Yomiuri Newspaper reckons that in gaming’s kingdom (Japan), hitherto successful gaming companies are losing ground in marketplace to the iPod touch. Both Nintendo and Sony have strong hardware and competitive software libraries, but their hegemony is threatened because of punctual price cuts and yearly hardware upgrades to Apple’s iDevice. The platform’s game library of ~20 000 titles — a number which is nearly 3x the combined total of titles available between the PSP and NDS — is one of the best pieces of evidence of its success. The real killer, however, is that Apple’s software distribution method has had a year of success and looks to only be growing.
Despite Nintendo’s two decade stranglehold on the portable gaming market, its move with the DSi to download-friendly software distribution is still in the infant stages of gimmicry. Sony and Nintendo’s strategy with download-to-play games is to target more casual players, whereas the iDevice has found success in all gameplay models from casual games like Kitten Escape, to convoluted RPG’s like The Quest.
Then, there is the 8GB iPod touch. Its cut-throat price model of 199$ is sending shock waves through a gaming marketplace which cannot compete on price and features together. Of course, for those with the extra 100$, the 32GB iPod touch features a much more powerful GPU (SGX 535 versus the Sony portable’s SGX 543) and can be had months before the PSP Go.
While some gaming is is more intuitive with digital and analogue inputs, clever developers who are willing to think outside of circles and squares, have a powerful, compelling piece of hardware at their fingertips. It would be ironic to see the iPod touch, like an impatient, intrusive Commodore Perry of 150 years ago, force Japan’s rather closed gaming industry open to yet another American invasion. This time, however, let’s hope it doesn’t end in war.