Apple and Nintendo, separated at birth?

From Vlad Savov's "Nintendo Is the Apple of Asia" posted Tuesday by Bloomberg:

Apple Inc. and Nintendo Co. are two of the technology world’s biggest names, each built on idiosyncratic ways of doing business. Although their market values are separated by about $2 trillion, they are perhaps the industry’s closest ideological peers.

I was reminded of this last week when Bloomberg broke news of Nintendo’s plan to hike production of its six-year-old Switch console.  At this point in the system’s life cycle, any other hardware maker would be getting ready to start talking about its next product. Nintendo is convinced it can sell more of the old one.

Apple and Nintendo move to their own rhythm. I thought the AirPods looked stupid when they were first announced. Likewise, the Switch underwhelmed me at first with its lack of commitment to either portable or home console play. But both proved my initial judgment wrong with the quality of how they worked...

For much of the last four decades, these two companies have transcended the commodified nature of personal electronics and generate outsized profits for the hardware they put in people’s hands. The two keys I see to this are software and the power of a strong brand.

An iPhone without iOS is just a shiny glass-and-steel sandwich. A Switch without Nintendo’s storied franchises like Animal Crossing, the Legend of Zelda, Super Mario Bros. is — well, look at the frumpy thing and its bezels from 2010...

Another analog between the American and Japanese giants: devoted customers who will buy the new thing no matter how incremental the upgrade and, moreover, feel deep satisfaction about it. Apple used to sell S editions of iPhones that made it obvious when the company didn’t have a new design ready — and people flocked to them anyhow. Nintendo puts out game-themed Switch consoles that, likewise, draw committed fans to buy new hardware with the same old specs.

My take: Market caps separated by "about $2 trillion?" Believe it or not, that's accurate to within some $20 billion. Nintendo's market value this morning is 7.2 trillion Japanese Yen, or $55.2 billion, compared to Apple's $2.35 trillion.

17 Comments

  1. Romeo A Esparrago Jr said:
    What’s $2.3T between friends?
    LOL

    4
    January 24, 2023
  2. It is truly remarkable that this company was established 133 years ago selling playing cards and even today sells hand held entertainments – Pokemon cards and the Switch units to devotees of all ages. I see the parallel between the two companies for sure!

    4
    January 24, 2023
  3. Gregg Thurman said:
    This is the first I’ve thought of a gaming company as being a sibling of Apple.

    How many times has Nintendo been consigned to the trash heap by the “experts”, when another releases the next big game/platform?

    Are there enough parallels between the two, Apple and Nintendo, for an acquisition to be considered. Certainly, Nintendo would launch Apple into the gaming stratosphere. How could Apple technology enhance the Nintendo experience (I’m thing M1/M2, iOS, connectivity modems and seedless integration with iPhone, iPad and AppleTV).

    Is this more hopium on my part, or is there a business case here for a marriage of this sort?

    2
    January 24, 2023
    • Neal Guttenberg said:
      Gregg,

      Gamers are different. Just like the old Apple users, before the iPod and iPhone. If Apple bought Nintendo, my guess is that much(or at least some) of that “brand loyalty” might disappear. At best, some type of alliance could work in both companies favor.

      2
      January 24, 2023
      • Shamwil Al-Amin said:
        I would say though they share a very very large customer base. Especially older apple users are almost certainly nintendo users. As a 43 yr old who grew up in the 80s I learned how to read and write on an Apple lle and play games on a NES, the two brands are synonymous to me.

        0
        January 25, 2023
  4. Tommo_UK said:
    I remember “Apple should buy Nintendo” argument a long time ago. There were long talks between the two about letting Nintendo legacy games run on all manner of Apple platforms and quite a few emulators were available for iOS if you had a jailbreak device. Shame it never flourished but Nintendo made the right call. Just as macOS pre-9 and below could run on an old Commodore Amiga at a fraction of the cost of a Macintosh (they both used the Motorola 68000 CPU and the Commodore was fully multitasking in a way the Macintosh couldn’t touch at the time) Apple toyed with and then declined to license its OS for short term gain knowing if it lost the platform it would lose its ability to compete on its own unique terms.

    The Amiga was far more advanced than the Macintosh. MacOS 7 ran in a virtual environment at full speed alongside Amiga apps just like macOS 9 did under OS X on the changeover.

    At one point I used more Amigas running a Macintosh emulator to deploy first Pagemaker and then Quark Express for publishing than I did the Macintosh which was excruciatingly overpriced at the top end at the time (remember the Quadra?)

    Nintendo followed the same pattern, experimenting with the idea of licensing instead of using hugely overpriced proprietary cartridge systems and the two companies had a lot of mutual respect for one another, the key difference being Apple had a global view and learned how to scale quicker than Nintendo.

    I used to play Zelda on my iPhone!

    1
    January 24, 2023
    • Gregg Thurman said:
      ARM processors were first developed to operate the Amiga computer, both owned by the same company. When the computer failed to catch on, the company changed its focus to processor development. Apple was an early investor at the time.

      If Apple should have bought anything back then, it should have bought Amiga.

      When shopping for my first computer (that ultimately became a Mac Plus) I almost bought the Amiga. I thought the OS was better, certainly faster, and definitely less expensive.

      0
      January 24, 2023
      • Tommo_UK said:
        @gregg

        ARM used to be Acorn RISC Machines and was a U.K. company wholly unfounded by Apple at the time, and developed the first commercial RISC processors for the BBC computer used throughout U.K. education in the 80s. It was a paradigm leap forward over the Apple 1 and Apple 2 and developed to replace them in schools for a fraction of the cost.

        Through the BBC the U.K. government sponsored part of the dev costs of the computer.

        The BBC computer became defunct in the end when the PC hegemony undercut everything cost and quality wise but that’s where ARM was born and had nothing to do with the Amiga, which was developed from a platform it bought in to replace its amazingly popular Commodore 64 which took over from the Commodore VIC-20 – arguable the first commercial and affordable colour computer of its time.

        ARM continued to developed RISC processors and Apple became an investor, using the technology its Newton range, hoping it would advance quickly enough to become a possible CPU contender for the Macintosh line but it didn’t happen fast enough. Apple sold out of ARM when it could have bought the company and its technology for peanuts a few years later – one of the worst strategic mistake the company made.

        The Commodore Amiga had the most advance graphics and multitasking chip architecture, OS and GUI imaginable – true multitasking – thanks to maxing out its Motorola 68000 (later 68010) and match Co-processor but it’s performance, years ahead of its time, lay in its chipset, designed by an absolute genius Jay Miner who single handedly with an incredible team around him managed to integrate then–stupendous performance to take the load off the CPU and price graphics and colours unimaginable in any other computer. I was one of 500 people to have a prototype Amiga 1000 to test In the U.K. and interview Jay Miner, who sadly passed away well before his time. To honour his achievements the inside of the case of every Amiga 1000 had raised signatures in the pressed plastic casting of all the engineers who worked on the project.

        Sadly Commodore had appalling nepotistic management and died a slow and pained up to watch death from being the pioneer in consumer friendly pricing/performance in the 80s clearing the way for Apple to rise and fail with overpriced products, and left a clear path for the rise of the dark WinTel era until the Return of the Jedi – I mean Jobs a led to Apple’s revival and the present day. The timeline is fascinating.

        1
        January 24, 2023
        • Tommo_UK said:
          (Excuse the typos – ran out of time editing it)

          1
          January 24, 2023
        • David Emery said:
          It is interesting to consider Apple/Amiga as an alternative to Apple/NEXT. But I think Apple got a massive boost from all the Unix stuff that would run on NEXT. Amiga would not have provided the same amount of available software (systems software and applications.)

          1
          January 24, 2023
          • Tommo_UK said:
            @ Emery

            The Amiga was a goner by that time anyway, but from its launch in 1985 and for some time after, although its GUI seemed a bit crude, was dazzling in its performance. It was immensely efficient and powerful. Visually the GUI was a bit unrefined compared to what we’re used to but the apps and gaming power of the machine were unrivalled and it could emulate a Commodore 64, a PC and a Macintosh – all at once in different windows – with the famous bouncing beachball ricocheting over the screen as a sprite.

            Only with OS X did Apple match the architectural sophistication of the Amiga’s underpinnings. The Amiga 1000 was released in 1985 with pre-emptive multi-tasking, which wouldn’t come to the Macintosh (but curiously the Lisa did have) until 2001, which could only manage cooperative multitasking. The Amiga was astonishing when compared to computers of the day and only utterly inept management at Commodore stopped it becoming a market leaders, with the company going into bankruptcy in 1997 (I think) with the Amiga by the dead in the water through lack of investment and support for a long time.

            Jay Miner was arguably more influential in integrated chip and computer design than Woz but history favours the winners.

            0
            January 24, 2023
            • David Emery said:
              I agree with your assessment of Amiga’s technology. But I also think part of the problem with the Amiga (besides the management) was the absence of a “killer app”. There was just not a good reason to buy one, “best technology” doesn’t sell very many systems. (And that’s intended as a dig on all those tech reviewers who throw spec numbers as if they have any impact on why ‘real people’ buy stuff.

              0
              January 24, 2023
              • Tommo_UK said:
                The Amiga was immensely successful for awhile and the cheaper Amiga 500 became a popular gaming platform,. You’re right about the killer app though. Build them and they will come didn’t cut it, chiefly because of the existence of the Macintosh and major developers commitment to it, although given then identical CPUs the Macintosh and the Amiga used, porting any Macintosh app to the Amiga would have been a very very simple affair. There was a lot of power play behind the scenes to keep the Amiga starved for this reason. Word and Excel, Pagemaker and Quark Express running natively on the Amiga would have destroyed the Macintosh given its cheap price point.
                However the Amiga had WordPerfect which at the time was better than Microsoft Word, and had a heavy emphasis on audio and graphics applications like Deluxe Paint, Toaster and Lightwave. Amigas were used to render scenes for many TV shows (including Babylon 5) because nothing had close to its power or applications until years later, when those apps could finally be ported to Windows. It was the killer application as a platform, and accelerated the development of CGI and cinema quality rendering by decades on its own, but consumer app wise, it was sorely lacking.

                A bit like NEXT computers, its OS was pure brilliance with hardware to back it up but it didn’t have the business productivity apps to succeed, just gaming at the bottom end, geeks in the middle and niche graphics and audio applications at the top end. Doomed through bad developer outreach by an awful company which didn’t invest in it properly and form alliances, unlike Apple. I was very sad to see its potential squandered and left to rot, for personal and business reasons of my own. It was a trailblazer and very misunderstood except by those who needed its extraordinary power in narrow niches. As a gaming platform it was quickly surpassed by consoles with Nintendo and Sega playing a big hand in its demise.

                0
                January 24, 2023
        • Gregg Thurman said:
          Thanks for the clarification Tommo. That was 40 or so years ago and I wasn’t as intimately involved as yourself. Amiga/Acorn, my aged memory substituted one for the other. I do remember looking at a machine that incredible, and almost bought it to expand my Mac network (from one machine to 3). Unfortunately there wasn’t the support available that the Mac had. IIRC the Acorn was only available through Sears.

          0
          January 25, 2023
  5. David Emery said:
    “Another analog between the American and Japanese giants: devoted customers who will buy the new thing no matter how incremental the upgrade and, moreover, feel deep satisfaction about it. ” Anyone else find it surprising how FEW companies have this deep customer focus and execution? Why should this be an exception, rather than the general rule? I suspect there are some traditional consumer product companies with similar focus and execution. (Proctor & Gamble, maybe?)

    3
    January 24, 2023
  6. Greg Lippert said:
    Nintendo needs the EU to force them open them up. Why are they allowed to have propriety games and lock-in? USP’s are illegal. We should all be allowed on run whatever games and apps we want on the Switch and we should all be allowed to run their games on iOS for free.

    Psst…sarcasm

    11
    January 24, 2023
    • Tommo_UK said:
      @Greg

      Upvoted! 😀

      Sarcasm aside, I suppose you know those very accusations actually were levelled at Nintendo by its game developers fed up with the enormous licensing fees the company charged for use of its game cartridges? A “cartridge tax” very much like the whining about the App Store tax.. except nintendo could never produce enough cartridges which actually really hurt developers’ sales, not helped by Nintendo sometime taking a year or two to ramp up production of new consoles to meet demand because of “supply side constraints.” Or just bad management really.

      Nintendo succeeded in spite of its management not because of it, and thanks to one man – its genius games designer Miyamoto, without whom, arguably, Nintendo would never have survived because his passion and detail for perfection was only matched by one other person… no prizes for guessing who (in fact Miyamoto was once termed “a slightly friendlier version of Steve Jobs”). Both companies have passion for detail, a sense of self preservation which surpassed all others in their respective fields to protect their identity and cement their future in the face of constant calls for their imminent death.

      They do have a lot in common which is why they could never possibly work together, and talk about Apple buying Nintendo was always going to be a load of hooey.

      TC met up with Miyamoto on a visit to Japan a few years back. I’d love to know what they discussed.

      1
      January 24, 2023

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