Should Apple turn the iPhone into a Nintendo Switch?

Nintendo’s new Switch console is selling like hotcakes. Should Apple turn the iPhone into its own version of the Switch?

nintendoswitch hardware box 01 final
Nintendo

Nintendo’s brand new Switch console lets you easily plug it into a dock to play videogames on your TV. When you want to play on the go, you can quickly remove the Switch from the dock and take it with you wherever you go.

Should Apple create a home docking unit with controllers for the iPhone that would turn it into a Nintendo Switch type gaming console? This question came up recently in the Apple subreddit. I’ll share my own thoughts below, but first take a look at some comments from the Reddit thread.

Infinite101 started the thread with these thoughts:

The Nintendo Switch shows how untapped iOS is for gaming.

Just think about it. If Apple got serious about gaming, they could easily create a console in your pocket and living room gaming experience with better graphics, greater online support, and controls that mimic what Nintendo is doing with the Switch.

I have an Apple TV, iPhone, and iPad. Only thing missing is intuitive controllers. I'd love to get a Switch-like experience with my iPhone that feels like something more than a CandyCrush experience.

More at Reddit

His fellow redditors shared their thoughts about Apple turning the iPhone into a Nintendo Switch clone:

AbominationCarrot: “Unfortunately, this has less to do with Apple not being serious about gaming and more with how much consumers are willing to spend on their apps. There have been ports of great games that show iOS is more than capable of handling serious gaming (XCOM, Monster Hunter, KOTOR, GTA), but the average consumer balks at spending 99 cents on an app, let alone 10 dollars or more. Even Minecraft, far and away the most popular paid app, is only the 51st top grossing app (currently behind classics like Toy Blast, Farm Heroes Saga, and Bingo Blitz) and the only paid game in the top 130.

I have no doubt the iPhone 7 could theoretically run a game like Breath of the Wild, but as long as companies can more reliably make money making mediocre free to play experiences like Candy Crush, that's what will be made.”

Kapowaz: “I'm not sure about this. The recent Super Mario Run has done pretty well financially, and Apple has shown in the past that they are willing to work with e.g. book publishers to prevent value perception erosion (it caused a whole antitrust case with amazon and the DoJ).

Ultimately Apple has never really had games in their DNA; they support them on iOS because it's a leviathan of cash and profit for them, but they've done very little to promote 'proper' gaming with physical controllers, even though they hold so many cards to make this a success.”

Dccorona: “The A10 Fusion has a similar GPU to the Switch with a notably better CPU. The biggest advantage the Switch has is cooling. If they could come up with some sort of passive cooling dock for the iPhone or something, they could probably push it to the level of the Switch or even beyond. Even without that, I imagine it might get close.”

Interdimension: “The biggest deterrent for running console-quality games on the latest iPhone/iPad isn't the raw power in the Apple SoCs contained within; it's the lack of a proper input device.

Sure, we could run Breath of the Wild on an iPhone 7 with comparable performance. But nobody wants that. You really want to play Zelda with touchscreen controls?

So the solution would be for Apple to invest heavily in developing proper controllers that are on par with those for the Xbox, PlayStation, and Switch. But Apple's domain and expertise isn't in video games, and I doubt they care to make a dedicated controller (or other hardware) for it. Apple's domain has been in apps, and sometimes casual games (in the sense of promoting them in the App Store).”

Dccorona: “If you were to do it, I'd imagine you'd make it compatible with the controller API. Apple doesn't make a controller, but they have an API for it and there's plenty of 3rd party ones. It's just tough to make that a portable experience...you'd need to cast the iPhone to a TV to play. I guess you could get one of those controller cases but nobody really wants to walk around with that on their phone.”

Rockybb: “There are already a number of controller options including the Gamevice which gives you something like the Switch, personally I even prefer the iPad Mini with the Gamevice over the Switch in terms of form factor and physical control, and yes, I have the Switch.

The problem is as always inevitably comes down to pricing of controllers and games. Nintendo has first party games to attract the the gamers willing to pay more but others don't. Even Sony has pretty much given up on the portable game consoles.”

Xalteox: “In terms of raw power, the 7 is a beast and could easily handle plenty of games. The main thing lacking is a good controller, which I believe a large company like nintendo could easily tap into, or even Apple themselves, though they have really no experience with the market.”

Guygizmo: “I think the direction things are inevitably moving in is to no longer have devices that do one thing (like a gaming system) but have different classes and form factors of devices that do everything. So in that sense eventually things like an iPhone or the Apple TV (though maybe not specifically those products -- who knows) will play all of the games we want, and will allow the option to use a controller.

But right now in the iOS and tvOS platform there's a bit of a chicken and egg problem. Neither has a lot of the more expensive, serious games of the sort that require a controller because almost none of the users has a controller. And not many people are thinking to get a controller because there's so few games that support it -- it's probably better to just invest in a regular gaming console. And that's on top of the comments everyone else is making about how iPhone users hate paying for apps and games, even if they're only a dollar

I'm not sure if iOS and tvOS will ever move beyond casual gaming, at least in the foreseeable future. But mobile (i.e. iOS and Android together) have basically cornered the casual gaming market. I think they're pretty happy being there for now.”

Th3groveman: “The Switch is a tablet with two controllers and accessories in the box for $300. I don't see Apple slicing their hardware margins to nearly zero to make a dedicated gaming device when the App Store and it's never ending supply of mobile shovelware makes them a ton more money anyway.”

More at Reddit

Apple has never really understood gaming

I found the idea of Apple turning the iPhone into a Switch-like home/portable gaming console to be quite interesting. Unfortunately, Apple has never really understood or cared about gaming in the same way as Nintendo. Gaming for Apple has always been an afterthought at best.

Oh sure, there are tons of games in the iOS App Store, but Apple has never bothered to make a dedicated gaming controller for them. Instead the company has simply allowed developers to create whatever they wanted using the iPhone’s screen as a control mechanism.

If Apple were to try to make the iPhone into a Nintendo Switch-like device, it would have to truly understand the need for physical game controllers for this new hybrid device. Then it would have to actually create them, along with a dock to connect the iPhone to your television.

Frankly, I think it’s asking quite a lot to expect Apple to do something like this. It would require almost a sea change inside the company in terms of its attitude towards gaming. Gaming would have to become a big priority, not an afterthought.

I just don’t see this happening anytime soon. Apple just doesn’t understand games and gamers the same way that Nintendo does. Nintendo’s bread and butter is gaming, and the company has always been at the forefront of innovation in terms of games and gaming hardware.

Apple, alas, has shown absolutely no sign of taking games seriously. For example, the remote control for the Apple TV failed spectacularly for gaming. But despite that Apple still hasn’t released an official gaming controller for Apple TV, which has relegated it to a second-rate competitor to Nintendo, Microsoft and Sony’s video game consoles.

And speaking of the Apple TV, how would that fit into Apple's product line if the iPhone were to become some sort of home/portable gaming system like the Switch? It would be redundant to have two iOS systems connecting to your television to play games, so Apple would have to revise its overall Apple TV strategy.

The idea of Apple turning the iPhone into another Nintendo Switch is just a pipe dream. It's a nice dream but I certainly wouldn't hold my breath for it.

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