Nintendo DS and iPhone on a collision course

iPhone gets into the gameIt’s quickly becoming clear that the big potential console war to watch now has nothing to do with Microsoft and Sony, or even the living room; instead, it may be between Apple and Nintendo, and their top handheld systems.

Consider: Back in March, Nintendo quietly filed a patent for a handheld console with sensor control, then updated it last week. As described, it’s not unlike the iPhone’s position-sensitive accelerometer. Meantime, the New York Post reports that Apple is stealthily looking to add game functionality to the iPhone, with one source claiming a major developer has been tinkering with the iPhone for quite awhile. (“Where are the iPhone games?” I recently asked. Apparent answer: coming soon, in a big way.)

Gamer blogs like Kotaku and Destructoid think this translates into a head-to-head competition. I’d say that’s simplifying things. The Nintendo DS is priced around $200, while the iPhone costs, what was it again, ten times that and your left kidney. It’s like saying BMW is competing with Hyundai.

Still, a feature overlap will inevitably lead to indirect competition– even if one company doesn’t want it. As a corporate culture, Nintendo has historically shown little interest in creating all-in-one devices. That’s precisely why, when Microsoft and Sony came out with their function-laden (and high-priced) 360 and PS3, Nintendo went with the Wii, which did one thing only, and did it well.

But now comes the iPhone, loaded with features and still riding heavy buzz, pushing into the game space, Nintendo’s territory. How should they respond? Well, the DS already comes equipped with a microphone and wireless connectivity; add a Skype-type application, and the two systems would be in more direct competition. (With lower price and greater install base giving DS the edge.)

Assuming, of course, that Nintendo wants to go that way. I’m curious to see if the company takes Apple’s move as a challenge– or if they respond, as they did with Microsoft and Sony, by just ignoring it.

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