Digital Crave

What Nintendo can learn from Apple

While you might not be able to tell, Mario is sweating underneath that red cap of his. Or at least he should be.

As Apple continues to be a major player in the video game space — with quality games for a buck or two at the App Store, multiple iOS devices and wireless mirroring on a big-screen television (via Apple TV) — portable gaming giants like Nintendo and Sony need to reevaluate their place in the market.

Granted, games on a Nintendo 3DS or PlayStation Vita can deliver a deeper, console-like experience (especially on PSVita), but if the recent Real Racing 3 demo from Electronic Arts is any indication, Apple's iOS gadgets aren't far behind, thanks in part to more horsepower under the hood, bigger screens and faster wireless connectivity.

I'm not suggesting it's the beginning of the end for Nintendo DS/3DS or Sony's PSVita, but offering a digital store along with support physical media isn't enough to change with the times.

With the $199 iPod touch in mind, the following are a few observations on why Apple's iOS is a more appealing platform for gamers on the go. And feel free to agree or disagree in the Comments section below.

Game selection

In a short period of time, Apple's App Store has many tens of thousands of games to choose from. Yes, some are, er, crap, but there are many, many games available covering all genres, ages and skill levels. And when the game makers add some new features to the game, such as additional levels or characters, you're notified about the upgrade on iTunes and can download the new goodies for free; this adds some replayability and longevity to the games. You can download iPod touch games without having to go to a store and acquire new content on a personal computer or on the iPod touch itself via Wi-Fi. On that note, both game systems are capable of playing wirelessly, be it local or Internet play.

Value proposition

While the 32GB iPod touch is $30 more than the Nintendo 3DS (or the same price as the Nintendo 3DS XL), the real value is when it comes to purchasing games. The average cost of a Nintendo DS/3DS cartridge is about $30 to $35. The iPod touch? A buck or two — if not free altogether. While they might not offer a much gameplay, on average, compared to the Nintendo titles, you'd be surprised what you can find for some loose change in your pocket. Even Nintendo's digital downloads are much pricier than the App Store offerings (and there's a lot less to choose from, too). Oh, and consider this: if you've got, say, three iPod touches in the family (and maybe mom has an iPad and dad an iPhone 5), you only need to purchase a title once and as long as everyone is syncing with iTunes on the same computer, each user gets the game on their device.

Digital is better

A huge advantage of the Apple iPod touch is you don't need to insert games — they all reside on the unit's built-in Flash memory. I remember the day my son left his New Super Mario Bros. cartridge at his karate dojo — he was crushed. Good thing it wasn't his entire cartridge case that fits eight games. Because everything is digital with the iPod touch, gamers can swipe through all their installed apps and tap to launch the desired game. No longer do you need to carry extra cartridges in a pocket, Ziploc bag or carrying case. And no losing stylus pens either.

Intuitive touchscreen

While some games might be better with buttons, such as racing, sports or action/adventure games, many iPod touch users say they prefer the larger touchscreen interface to control the action; this is especially conducive in physics-based games (such as Angry Birds or Cut the Rope), puzzle games (e.g. Puzzle Agent), rhythm games (such as the Tap Tap Revenge series), and so on. Heck, even shooters, such as N.O.V.A. 3 and Dead Space are surprisingly good with a fingertip. Sure, the Nintendo 3DS also has one (non-capacitive) touchscreen out of the two, but it's usually not embraced as heavily by game developers as the button-based mechanics. Plus, there's the iPod touch's accelerometer, as well, which can also be used to play games.

More than a gaming platform

While the Nintendo DSi and 3DS tried to broaden its functionality beyond just gaming, the iPod touch blows away the Nintendo handhelds as it cleverly handles music, audiobooks, podcasts, ebooks, videos, photo-taking, web surfing, email, voice recording, note-taking, contacts and calendars, and much more. Available in multiple colors, the newest iPod touches also works with Siri, the voice-activated personal assistant in iPhones and third-gen iPad. Not only does the iPod touch work with most of the 700,000+ apps available from the App Store, it also smoothly synchronizes with iTunes so everything in your media library on your PC or Mac can be copied over to the portable device, and with iCloud synchronization, too.

Yahoo! readers, what's your take on this? Valid arguments or ridiculous nitpicking?

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