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What Console Makers Can Learn from Apple [Game On}

With Nintendo recently posting some horrible losses, a lot of which can be attributed to the rise in iOS gaming popularity, it occurs to me that if Apple really does plan on making a foray into gaming, there are some things that Nitntendo, Sony, and Microsoft can do to prepare for this by learning from Apple’s past successes.  Things like…

Have an Ecosystem (Or Join One)

Apple makes beautiful devices.  Simple, elegant, and highly functional. However, pristine as the iPad might be, it wouldn’t be very drool worthy if not for the variety of content available on it.

I’m directing this point particularly toward Nintendo. For years they’ve hamstrung themselves with lackluster online experiences and clunky marketplace offerings. Making matters worse is that the bulk of their content consists of rehashed first party titles from years past that we’ve already purchased on another system

Microsoft and Sony had a little more foresight here.  Both offer the ability to purchase movies, music, and games.  The meteoric rise of indie games is at least partially thanks to Microsoft’s outstanding support of 3rd party developers on its system. The difference between Apple and Nintendo is that while they’re similar in their pursuit of end-to-end integration, Apple’s model is more adept at leveraging the creativity of self-starters with its lush support of iOS development.

Simplicity is the Ultimate Sophistication

While motion controls were novel at their debut, Sony and Nintendo’s offerings looked archaic next to Microsoft’s Kinect. It had largely the same capabilities, but the package was more enticing without multiple accessories, batteries, and add-ons being required to make the experience fun.

The same can be said of game design to a degree. Angry Birds is an astoundingly simple premise — slingshot birds to eliminate pigs. Five words. Done. In an age where developers scramble to cram as much content as possible into a title to entice gamers to open their wallets, less really is more.

Another example of this is when Capcom released the most excellent Mega Man 9 to the Xbox Live marketplace some years back. They could’ve gone crazy with hyper-realistic graphics, online multiplayer, and tons of downloadable content to customize Mega Man’s appearance. Instead, they got to the core of what the game was about when it first made its debut in the 80s- diabolical challenge. They kept the same graphics from nearly 30 years earlier, but more than relying on nostalgia for success they also copied the central idea of the popular series in its purest form.

Figure Out What We Want Before We Know We Want It

Granted, I can’t explain how this is done but Apple seems to be killing it on this front. Unfortunately, I can see how the big three game companies have scrambled to play catch up with each other year after year instead of innovating.

Sony tried to get motion control to market just to compete with Nintendo instead of taking Microsoft’s approach of learning from Nintendo’s mistakes. Microsoft’s first Xbox was powerful, but clunky it its design as they just took a PC and shoehorned it into a hideous box with an even more hideous controller. Nintendo tried to jump on the the 3D bandwagon with its headache-inducing Nintendo 3DS last year.

That’s not innovation. That’s a knee-jerk reaction to what’s trendy and trying to turn people’s heads. Innovation happens when you introduce an entirely new way of delivering content or announce a feature that answers a problem that has been there forever right in front of consumers’ faces but no one thought to address.

Simply put, it might behoove the big three to Think Different.

What innovations do you foresee in console gaming? While you do that I’m going to get back to playing my 99 cent, four-button copy of NBA Jam on my iPhone.

featured image credit: wicker_man