A new report is gaining traction today suggesting that Apple is making a Nintendo Switch competitor. It's a sketchy rumor at best and complete nonsense at worst that suggests a new Apple-made hybrid console is in the works. Alongside it, games rivaling Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and Mario Odyssey are apparently almost ready to go, according to sources that talked to iDrop News.
It's not the first time we've heard rumors of an Apple-branded console, and the report is not very clear on when such a product would launch other than there being "a chance of this being released soon."
Apple obviously tests a lot of ideas out internally that never see the light of day. It's entirely possible that this premium hybrid device exists in a secret lab in Cupertino and that iDrop News's information is coming from someone with knowledge of it. It's also possible that it doesn't exist at all.
Regardless, a dedicated console from Apple to rival the Nintendo Switch with games on par with the best Nintendo Switch titles makes for an interesting thought experiment even if it doesn't make much sense as an actual product for Apple to make.
Apple's history with gaming
Apple is no stranger to gaming. While most will think of the company as the king of mobile games that it is today, the Macs of the late 80s ran games like Sim City, and Apple even partnered with Bandai to release a dedicated video game console called Pippin in the 90s.
Though Apple has moved away from dedicated gaming hardware, its devices are still heavily used for gaming. The bulk of the App Store's revenue comes from mobile games, and the company even launched its own subscription gaming service in the form of Apple Arcade in 2019.
The iPod touch remains (yes, it is still available) the nearest thing to a gaming device Apple sells, at least as far as its branding suggests, though it can do most of the things an iPhone or iPad can do. Its A10 chip offers paltry performance compared to more modern devices, so it really shouldn't be bought by basically anyone in 2021, but an emphasis on fun marks it out as a product for kids and entertainment use cases.
Apple has always carved out space for gaming.
The point is, Apple has always carved out space for gaming. It's an area the company is interested in, whether that materializes in new gaming hardware or not. Apple's version of a Nintendo Switch could be an interesting proposition and make for a good predecessor to the iPod touch, though it would muddy the water around the Apple TV and its gaming focus.
One thing that is for certain, Apple definitely has the product design and manufacturing chops to make such a device. Apple silicon would absolutely smoke the Nintendo Switch's chip in terms of performance, and Apple's display tech could rival even the new OLED Nintendo Switch.
Not an Apple-sized market
All of that being said, the Nintendo Switch market is likely not large enough to interest Apple. That's not to say the Switch isn't incredibly successful — it is — but a product that has lifetime unit sales of 90 million is small-fry when Apple sells tens of millions of iPhones per quarter.
The report from iDrop News suggests Apple console could cost between $449 and $549. That's considerably more expensive than even the newest Nintendo Switch model, something that would put off a lot of the types of folks that opted for a Nintendo Switch over a console from Sony or Microsoft. Part of the Switch's appeal is that it is relatively affordable.
Apple also makes essentially all of the money in mobile gaming with billions of dollars in revenue each year. With a seriously profitable App Store and gaming devices in the form of the best iPhone, iPad, and Apple TV models in the hands and homes of hundreds of millions of people, what is the incentive for Apple to enter a market that is much more niche and already has dominant players?
Nintendo Switch's 90 million in sales is small-fry when Apple sells tens of millions of devices per quarter.
Unlike Nintendo, Apple doesn't have IP like Pokémon, Super Mario, or Zelda — with all their history and nostalgia — to produce hit games. A theoretical Apple gaming device would need to launch with huge titles to gain traction in a crowded console market. That's not Apple's bag. Just look at the types of games on Apple Arcade or how long it has taken, and how much it has cost, to fill out Apple TV+ with original content worth watching.
It strikes me that the cost-benefit analysis on this one makes it not worth Apple's time to pursue. There's too much money (and time) to lose and not enough to make back.
Apple's intense focus on AR and VR experiences is much more likely to bear fruit in the form of an actual product, be it Apple Glass or something else. That's a nascent market with as-yet-unknown potential that Apple is likely more willing to try and exploit.