Apple to Sony, Nintendo: Game Over, Man
“Don’t let the haters tell you [the iPhone] sucks compared to the [Nintendo] DS or the [Sony] PSP. It doesn’t. It’s good. It’s clear that the quality of iPhone games is eclipsing its console counterparts, and that’s even more acute when you compare it against the prior generation.”
That’s what ngmoco co-founder and Electronic Arts (ERTS) alum Neil Young said of Apple’s iconic handset at the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco earlier this year, and it’s worth reflecting on a bit in light of a new report from Bernstein Research analyst Toni Sacconaghi that claims the iPhone OS will soon create pricing and customer migration pressure for traditional gaming platforms.
Noting that some 665-760 million games may have been downloaded from the Apple (AAPL) App Store during the last 12 months, Sacconaghi estimates that the installed base for the iPhone and iPod touch platform could amount to about one third of the total handheld gaming installed base by 2012.
“We believe that gaming embodies the power of Apple’s App store: it has dramatically lowered the entry barriers for both developers and gamers alike, resulting in an unparalleled number of available games at affordable prices, which is creating lock-in and enhanced interest in Apple’s high-margin iPhone (and iPod Touch) platforms,” Sacconaghi writes.
Continuing, the analyst adds: “By most measures, gaming has been the killer App Store category, accounting for an estimated 40% of all downloads. Most importantly, we believe that gaming is providing yet another incremental, differentiated reason for consumers to purchase iPhones and iPod Touches, and creates powerful lock-in to the App Store platform and Apple products on a go forward basis.”
The upshot of all this is bad news for traditional gaming console developers–particularly those who have dismissed it as a novelty. “Most gaming developers today view the iPhone and other smart phones as an incremental opportunity, which targets the casual gamer but not the dedicating gaming enthusiast,” Sacconaghi explains. “Over time, however, we believe that the combination of evolutionary improvements in iPhone/iPod gaming functionality, the convenience of the App Store download model, the App’s Store leading title selection and lower price points could cause some migration among gaming enthusiasts to the Apple platform and/or pressure traditional gaming incumbents’ hardware and software pricing.”
And this is clearly what Apple (AAPL) is aiming for. Consider these recent remarks from Phil Schiller, the company’s senior vice president of worldwide product marketing: “People are starting to see what a great gaming device this is. When you think about the companies that came before us…when you played those other systems, they seemed so cool, but now when you look at them, they don’t stack up against the iPod touch….No Multi-Touch user experience, Games are expensive, No App Store, No iPod, Expensive Games ($25-$40) and uncomfortable retail buying experience. [There are] 607 games for PSP and 3,680 games for Nintendo DS. [But there are ] 21,178 Game and Entertainment Titles at App Store.”