the world and it wouldn't matter. Those products have no future."

Exactly. Nintendo needs to buy Oculus before Google or Microsoft.
Or they need to come up with a whole new gaming / entertainment paradigm.

They've done that before. I had a Nintendo board game when I was a kid.
Just a cardboard "capture-the-hats" type game. Nintendo needs to make
a quantum leap ahead of the tired old set-top console and uni-tasking
portable game device. Like the leap from board game to Wii.

They can just retro-fit their warehouse full of old Virtual Boys with colour screens. Away they go! New paradigm launched!

They have a niche market and I don't think they know it.
The Wii has family appeal and they are so close and they seem lackluster at holding it.
They have the little kids arena.
I think Nintendo NEEDS to be Nintendo, not Apple, Playstation, or XBox.
They are there. I'm sure there are shareholders screaming, WHY!? Aren't PS XBOX or Apple.

I think if the concentrate on ORIGINAL games, updated hardware that competes for their target audience, the family, incorporates, like they have, Netflix, Internet, a la carte TV, etc...

They can stay in the running and turn a tidy profit.
Large, probably not. But they have great stuff.

I personally don't view what Nintendo's situation is now equal to that of Apples situation back then. I think a more accurate comparison would be the situation Nintendo is in now to the situation Apple might be in during the next couple years.

Either way, it is tough to predict what is to come. There is always potential when there is money, and we could be completely surprised in the near future.

It's always great to see pundits arguments used against them.

The premise of this article seems to ignore the current success of the 3DS. Nintendo is on a roll right now in the handheld space and the 2DS looks like a perfect gateway device for younger customers (looks very difficult to break). Nintendo just needs some help in the console space as the WiiU is getting crushed, but in the handheld market? Nintendo is laser focused. Nintendo would have to taken over by clowns to get out of the console business (even worse to start making iOS controllers, ugh what a horrible idea).

The main difference between Apple and Nintendo is not self awareness, but Steve Jobs. The pundits seems to forget that Apple was on the verge of licensing out OSX (hello moto) until Jobs canned it. Then proceeded to turn the company around. Amazing how those who write about Apple forget so much about it.

^^ late edit - in case it wasn't obvious, I am not referring to Rene since he did write about Jobs and the clones.

With titles like the latest Mario Bros. And even the new Animal Crossing New Leaf, yes. It finally has the success it needed when it first launched.

Had he used PS Vita and success in the same sentence then I would have questioned him.

PS/Vita. LOL
I'm PS3 fan. As fot the Vita. Too much too late.
And with the PS4 coming out soon, what is Sony thinking.
Vita is a Flop.

But, the success of the 3DS pales in comparison even with the success of the iPhone. We won't even step into the Android territory yet. I would even bet someone that the iPod Touch outsells the 3DS.

And this situation is NOTHING like Apple licensing MacOS and the possibility of licensing Mac OS X.

Yes and no Rene. I have replaced portable game systems with my smartphone, but not my console. Actually I prefer computer games over console games, but I do like console games. Sadly, the Wii U does suck. I don't think Nintendo should abandon the console and handheld markets, but I do think they should produce games for iOS.

A lot of people aren't ready to give up console gaming. You just can't make a sucky system and expect people to buy it.

Argh. Love the topic, hate who its written by. I couldnt get through a paragraph without feeling "gee, i know exactly where this is going...".

Oh well. Hopefully a journalist tackles this one day.

I have a Wii U and I love it. The problem is that it's just poorly marketed. I knew about it because I keep up with Nintendo and video games in general; a lot of people don't. And the gamepad might sound like a gimmick at first, but when you're sitting in your house playing Arkham City and watching TV at the same time it clicks. Other consoles can't do that.

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It's not even the marketing. Where are all the games? I have a Wii U and I enjoy it and yes I mainly get it for the Nintendo properties, but where are they. It's taken them a year to start rolling out first party titles. Majority of the launch games were just ports of games that were months old and 3rd parties bitch that their products don't sell on Nintendo consoles. Make a quality game and people will by it, not some rehashed pile of crap. I'm a fan of all systems, but admittedly Nintendo has my favorites of all time and I'd rather they stick to keeping their properties exclusive as long as they can

Yeah the games are a problem for a lot of people too. But it hasn't been a problem for me. It's my only console now and my only last gen console was the Wii. So I missed out on a lot of amazing games (like Arkham City) that I can play now. I only own six Wii U games and I have yet to finish any of them, and I already plan on getting Wind Waker HD launch day. So while the lack of games is a problem for a lot of people, I'm content with the games for now.

I would say other consoles can't do that yet. I don't know about Xbone, but Sony already showed off the same thing with the Vita. Not discounting its a great idea :) just saying others will have it so it won't be unique

That's a good point. I'd forgotten about the Vita. But the problem with that is the combined price of the Vita and PS4 is more than double that of the Wii U. Not to say that the difference isn't made up for with raw power, but still.

Totally agree on the price! If all you want is the ability to play games from a console else ware in your house(does every game support this feature, or is it only the games that don't use Game Pad specific functions?), then the Wii U is definitely the better buy.

Only thing one could say in defense of the Vita+PS4 cost is the fact you are getting two game systems, where as with the Game Pad you just have the Wii U. Whether that justifies the cost is up to the buyer =)

Most games now have off-TV play. And I think Nintendo plans to get it in as many of their games as possible, because it's a really good feature.

I definitely agree with that. You'd get a lot more software with the PS4+Vita combo.

There's not been a single game on iOS that matches the quality of Mario, Zelda and other titles directly developed by Nintendo and likely there never will be. The dedication and drive for quality that Yoshiaki Koizum puts into those titles won't be equaled by iOS developers looking for mass apeal with a quick development cycle. Sell more? Oh yea, but quantity is not quality.

I think this is the single biggest issue with the argument. Mobile does not quite have the same quality as you can find on handhelds. Not many deep or engaging games I have found. Most are cheap thrills or those "social" games.

Another point is price point. DS games are, what, $40(I don't know exactly)? I don't know how many people would be willing to fork over that kind of cash for a game on a smartphone. Even at half that I don't think people would be willing to spend. Look at some of the games priced $15 already, are they flying off the virtual shelves. Not try to patronized or anything, I legitimately don't know and can only speculate.

The one thing lacking this article is a more practical view on how one would play, let's say a hardcore Metroid game, on a mobile device with the same level of easiness than with a classic controller and a TV screen. People calling the end of the console business must understand that they are a lot of gamers (myself included) that simply don't see a way to migrate serious gaming to mobile, you can't (yet) expect a master Street Fighter 4 player (like the EVO guys) to pull any kind of complex combos or moves or whatever on an iPad, I know they are many mods, hacks and add-ons to make feasible advanced gaming on iPhone/iPad, but still, most hardcore gamers end up going to either consoles or PCs, because mobile gaming still seems like, to quote Back To The Future 2: "a baby's toy". Of course Mr. Ritchie, as you yourself have put it several times on this site, the "hardcore audience" is not where's the money is at, and you know what? that statement, while true, still bring tears to my eyes, because that reality is what's killing many a good thing in the tech industry, and more specifically the gaming industry, and replacing it with abominations like Free-To-Play or Freemium.

There is not way I would even consider playing some of my Games on a FRIGING iPhone or iPad.

I love my big screen, surround sound PS3 with the sound cranked up, wall shaking, while taking a Mcom in Battlefield.

I don't like gaming on glass.

Agree totally! No way you can get the same complex games on a phone or tablet

Yet. I imagine in the future we will see more console like games on our phones or tablets. But, only when it's dead simple to connect a controller and TV. It's not difficult now, but it's not brain dead easy quite yet. Not to mention they current phones and tablets can't match the computing power of a PS3 or 360, not to mention the next gen of gaming.
We just aren't there yet.

"Even if Nintendo could make the best console and handheld in the world and it wouldn't matter. Those products have no future. The era where a NES or SNES or GameCube or GameBoy could power what made Nintendo so wonderful is gone. It's the Mario and Donkey Kong and Zelda and Metroid and Pokemon gaming businesses that are limitless."

This quote right here is the smartest thing I've read about the ongoing Nintendo saga. I agree, it sucks to see Nintendo, once the object of my childhood obsessions and siphon of all of my money as a young adult, become the company that can't get me to even consider plunking down money for their hardware. I see Zelda:WW HD and flip out at the thought of playing that gem on a massive HD screen, and then I remember the Wii; the system I bought at launch to only buy 3 GAMES since owning it. I'm not buying another Wii, "U" or otherwise. In comparison, I'm on my second round of Apple hardware, going on my third, and dropping $XXX dollars for the next thing is only hindered by my need for a second or third job.

Great article.

I think the main difference is that one makes video game consoles and one makes computers, tablets, and phones.