iPhone Does Not Scare Nintendo And Sony Gaming Execs, They Say

Is the iPhone a serious platform the video game industry needs to start paying attention to?

That’s a question Stephen and I posed to executives at both Nintendo and Sony, companies with a heavy investment in the handheld gaming space and its future, last week at E3.

First up, Nintendo of America president Reggie Fils-Aime

Multiplayer: What do you make of the iPhone? The iPhone just got into gaming a couple of Fridays ago. And they had more games at launch than the DS had launch or the PSP had at launch. And it was a sign that there may be more aggression for gaming from Apple with this device than there had been with previous devices. It certainly is much more expensive than the DS. But how are you perceiving Apple’s iPhone entry into gaming and the effect it may have on the handheld gaming market?

Fils-Aime: From our standpoint, we are aware of what the iPhone is doing. We certainly monitor it. But just like in the home console space we’re focused on doing what it is we do well. Installed based by next march of 100 million [DS] units — and that’s a worldwide number. In the U.S. we’re at 20 million. And so we’ve got a large installed base that we’re looking to drive even further and to sell software into. That’s our focus. We’ll see what happens with the iPhone but it is not something that will make us change our direction.

Next up, Sony’s senior marketing manager for PSP, John Koller

Multiplayer: Do you view the iPhone, now that Apple’s launched an application store with games, as a gaming competitor? Do you consider that part of your competition?

Koller: I think indirectly it’s a competitor, but it’s indirectly just like the Zune is and the DS is to a degree because it doesn’t offer everything that the PSP does. In terms of the iPhone, it’s rooted in telephony, right? It’s in the name. The person is purchasing it primarily as a phone first and foremost, whereas a person buying a PSP is buying it first and foremost for games — over 70% buy it [PSP] just for games. So it’s a little bit of a different consumer base.

Not saying we’re not looking at it intently because we are. The amount of VC [Venture Capital] money that’s pouring in, you’ve gotta actually look at it. You’ve gotta see what they’re doing. Most analysts that we talk to say that the competition for iPhone is actually against DS and that type of gameplay. PSP is much more of a rich experience in terms of console gaming on the go. Not that we’re not looking at it, but I think there’s some other ways to kind of parse that discussion.

Multiplayer: So if you’re not looking at it as something directly in competition with PSP, is that something Sony would look at something to work with, as opposed to against?

Koller: Most of our efforts — pretty much all of our efforts on the handheld side — are PSP-related. We have extended into phone several years ago; we had a “SOCOM” application and a “Ratchet” [game] through our Sony Pictures group. But in general we try to stay resident to PSP just because not only is that where our revenue is, but also because that’s our handheld product. We want to stay true to that.

While Fils-Aime and Koller both dance around the issue a bit, it’s apparent both Nintendo and Sony are closely following how the iPhone performs. Readers, assuming both the iPhone and iPod Touch continue to sell well, who do you think Apple poses the bigger threat to — Sony, Nintendo or perhaps both?