Apple vs. Sony and Nintendo: The Smack-Talk Continues

By  |  Wednesday, September 1, 2010 at 4:09 pm

It was all fun and games when Apple slung mud at Sony and Nintendo during last year’s iPod press event, but this year’s smear was just nasty, and not entirely accurate.

Before Steve Jobs introduced the new iPod Touch, he immediately started bragging about the device’s gaming dominance. He claimed that the iPod Touch accounts for half of the portable gaming market, with more sales than and outsells Sony and Nintendo’s handhelds combined.

A claim like that needs a bunch of asterisks. As I pointed out a year ago, fighting a console war means manipulating statistics to your favor, and Apple is guilty once again.

Maybe the iPod Touch outsold its rivals recently — Apple sold 9.4 million iPods (all models, not just the Touch) last quarter, compared to 3.15 million Nintendo DS sales and 1.2 million PSP sales. But the Nintendo DS alone has shipped well over 100 million units , and the PSP topped 50 million sales in February 2009, compared to 120 million iOS devices shipped to date, by Jobs’ own admission. Lifetime iPod Touch sales are not even close to the PSP and Nintendo DS.

That’s not to say Apple doesn’t deserve to talk a big game. The company is hitting a stride now, with next week’s launch of Game Center, a set of cross-game social features that the Nintendo DS and PSP lack. Also, the new iPod Touch will have a gyroscope and the same A4 processor as the iPhone 4, for faster and more accurate gaming. Towards the start of today’s press event, Apple even brought out some people from Epic Games, who showed off a 3D sword-fighting RPG. Indeed, it’s getting harder for Sony and Nintendo to argue that iOS games are insubstantial distractions.

All of which makes me wish Apple didn’t distort reality when slamming Sony and Nintendo. The iPod Touch, and iOS, have momentum and forward-thinking features on their side. There’s no need to mislead the people who watched Apple’s press conference but weren’t inclined to fact-check Steve Jobs.


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6 Comments For This Post

  1. Alan Says:

    Well Jobs did say that the touch was the bestselling iPod, so sales of around 4.5 million for the quarter does not seem far fetched. If that is true then I would have to agree that it is outselling the ds and psp combined. No one looks at installed base as a measure of sales rate, they look at quarterly sales.

  2. Tom Ross Says:

    I think Steve said very specifically that iPod Touch "is outselling" DS+PSP, a statement which, grammar rules would imply, refers to continuing sales, not to lifetime installed base. His statement was entirely correct, for the last 2 quarters at least. Nintendo is aiming for 30 million DS sold this year, so they'll probably take back the crown from Apple, not least because Apple raised the price from $199 to $229.

    The PSP, in my eyes, has already lost. It has neither the universal appeal of iOS nor the unique game concepts and franchises of Nintendo. It remains to be seen how SonyEricsson's PSP phone is going to look like. They have a lot of catching up to do.

  3. ProblemWithPundits Says:

    The real problem is tech pundits putting words in Jobs mouth, so they can write a predetermined post about how Jobs made stuff up. This article is just one example (see the above post), but pundits seem eager to pen "Jobs lied" stories at every turn (the most embarrassing recent example is BetaNew's article with "Jobs lied" about the proximity sensor fix).

  4. JaredNewman Says:

    @ProblemWithPundits – You've put some words in my mouth. Where do I say that Steve Jobs lied?

    To Tom's comment, it's a fair point about the verb tense, and I've made a slight change in the story to more clearly represent what Jobs said, but don't forget that he also said the iPod Touch has 50 percent of the handheld market (by what metric is unclear), and then says "it has by far become the most popular portable game player in the world."

    These claims, offered only in vague terms, obscure the facts — specifically, the combined install base of PSP and Nintendo DS, which dwarfs that of the iPod Touch — and gives the impression that Apple is already the clear victor. I know I'm not the only one who was scratching my head after Jobs' claims this morning, so I thought a reality check was in order.

  5. Tom Ross Says:

    Ok, fair enough! I wouldn't be surprised if a guy from Microsoft will soon say that the PC is the #1 games platform, to which a Nokia guy would reply that Nokia phones are the #1 games platform, both by the number of users.

    But I think we can establish 2 things that we didn't know one year ago:
    – iPod Touch has turned from an mp3 player with more stuff in it to a genuine handheld games console with more stuff in it. That is despite the missing d-pad and because of the low software pricepoints and Apple's more liberal 3rd party relations.
    – Purely based on hardware revenue, it's above PSP and neck-and-neck with DS.

  6. JQQQ Says:

    ipod games are the worst mini games ever made. maybe fun for a few minutes. i still cant believe people are actually paying money for those crap games. the ds is for kids, i dont think i have ever seen a grown man or woman walking around playing with a ds. ds games are also very boring and meant for kids and thats fine, id probably buy my kid one if he wanted one. i actually like the psp, i dont understand why theres so much hate. it has the best games of any handheld and the best graphics. plus minis are awesome little games that are way underrated. i think the psp is meant for adult core gamers, but these days no one ants a unitasker. i know the psp can play music, and surf the web etc but im still waiting for a psp phone. if they can let me play games like god of war ghost of sparta and mgs peacewalker on a psp phone i would be all over that thing. i like my psp but mainly find my self playing while on the toilet or outside watching my daughter run around. i rarely take it with me on the go, i already have my clunky g1