Apple on threshold of becoming world’s market leader in handheld gaming

“For the last few days I’ve been sampling some of the games available from the iTunes Store on the iPod Touch, and I’ve been stunned at how elaborate and involved they are. On the iPod Touch I’ve played a version of Gameloft’s Real Soccer 2009 that rivals the version of the game on the Nintendo DS, and I didn’t even miss the buttons. I’ve seen demonstrations of Sim City, forthcoming for the iPhone and the Touch from Electronic Arts, that look more elaborate and sophisticated than any versions I’ve played before on a desktop PC or console,” Arik Hesseldahl reports for BusinessWeek.

“They’re immersive, addictive fun. And it’s now readily apparent to me that the iPhone and iPod Touch are well on their way to becoming an important force in handheld gaming. When you consider the ease and reach of Apple’s online method for distributing games, Apple could do in this category what it did in online music, causing big headaches for the genre’s established players, Sony and Nintendo,” Hesseldahl reports.

“Apple’s come a long way in short order. In the three months and change since the iTunes App Store opened for business, it’s already home to some 1,500 games, compared with fewer than 300 titles for Sony’s PlayStation Portable and about 600 for Nintendo’s handheld console, the DS,” Hesseldahl reports.

“The iPhone maker is also holding its own when it comes to units sold. Based on sales data and analysts’ projections, Apple is on track to sell an easy 40 million devices or more a year that are capable of playing games,” Hesseldahl reports.

“Nintendo sold 42 million DS consoles during the 18 months from January 2007 to June 2008, according to market research firm iSuppli. So Apple is on pace to sell about as many game-capable handhelds in a single year as Nintendo, the market’s current leader, has sold in the most recently reported 18 months. This suggests that Apple could be on the cusp of claiming the crown as the world’s market leader in handheld gaming,” Hesseldahl reports.

Full article here.


  1. just you wait… John Carmack of iD said at quake con 2008 in august that the iphone/ipod platform’s graphical and processing power is on par with Sony PS2, Sega Dreamcast and the original Xbox and that it blows away the DS and PSP.

    I’ve only bought one driving game for my macs over the last 20 years, but already 3 games on the iPhone – and I’m not much of a gamer… it’s just a really easy impulse buy on iTunes and a lifesaver when you’re subway is stuck on SloMo.

    When EA and iD come out with big titles, this changes everything. I’ve tried PSP and DS and I find the iPhone to be much more of an immersive experience because the sound is richer and the graphics are so much better and smoother.

  2. I think most of the commentators here are missing the key point of the article.

    Apple is on the *threshold* of becoming the major player in the handheld gaming market. As in, yeah it isn’t there yet, but very soon.

    PSP is really the only competition out there and they have almost the same format for their hardware. It will come down to the buttons vs. no buttons argument again probably.

  3. While many games on the iPhone right now are older games ported to the platform, keep in mind that these games were originally designed for controllers with buttons, not motion sensors.

    As new games are developed specifically designed from the start to use the motion sensors and OS X’s capabilities, we’ll see more and better games than for PSP or DS. You can always have virtual buttons on the screen, but you can’t add motion control to a DS.

    I’m sure Nintendo is hard at work with their next-gen DS having motion control, since they already have the Wii. They also don’t want the iPhone to leapfrog them.

    Finally, one advantage the iPhone has is that it is not targeted at kids. How many adults own a DS or PSP? Now how many own an iPhone? Very different demographic, and one that Sony, Nintendo, etc. have struggled to penetrate for years. Apple got there in less than 18 months total, and really less than 5 because the app store and games weren’t really available until the 3G iPhone. That’s pretty amazing.

  4. Most people get it here.
    @UKOK, you must be from the UK. Shit kicking is a popular pastime there. The point about Apple, with music, then shows, then apps and now games… is the same. More for your money. Only the songs you want at a fair price. The same with shows. With apps and now games too. Look at the price and see how little people have to part with to have good old simple fun. No creaming fans like Sony, MS and Nintendo. It’s such a deal, such a giveaway that most people who buy, never played a handheld game before. The App store is less than 6 months old and you’re expecting classic-quality games already? eeesh. And the upside is that the form can change any way that enough people want it to. things can only get better for owners of this platform.
    Get over it. Miracles take a little longer.

  5. I’ve said it before… I love the games, but I’d gladly give them all up just to be able to stop apologizing to my clients for having to repeatedly call them back. >20% of my calls are being dropped from the 3G network. Apple’s tech support solution was to turn off 3G and use the Edge network which is supposedly more reliable. You can imagine my disgust about being told this after spending so much money for a new 3G phone.

  6. I’ll believe it when Apple announces a separate, gaming Touch unit.
    This is just a novelty, not even in the “hobby” category.

    It won’t eat into console or PC gaming. Like my DS but my eyes can only take so much of the small screen.

  7. Mike “there is no proper Japanese blockbuster game adaptation for the iPhone, etc… it’s just not gonna happen.”

    It might not exist now, but to say it’s not going to happen when the SDK has been out less than a year, was only finalized last June, and still in its infancy now, with a rapidly growing installed base, stupid easy distribution system set up, and piles of cash to be made, it’s only a matter of time.

    Already the big guns of gaming have been eyeballing the platform and dipping their toes into it. Both Sony and Nintendo make a lot of their top games in house, something Apple currently does not do, but they certainly could. They do have 24 billion in cash with a depressed cash starved market that could go a long way.


    The iPhone is for people who are not that guy. Phone, iPod, PDA, camera, and it plays games too. Fits in dad’s breast pocket, doesn’t make mom’s bag weigh a ton. Its a game platform for people who have jobs and don’t want to carry multiple devices.

  9. @ krquet – what??
    @ @ukok – you totally missed the point. I’m not saying a touchscreen game will work as well on, say, an N95 (or for that matter an N95 game will work as well on an iPhone). I’m saying they’re *all* still just mobile phone games of a similar quality – on the whole simplistic knockoffs/ports of old arcade games or limited quality originals designed for a quick play, *not* designed to be what you buy the device for in the first place. At least try and grasp the argument before flipping out, eh?
    @ Chano – you’ve hit the nail on the head without meaning to. 6 months in, and there are no platform-exclusive killer games on the app store. Sure, there are some tidy enough little games on there, which is great (though the real quality stuff is a lot more than one or two dollars), but f it was a serious gaming system, and Apple wanted it to be seen as such, there’d at least be one big hitter – and Monkeyball doesn’t cut it. I can’t think of a console launched in the last 10 years or so that hasn’t had a major AAA title at or in the pipeline (and heavily advertised as such) within 6 months of launch. More choice for less money is not necessarily better when the majority of what you’re getting is mediocre – just look at how that worked out for Windows PCs.

    And adding on control pads? Come on – that makes the iPhone/Touch look like a Sega GameGear. Clunky in the extreme. It does make a point though – if the system needs add-ons just to let you play games more comfortably/properly/accurately, it’s a pretty big clue that the system isn’t suited to being a major gaming format and never will be.

    I’ll say it again – I love my iPhone, and love there are games available as an optional distraction, but I don’t see a system where one of the most popular games is still PacMan being “on the cusp of becoming a world market leader in handheld gaming”. It simply *isn’t* a platform ideally suited to games and the gist of the article MDN linked to – that somehow it’s going to be a threat to Sony/Nintendo as such based on overall sales *not* on game-specific sales – is disingenuous. It’ll wipe the floor with the N-Gage ecosystem and rightly so, but the dedicated games consoles are easily safe.

    People buy games for iPhones/iPods – they don’t buy iPhones/iPods for the games. There’s a big difference.

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