I've been seeing a lot of Apple fans rabidly proclaiming the iPhone the ultimate mobile gaming machine and the death-knell for Nintendo's and Sony's portable platforms. However, as lifelong gamer and the owner of 3 generations of Nintendo's portable hardware and 4 separate devices in that family, I can say that Nintendo is not going anywhere anytime soon. Let me tell you why:
1. Nintendo makes their own games - Until such time as Apple starts making games of their own (and Texas Hold'em doesn't count) and competes directly with Nintendo's offering, these two behemoths aren't even in the same ballpark. Sure, they both make handheld devices, and both of those devices seem to be primarily used for gaming in today's market, but Nintendo also makes great games of their own that Apple just can't compete with.
2. Nintendo serves up "fuller" games - Building off the first statement, it's important to note that Nintendo both makes and distributes games that appeal to a different market than those that are available on Apple's iDevices. While there is some overlap (with games like FINAL FANTASY and the like being ported to the App Store), developers for Apple's devices tend to focus more on bite-sized games than large-scale epic, 40-hour sagas. Nintendo themselves has been making Mario and Zelda games for so long that they barely have to try anymore to create compelling games that gamers will play for days on end. Third parties on Nintendo's devices also tend to create games that will take 20 hours or more to complete the first time through. Apple's developers rarely craft games of that caliber. They may be fun, but they're certainly not that grand.
3. Nintendo has Mario and Zelda - Until such time as Nintendo decides to stop being both a hardware and a software company, Mario and Zelda are Nintendo exclusives. And that alone is enough to keep the gaming giant in business. While the franchises may decline for a time once Shigeru Miyamoto retires, the massive numbers of gamers familiar with these characters will keep the company going for many years. Further, Shiggy has already passed the torch in the Zelda series to Eiji Aonuma and he has done rather well with it. Talent exists, and passion for these franchises has grown immensely throughout the years. Someone will continue to make great games for Nintendo until the lights go dark.
4. Touch-screen only controls limit the gaming experience - Nintendo popularized touch-screen controls with the release of the original DS in 2004. Apple utilized touch-screen technology to make the world's most advanced and easy-to-use smartphone in history. But gaming was not at the top of their list of priorities. Nintendo knew that only using the touchscreen would cause control of some games to be erratic while limiting what could be done to interact with your characters on the screen. Until such time as Apple allows for controllers to be attached to iDevices, I don't see developers successfully developing "large-scale" games as mentioned above for Apple's devices.
All that said, Nintendo cannot sit still and wait for Apple to rectify the deficits that the iDevices have in terms of being a complete portable game system. It certainly seems like they are moving forward with the new 3DS. However, they are going to have to certainly change up some aspects of their business plan to maintain control.
I suggest that they start by allowing 8-bit and 16-bit games on the Wii to be copied to the DS family of devices so they can be played portably. Syncing wirelessly between the two would be easy and would really increase the desire to have both systems.
You hear that, Nintendo? That one's free. read