April 13, 2009

Should Nintendo and Sony adopt the App Store model?

Apple is counting down the days 'till they reach their 1 billionth download in the App Store, so it's glaringly obvious that the model is working for them, for developers, and most of all, for consumers. Hell, they're even giving away some iPod touches and MacBook Pro's to a lucky downloader but I won't delve deeper into that.

The point here is, since Apple's App Store model is extremely successful, should actual gaming companies follow suit and provide games for their handhelds through an online connection and an iTunes-like middleman?

Sony and Nintendo have the resources, the software experience (Sony has a mixed record with regards to bundled software, though), platforms (Sony PSN, Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection) and the memory card compatibility (Memory Stick for PSP, SD/SD High Capacity for DSi) to provide all of this so nothing's actually stopping them from creating a Steam-esque/App Store-esque gaming marketplace. If they so choose, they could still sell games in retailers so they can have a share of that audience (esp. for the DS and DS Lite), but ultimately, they could also create a thriving community that is built on the premise of being able to download PSP or DS games straight through the device online or through your computer (and PSP/DSi syncing will put it inside their memory cards).

Besides, the PSP and DSi, like the iPhone and iPod touch, have multimedia features like music playback, video playback (PSP only), photo viewer, camera/s (DSi only; PSP accessory sold separately in Japan and Singapore), etc., so a media manager like iTunes isn't that bad of an idea at all. In fact, the PSP already has one (but it's not bundled with the PSP, and unlike iTunes, it's not free) so it would do Sony good to actually add PSP downloads into the software so games can be accessed through Memory Stick (like how the pirates do it).

Additionally, Nintendo and Sony could use their respective built-in stores (PlayStation Store and DSi Shop) as a springboard for the model. If consumers are hesitant to give out their credit card numbers, they could already use the Nintendo Points and PlayStation points available in the market! After you download from the respective stores, you can sync your purchases to your computer and everything can be copied. I mean, if your PSP and/or DSi is stolen, at least you still have all your games with you in your computer, instead of having the game/games stolen with them. If your computer breaks down, you could retrieve the games in your newly reformatted computer by installing the media managers and authorizing your account in them so all your paid games can start re-downloading like iTunes.

One final reason why Nintendo and Sony should implement an App Store/iTunes model is due to one thing: cartridges and propriety storage can get really old. And expensive. I mean, if you want to play one game and switch to another, it would be a lot better if you could just go to the home screen of each respective handheld and just select the next game you want to play instead of having to switch UMDs or cartridges. And frankly, Nintendo DS cartridges are pretty small so they could get lost.

So obviously, I like the idea of having an App Store model to these handhelds. They could potentially cut production costs (or maintain them somewhat), reduce the rate of people rebuying their stolen games, and be a bit more environmentally friendly. After Apple made the splash with the App Store, I actually didn't touch my DS until after a few months (and that was because I was charging my iPod touch). Please make it happen (at least in the next generation of handhelds)!

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