Reading between the lines of Reggie Fils-Aime’s most recent criticism of the App Store, Nintendo is deeply afraid of Apple’s influence on the video games industry: the president of Nintendo of America says that the price levels of the App Store have created a consumer “mentality” that portable games should only cost a few dollars.
Fils-Aime’s comments come even as Nintendo prepares to launch its new handheld console, the Nintendo 3DS, in March.
Nintendo isn’t wrong that the average App Store game costs only a few dollars, although what Fils-Aime appears not to recognize is that that’s only true for the most casual games: more involved, professional efforts like Chair Entertainment’s Infinity Blade or Rockstar’s Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars end to be closer to $9.99.
This may seem like splitting hairs, but the point is that even on the App Store, consumers are willing to pay more for more involved, professionally produced games. The only prices that have really been devaluated by the App Store are those of simple, pick-up-and-play casual games… which maybe Nintendo shouldn’t have been charging $30 or $40 for anyway.
Fils-Aime is being a bit disingenuous here. Nintendo’s right to be afraid of Apple, as the likes of the iPhone, iPod Touch and App Store have proven that you don’t need a dedicated portable gaming console in the smartphone age, not just to gamers, but to developers, who can quickly start making money on their apps for the price of just a $99 dev kit. With the 3DS on the horizon, Nintendo is beginning to have performance anxiety: as impressive a piece of hardware as the 3DS might not be, does it even have a place in a post-iPhone world anymore?