updated 08:15 am EST, Thu March 3, 2011
Nintendo's Iwata says iPhone, Android hurt games
Nintendo chief Satoru Iwata during his Game Developers Conference talk later on Thursday attacked the iPhone, and to a lesser extent Android, over their effect on gaming. He consciously avoided mentioning Apple or Google by name but was critical of them since gaming was strictly incidental and they had "no motivation" to keep the value up. About 92 percent of games on these platforms were free, he said, and they risked taking important income out of the business where the 3DS and DSi would keep it afloat.
"The value of games does not matter to them," Iwata complained. "The fact is, what we produce is value, and we should protect it."
Console makers, including Nintendo's long-time opponents Microsoft and Sony, might have "some differences" in their practices but always put gaming as the top priority, he said. All of them have downloadable game portals, such as Nintendo's WiiWare or Microsoft's Xbox Live Arcade, but these have sometimes been secondary and still usually cost more than mobile games.
The comments nonetheless are a rare public acknowledgment from Nintendo of the effect of the iPhone and iPod touch on its sales. Although in part attributable to customers holding off for the 3DS, DSi sales fell sharply year-over-year in December by about 800,000 units, suggesting that at least some of those who had passed on the DSi were using their phone or a multi-role device like the iPad or iPod touch instead.
Iwata's comments also sidestepped many of the factors that often force traditional game prices upwards. Nintendo despite its Internet services is dependent on cartridge-based game sales at retail, and its developers have to both account for manufacturing and for the cut demanded by retail stores. Android and iOS developers are only bound by the revenue split with Apple or Google and often have much reduced overhead. A typical 3DS game in the US will cost $40 where most smartphone-class games cost $10 or less, even when they represent direct ports of DSi titles.
Sony Ericsson's Xperia Play may challenge Iwata's assumptions, since it will push console-quality games, including PlayStation 1 ports, and might still have lower game prices.
Gaming is still the central feature of the 3DS. Nintendo is nonetheless focusing less on it than in the past with 3D photography an important element and 3D Netflix movies coming this summer. [via AllThingsD]