Apple, Microsoft Prepare for Portable Gaming

Posted by jgaudiosi :: Mobile Gaming

Ipod_2According to American Technology Research, 3D videogame chip maker nVidia will provide the technology for Apple's next generation vpod, which will ship in the first half of 2007. This opens up the door for true videogames to be played on the next generation portable device, in addition to music, movies and TV. Online reports previously suggested that former LucasArts technical director Mike Lamell is heading up the games division within iTunes. Although Apple has not publicly commented on gaming, and the company has never emphasized gaming with any of its Macs, when you do the math, the pieces are in place for Apple to go up against Sony's PSP, which also plays games, movies and music. The current Ipods includes rudimentary games like a "Breakout" clone.

Microsoft is also powering up for portable gaming. J Allard, who was one of the architects of Xbox and Xbox Live, is heading up the Argo project at Microsoft. The first portable music player, which is rumored to be called Zume, will feature Wi-Fi capability for music downloads and some gaming. Unlike the PSP, Microsoft isn't aiming for a portable Xbox with this first iteration into the portable entertainment/gaming arena. The device is expected to play Xbox Live-style games and connectivity with Xbox 360 is also believed to be in the works. Microsoft should have its first device ready to launch by next year.

Meanwhile, Nintendo and Sony are both having success in the portable games space. Nintendo DS Lite is breaking sales records since its introduction. PSP continues to sell well since its price drop, and despite the fact that many movie studios have ceased PSP movie releases.

Should Apple and Microsoft both enter this space, Nintendo will face serious competition. The game maker, which created the portable games space in 1989 when it aunched Game Boy, has always stuck with games. Nintendo DS does not play music or movies like PSP. Is Apple and Microsoft enter the games space with music players, Nintendo would be the odd man out with regards to gaming devices that also play music. PSP plays music, although that feature set has not been emphasized by Sony as much.

Nintendo has faced strong competition in the past from the likes of Sega, SNK and Atari. And the game giant has always won. Even with Sony, Nintendo is succeeding with Nintendo DS. It will be interesting to see what impact the branding of iPod with gaming capabilities will have on Nintendo. Game Boys and iPods are both ubiquitous these days. It will be quite a clash of portable brands, even without factoring in Sony and Microsoft.

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