Apple is now Nintendo's biggest problem

The last time Nintendo took a big hit in profit, it resulted in the development of perhaps the most successful video game console of all time in the Wii. What’s Nintendo’s response going to be this time around? Yes, the big N has seen its profits drop from $3.03 billion to $2.48 billion—still a fair a bit of money perhaps to you and me, but cause for panic in the house that Mario built. While a traditional rival, Sony (with the PlayStation), was responsible for the previous rough patch, this time it’s Apple. Will Nintendo allow the iPhone to push it around?

Not likely. Nintendo’s president, Satoru Iwata, the man who essentially willed the company to success in the past several years—he was more or less responsible for the Wii—has told his sergeants to treat Apple as the company’s most significant threat from here on out. That honor used to belong to Sony, but Sony is so last generation, especially when focusing on mobile gaming. If Nintendo’s future mobile platforms are to be any kind of success, the company will have to figure out how to take on the ease of use afforded by the App Store.

You’re sitting on a park bench, whip out your iPhone, launch the App Store, and buy Angry Birds for 99 cents. Zero to gaming in no time at all. How’s Nintendo going to compete with that? (The DSi Shop requires Wi-Fi, whereas the App Store will load anywhere you have a cellphone signal.)

There’s a lot going on here. Nintendo insiders may be worried about the iPhone-App Store nexus, but surely they realize that there’s a world of difference between playing a long role-playing game like Chrono Trigger on the DS and playing, I don’t know, Bejeweled 2 while waiting for the subway to arrive. Just as the Wii “changed gaming” by expanding its audience, so, too, has the iPhone.

Part of the problem is that the word “gaming” is entirely too vague to accurately describe both playing Chrono Trigger for 40 hours and Bejeweled 2 for two minutes at a clip. Do those two activities belong in the same genre, “gaming”? To me, they’re two different things.

The Wii was released in late 2006, and only now are Microsoft and Sony incorporating the concepts introduced by it, namely motion controllers and simpler games.

Maybe Nintendo should just release a phone?