Apple And Nintendo, A Short History of Rivals

In March 2006, Nintendo released the DS Lite. The portable kicked off a wave of Apple comparisons. Here's why:

The DS Lite was first released in white - iPod white. The DS Lite's color scheme mirrored the iPod of the day, and even Nintendo's simple, modern packaging seemed Apple-esque. The DS Lite was not, however, a copy of the iPod. And Nintendo was not ripping off Apple. But in a pre-iPhone world, the company did seem to be influenced by Apple.

Nintendo's releasing continuous revisions of its Nintendo DS also seemed to take a page from the Apple playbook. It is important to note, however, that historically Nintendo has never been shy about releasing multiple revisions of the same product.

Back in summer 2006, there were rumors circulating that Apple could possibly buy Nintendo. (This was, of course, before the full effects of the Nintendo juggernaut had been comprehended.) Certainly, rumors like this have long existed, and I personally do not feel that they carry much, if anym weight. People feel passionate about Apple. People feel passionate about Nintendo. This rumor is most likely a result of that.

By the following year, however, the pundits had a better grasp of the situation, with Forbes writing an article titled "Why Apple Could Kill The Nintendo DS". And while the Nintendo DS Lite was the king of the portable game devices, the Nintendo handheld was starting to feel the heat from the newly launched iPhone. Like the DS Lite, the iPhone was bringing gaming to a larger, casual audience.

Apple's iPhone, while not always the most ideal gaming device, proved itself a worthy challenger. Nintendo, though, asserted that it was not competing with products like the iPhone. "Nintendo doesn't have any intention of directly competing with existing products, but the mass media has a tendency to portray everything as a rivalry between opposing companies," said Nintendo president Satoru Iwata in early 2009. "It seems some people have the impression that we want to compete with cell phones or the iPod, that putting cameras or music players in our devices is out of character for us." Nintendo released its internet capable, camera-outfitted DSi portable in fall 2008 in Japan and globally the following year.

Nintendo apparently didn't feel threatened — or rather, if the company did, it didn't show it. "I do not imagine that iPhone will dominate the Nintendo DS market at once," Iwata said in May 2009. "My impression as the person who has used iPhone is, it is very attractive but, frankly, I did not feel that it was designed to be appreciated by a wide variety of people like how Nintendo has been designing its products."

In late 2009, an Apple exec stated in a press event that the Nintendo DS (and Sony PSP!) "don't stack up against the iPod touch." The Apple exec made his argument in bullet point form, saying that the competitors' games were too expensive, the platforms lacked a multi-touch interface, have no "App Store" and "no iPod." One might be able to argue that access to an app store is an outdated claim, factoring in DSiWare and access to the PlayStation Store on Nintendo's and Sony's platforms.

When the Apple iPad was officially unveiled, Nintendo's Iwata did not seem impressed, telling reporters that "it was a bigger iPod Touch" and offered "no surprises".

If a recent report from the Times Online is to be believed, Nintendo apparently now views Apple as the "enemy of the future". As the Times Online points out, Nintendo claimed two years ago that it had made Nintendo converts of high school girls and men aged between 30 and 40; however, those girls are now reported to be more interested in having an Apple iPhone than a Nintendo DS. What a difference a couple of years makes.