Separated at Birth

Apple and Nintendo may hail from two different sides of the world, but they could practically be twins.

By Andrew Hsieh. Posted 05/02/2011 17:00 Comment on this     ShareThis

So you’re about to get into your car, all ready to go to work. But before you do that, you’ve got to do one final patdown. You hit all your pockets. Wallet, keys, great. But what about music? You hate what’s playing on the radio. So of course you bring your iPod. Or your iPod shuffle. Or, hell, you’ve got an iPhone, you might as well use it. Bring on your secret Journey sing-a-long sessions!

Of course, you’ve also brought your 3DS, just because there’s nothing like playing a quick round of Super Street Fighter IV 3D during your lunch break to get you back into shape. Though you guess you could play Angry Birds on your iPod touch, though seriously, you’re about as bad at that game as most people are at balancing their checkbooks. (You’re better at Infinity Blade, but honestly, that game’s basically Dragon Quest Swords: The Masked Queen and the Tower of Mirrors for iOS.) The point is you’ve got time to kill on your lunch break, and you might as well spend it playing games. Lord knows you don’t spend nearly enough time doing that.

Predictably, while you’re on your ninth jaunt through the Street Fighter tournament, a couple windows distract you on your iMac. Oh dear, it looks like that client of yours is complaining about your web designs again. He said he wanted it this way, you said that that would be dumb-looking, he got offended and tried to design his own website, and basically what you’re saying is the website looks like a Spice-flavored GameCube controller, with mismatched colors and a design that, while certainly, er, practical, looks more at home in the video game equivalent of a freak show than in Videogameland. If only Nintendo knew design like Steve Jobs knows design, you lament, sighing into your perfectly shaped Apple Computer mug. Reggie even said that Apple could hurt Nintendo more than Microsoft in the near term, what with its 44.1 million people playing games on iOS systems as compared to Nintendo’s 41 million people on DS systems. “Get with the program, Nintendo!” … is what you want to shout.

But then you think a little more. And then you remember that the Wii is white, like your iMac; it has a nifty glowing disk drive, like your old eMac; it’s motion-sensitive like your iPod touch. What’s more, it even counts people who don’t normally play video games among its captives audience. Your Wii is an Apple product, except made by Japanese people. Whodathunkit?

The parallels come at you faster and faster. Once upon a time Michael Spindler, former Apple Computer president, said he feared Nintendo the most out of all computer companies in the 1990s; now things have turned around, meaning that Apple and Nintendo are pretty much on equal ground as far as nemeses and fears go. Apple took Nintendo’s endless (sometimes draconic) drive to succeed in an arena that nobody thought they could, and now Macintosh is a name not laughed at, but respected. Nintendo, meanwhile, fell behind– until it took a leaf from Apple’s book, not necessarily designing their Wii according to the Apple aesthetic, but certainly according to the aesthetic of minimalism, simplicity, and practicality. Just as the iPad is instantly accessible as a next-generation book or newspaper, the Wii Remote is instantly accessible as a next-generation television remote– so much that Nintendo actually made a television remote replica. While there’s no evidence to say that Wii is directly inspired by Apple products, the sense and sensibility is there– and thank goodness, too, because the Wii’s certainly prettier for it.

Yet you’re not so shallow as to judge a company by its artful sensibilities. No. It’s the way these companies treat their customers, despite the fact that they’re actually soulless machine-like entities that probably couldn’t give more of a damn about their customers if they tried. (You ignore all that.) Apple has their fleet of Apple Stores with employees who are literally paid to smile at you (among other things), and Nintendo … well, Nintendo’s Nintendo. Okay, okay, fine, biases aside, Nintendo does have its Club Nintendo (finally), and, unlike Apple, makes its own games, almost guaranteeing that you’ll have something to play on a Nintendo console. Apple’s got a dating site that caters to Apple fans– which admittedly is not Apple-run, but is definitely a solid representation of devotion towards Apple (and a common ground for potential dates)– and Nintendo ran a bunch of love hotels back in the day. Though maybe that’s not a good example. It made cards for yakuza? Let’s just give up on this one.

You and I, we’re not so different.

The point is, despite the clear geographical differences between Nintendo and Apple, they seem like they could be pretty good friends. If they ever teamed up to make the Apple-Tendo– a console with multimedia functions that collaborate just as well as Apple TV does with your iTunes library– you’d probably think you were in heaven. Because that would probably also mean the Apple-Tendo is both iOS and Nintendo compatible– and with the insane amount of games on iOS that are actually quite fantastic (check out Sword & Sworcery EP for starters, or if you want something more familiar, Phoenix Wright makes his home-away-from-home on iOS), that would be one sweet deal. But that kind of detente’s gonna have to happen fast. Because as much as you like to think that Apple can’t make even a chink in Nintendo’s famously strong handheld armor, Apple’s always been good at doing exactly what people think it won’t. Kind of like Nintendo, actually.

But your lunch break is over, and so is your Street Fighter game. (It’s your fault for not paying attention.) Begrudgingly, you go back to work on that pesky client’s website– and wonder if he’d like it if you pulled a Nintendo and lovingly ripped off of Apple’s minimalist-yet-sophisticated aesthetic. He’d probably like it even more, you reason, if you lovingly ripped off Nintendo’s innate sense of fun and constant innovation. The way it worked out for Nintendo and Apple, your chances are pretty good. As a wise man once said: here we go.

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