Saturday, April 04, 2009

Apple vs. Nintendo

Apple recently announced that they have sold 30 million iPhones and iPod Touch's. This has prompted some to compare the iPhone to the video console market. I want to make a slightly different comparison.

Nintendo is estimated to have sold over 50 million Wii consoles at this time. Let us compare not the market size, but cost to compete in the market on the two platforms. To become an Apple developer you need an Intel based mac ($599) and to be a member of the iPhone Developer Program ($99). For Nintendo you need a company, a "secure office" (home office not allowed), and a development kit that costs between $2,500 and $10,000!

This means that to be a Nintendo developer you need to have what amounts to a small mortgage. From various forum and comments posts there appears to be no way around the "no home office" requirement. So if you don't have an existing office you can use, as a independent developer you have to go get a commercial lease on office space. And that is just to you can "apply" to be a Wii software developer. This seems designed to weed out the "riff-raff" from "experienced" developers. However in this economy there probably are a significant number of experienced game developers looking to produce something on a shoe-string budget.

If you have a Mac, you can try out iPhone development and prototype your game/application for free, before you ever buy an iPhone or pay the $99 iPhone Developer Program standard fee.

Given the similarity between the App Store and WiiWare, I don't understand Nintendo's stance. I personally have an idea for an application for the Wii I would like to develop. It's one I would love to offer for less than $5 on WiiWare. I expect that it would take an experienced Wii developer a few weeks to complete the app and the potential market has to be around 2 to 5 million of the Wii owners. Were it a mater of spending a few hundred dollars to become a developer, I would learn the Wii platform myself. As it is, I need to partner with an existing Wii game developer. (Interested? Send me an e-mail.)

All of this reminds me of The Cathedral & the Bazaar discussions from the 1990s. Apple's App Store is a corporate Bazaar, a flea market where you have to be approved by Apple and share the proceeds. For all of the claims that Apple is too greedy, secretive, restrictive; the App Store is much more open than WiiWare. Nintendo is using the Cathedral model, but isn't throwing the doors open to the masses as Apple did with the App Store.

Updated with new numbers of Wii sales on 4-4-09.
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Blogger Markara said...

$2,500? That sounds about right. Development kits for consoles usually cost 1,000% more than the console itself. This is fairly typical since the 80's which is one of the many reasons why most longtime PC developers tend to stick to (surprise, surprise!) PC. It's to root out the professionals from the amateurs. Another reason why is that the vast majority of gamers are demanding big budget, AAA titles even sooner than they ever did before. Remember the hubbub over Nintendo not showing any new hardcore titles like Mario or Zelda at E3? Super Mario Galaxy had been released a little over six months before then. For console development, it's insanely competitive. Do you know of anyone that makes toys at home and sells them in the millions? I sure don't.

Most iPhone users spend time on apps for only a few minutes anyways before rarely visiting the software ever again:

And then there's also the fact that, historically, the Japanese have ALWAYS been conservative. You're going to have to genuinely want to make a game and collaborate with people in the gaming community before jumping through all those legal and regulated hoops.

4/5/09, 3:36 PM  
Blogger PB said...

Do you know of anyone that makes toys at home and sells them in the millions? I sure don't.

Physical Toys? No, of course not. You'd need a pretty big "home" to make millions of physical toys. But virtual toys. That is possible, because the first one costs you, the copies are very low cost to make.

Read this article on iPhone games made at home:

A game that brings in $1 Million isn't of interest to a studio, but for 1 to 5 guys that have been laid off from a developer, thats real money for something they can do at home.

4/5/09, 4:24 PM  
Blogger Purohit D said...

I appreciate the information. iphone development with iphone
is really grooming these days as demand for business and entertainment application is increasing.

5/12/10, 9:12 AM  

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