Apple iPad Air 2 vs Nintendo 3DS

I was watching the Apple event yesterday and one graph had me thinking about Nintendo and the New 3DS:

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With new hardware released every year, Apple has been able to boost its gaming offerings beyond what I had ever thought was possible on a mobile platform (both iPhone and iPad). Bioshock? GTA? Knights of the Old Republic? Walking dead? From indie titles to full blown 3D games, none of these are on the 3DS. I've been having a blast with Smash Brothers (first time I turned my 3DS on in months), but a recent stroll through the App Store left my jaw on the floor. The breath of games on there destroys what is available on the eShop. And yet the recently announced New 3DS has been met with trepidation: didn't Nintendo just release the 3DS?! How could they split the user base! Never again!

Nintendo fans after the New 3DS announcement
Nintendo fans after the New 3DS announcement

For the first time in my life, Nintendo is not the undisputed king of mobile gaming. Stuck in a world with long generations and slow adoption rates, Nintendo is effectively shackled to massively outdated hardware as developer’s looks elsewhere to push the boundaries of what is possible in the mobile space. Because of this a generation of kids is growing up with Minecraft and Angry Birds, and not Zelda. Older gamers today get a tingle down their spin when they see the latest Zelda trailer, but will the current cohort of children have that same feeling 20 years from now? I don't think so.

There are rumors that Clash of Clans was making over $500,000 per day at its height. Say what you want about the quality of such f2p titles, people are playing them and having a lot of fun. Nintendo completely missed the boat here thanks in part due to their shobby online infrastructure on a device launched in 2011. But Nintendo’s approach to the internet is a topic for another day.

Remember when people were talking doom and gloom regarding Nintendo’s handheld hardware? That smart phones were going to eat them alive? They were right. In an ideal world the red line would be above the blue one, as the market for mobile gaming has grown significantly since the original DS launched in 2004. Yet Nintendo is bleeding fans, not gaining them.

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I am left with nothing but questions at this point: how would consumers feel about a Nintendo putting out a device with yearly cpu/gpu revisions? With upgradable internals? Why does Apple get away with this, and not Nintendo? Is it because the iPad/iPhone can be used for far more things than video games? Or is the concept of “gaming hardware” being around for years ingrained into the head of too many people?

While I have no idea what Nintendo is going to do next, I do know that another DS with a 3/4/5 year life cycle is not good enough. We live in a brave new world and I’m starting to worry that the princess is in another castle, busy playing with her new iPad Air........

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