September 10, 2009, 4:49 PM — Never mind Mac OS X, and forget about future iterations of the Apple TV as a video game console--the iPod touch is Apple's game platform. That's Apple's message from the stage of its press event in San Francisco on Wednesday.
The "Rock & Roll" event totaled about an hour and a quarter, and 20 minutes of that were dedicated to showing off the iPod touch's proclivity as a gaming platform. Apple senior vice president of worldwide product marketing Phil Schiller started off the game segment by repeating a quote offered by Arik Hesseldahl of BusinessWeek: "Apple could be on the cusp of claiming the crown as the world's leader in handheld gaming."
You'd be wrong to assume that Hesseldahl's comment--which came in a November 2008 editorial--is more moon-eyed Apple fanaticism from an easily swayed tech journalist. In context, Hesseldahl is comparing sales of iPhones and iPod touches to Nintendo's DS handheld system. In sheer volume, Apple is doing very well--the company has been selling tens of millions of units. And that pace hasn't slowed down since last autumn. Of course, not every iPhone or iPod touch is being used for games. But each of them is capable.
I don't see Apple competing for the same hearts and minds that Nintendo does, but I think a compelling argument can be made that Apple is competing for the exact same consumers who might otherwise buy Sony's forthcoming PSPgo handheld gaming system. In this respect, Apple is already several steps ahead of Sony. Apple already owns this market.
The PSPgo, similar in concept to the iPod touch, works wirelessly (there is no disc slot, as there are on other PSP models). It's smaller and more portable than other PSP systems; the PSPgo easily fits into a pocket, just like the iPod touch. Sony is also managing software distribution through its own online store, which currently enables PSP and PlayStation 3 owners to purchase and download games, demos, video content and more. Sony's revealed plans to release "minis," games with a smaller storage footprint and a lower price than the current crop of titles available for the PSP.
Compare that to Apple's efforts: There are tens of thousands of game titles already in the App Store, including an ever-increasing number from major publishers like Electronic Arts, Ubisoft, even Id Software, makers of Doom and Quake.