Why Apple won’t kill Nintendo

1. The App store’s business model is too fucked up to compete with Nintendo. Games are too cheap, and it’s not AAA game experience for a bargain cheap. It’s that’s all I’m willing to pay for this inferior gaming experience cheap. The games have little depth and owe it all to mobile’s budget price point. You get what you pay for.

Shitty games for sale!!!

Because of the lower pricing standard, it’s not profitable to make AAA games for core gamers AKA the demographic that’s been supporting the market for the past 20+ years. Instead it’s only profitable to make casual games or cheap IP ripoff games (Hi Gameloft) that capture submarkets – bored housewives with nothing to do, guys who have to sit on the A train while it goes through all of Manhattan, people who game on the toilet, and fanboys willing to buy any hardcore looking mobile game so they can pretend it’s the real deal.

In order to kill consoles/handheld, first and foremost mobile needs to have games that are better than the ones on consoles/handheld. They don’t, and when a game that costs more than a small pizza is considered too expensive, they’re not gonna be able to.

Why does my iPhone even have a GPU?

2. Mobile gaming is ridiculously commoditized – an increasing number of way too many games to pick from. So as the saturated market gets even more saturated, it becomes harder for developers to get their game noticed. In response, mobile’s already cheap pricepoint gets driven down even further and the gap in quality between mobile and dedicated grows even more.

At the beginning, iOS games ran $1-5. Then developers started migrating to Freemium. Analysts who confuse causation and correlation want you to believe devs are going to Freemium because it’s a superior business model. In reality, devs are jumping on Freemium because the iOS market is so saturated, you now have to give away your game to get someone to download it. Even worse, some companies are starting to wholesale their IP under a subscription model. iOS is going from being the dollar store of video games to the Costco of dollar stores video games.

3. Because of commoditization, marketing is impossible. When a AAA console/handheld game gets released, it’s a big deal. When an iOS game gets released, nobody gives a shit. Once in awhile you’ll have a game like N.O.V.A or Infinity Blade 2 that gets hyped up. Difference is, they’re hyped up because they got Apple to demo the game at WWDC to help sell the newest iPad. But if you’re a developer who’s not in bed with Apple, good luck with getting the word out on your game.

With Infinity Blade, I think the trick is to get Apple to promote your game on stage! [laughs] Oh, and in their commercials. We didn’t spend a penny on Infinity Blade marketing. We were thinking about it but never got round to it. It’s been a very profitable game for us.  – Mike Capps, Epic Games

The only marketing that really matters is getting your game on the top 10 chart in a market that’s so commoditized, it’s like playing the lottery. You’re basically hoping to hit what Malcolm Gladwell calls the tipping point. So are all the other tens of thousands of iOS game developers so it’s like one giant raffle from hell. And just like that, we can watch any innovative idea that could’ve challenged console/handheld gameplay get buried.

The online gaming industry is hotter than it has ever been thanks largely to Facebook and Apple’s (AAPL.O) iPhone, which are bringing video games to vast new audiences who have never been gamers before.

But lower barriers to entry for game developers mean competition is intense, and would-be market entrants should beware of being carried away by the success of a handful of games like Angry Birds, industry executives said this week. – Reuters

4. Apple isn’t vested in gaming. They’re not like Nintendo where they have to care about the quality of games on their platform. If the 3DS has proven anything, it’s that for a Nintendo device, the games have to be stellar for the hardware to sell. Meanwhile, if your iOS games suck, there are 50 other reasons for you to use your iDevice and give Apple your money. Which is why Apple can just kick back and whitelist every IP ripoff and minigame that gets submitted. Contrast this with Nintendo, who wouldn’t release Super Mario 3D Land early even though 3DS sales badly needed it, because they wanted it to be perfect. The quality gap widens even more.

5. Mobile gaming is a bubble. If you believe everything I’m writing right now, you can see the hype that makes it a bubble. Analysts are jumping to conclusions about it killing off console makers even though the games suck. Analysts tout the specs of the latest iOS device even though the average iOS game looks like it can run in a browser. Features like Airplay Mirroring get hyped up as console killers even though nobody can name a game that takes advantage of it other than Real Racing. And much of mobile gaming’s success hedges on social gaming, which many people, mobile developers included, think is a bubble as well.

Innovation at its finest

When Zynga, a company who jacks code and game ideas, is getting investors to buy into their IPO, that’s funny. When Rovio, a one hit wonder that can’t do anything except reskin the same game 4 or 5 times and make bird toys, is drawing investors, that’s funny too. These companies have no return drivers for long-term growth. EA meanwhile is trying to position itself as the mobile leader by snatching up any mobile game developer with one hit to their name, degrading the value of its existing IP to by converting it to Freemium, and still remains mediocre. A trainwreck’s coming.

6. Whenever analysts cite data showing mobile taking over handheld marketshare, they cite Flurry. They usually show a bunch of Flurry pie graphs side by side and put a line in their article that says, “according to Flurry research” without even knowing who Flurry is. Flurry is a company that makes money by contracting its services to mobile developers and has a vested interest in the mobile app market’s success. All those pie graphs you see on every article proclaiming the death of Nintendo and Sony come off their blog, which if you’ve ever seen it, is essentially a long sales pitch to iOS/Android app developers to get them to sign up and pay for Flurry services. Which is why whenever Flurry talks about marketshare, they do funny stuff like use pie graph %’s instead of units sold, post revenue instead of profits, and leave out pertinent information like whether or not the market has expanded. Nice biased source.

According to our graphs, mobile is winning. Now give us your money

7. Control problems. Touch is good for things like physics games, diner dash type stuff, tower defense – basically a good chunk of casual game genres. It sucks for everything else. As much as the hype police would have you believe touch is the future of gaming and buttons are unneeded, iOS developers still put virtual buttons and analog sticks on the screen. If I had to guess why, it’s because there is no other alternative – buttons are superior.  The only difference is on mobile they take up half the screen real estate, there are fewer of them, and there’s no haptic feedback.

NBA 2K12 AKA Double Dribble for iPhone

8. A ton of pro-mobile arguments are predicated on some wierd logic suggesting console technology doesn’t grow.  They go something like this:

“Within the next few years, tablets will reach the power of current gaming consoles” – Infinity Blade 2 Developer

“It’s unquestionable that within a very short time, we’re going to have portable cell phones that are more powerful than the current-gen consoles.” – John Carmack, ID Software

So what?  My Windows Pocket PC was more powerful than my Sega Genesis.  My iPhone 4 is more powerful than a Playstation 2.  Mobile has always reached the power of console technology within a few years. In other news, the next generation console will reach the power of current high end desktops in a few years.  This has been the trend for the past couple decades.  Why are you stating the obvious and what does this have to do with mobile challenging the console market?  Nobody knows.

9. The whole mobile is gonna kill handheld/console argument came up when the current generation of flagship handhelds, the DS and the PSP, were toward the end of their life cycle, making mobile seem like more of a threat than it really is. The threat was hyped up by parties like Flurry trying to capitalize on the whole app surgence, Apple talking up iOS gaming as a dominant force in order to sell the latest iDevice, analysts who enjoy number crunching more than playing video games, and journalists who plagiarize each other because they don’t know what the fuck they’re talking about.

The truth is that mobile is disruptive, but it’s not a game changer. The next couple years, when the next generation of consoles/handhelds takes off, will prove it.

Toast to all the gamers who intuitively understand that flinging a bird at a pig 500 times in a row won’t replace a good Mario game.


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