Dean Takahashi over at VentureBeat is reporting that Steve Jobs has finally set his sights on the gaming market. Apparently Jobs emphasized in a a New York Times Interview that the new iPod Touch is being repositioned as a game machine to compete with the Nintendo DSi and the new PSP. Not a bad pivot for a product that had ceased to have any reason for existing. Based on the report, Jobs seems serious this time — or at least as serious as he can be given that the iPod and the iPhone are rapidly turning into game machines whether he likes it or not.
Steve Jobs fascinates me (as he does many people). I believe he is what Robert X. Cringely referred to as a “positively-oriented sociopath.” That means that everyone in Jobs’ world has really been placed here for him to manipulate, use and discard at his whim — and that includes his customers. His mercurial nature is legendary and the products he produces are equally legendary for being built around Steve’s quirks (think about the original Mac being unable to network). The Mac hasn’t been taken seriously as a gaming machine simply because Jobs isn’t a gamer, doesn’t take gaming seriously and has always thought gaming to be an “impure” use for his machine.
His influence was so powerful over the character of Apple as a company, that even when he wasn’t around, no gaming initiative Apple ever launched could find any traction. Every few years Apple announces that it’s finally taking gaming seriously and will be providing developers with the support and the APIs they need to turn the Mac into a world-class gaming machine. The result is always the same — the effort fizzles out and PC gamers go back to their beige boxes and the thousand shocks they’re heir to.
This could be different. The Apple iTouch could be the lower-priced entry to the world of the App store and with iPhoen games being cheaper to produce and sell, they’re starting to look really attractive to big game companies who are starting to seriously support the platform. Given that the huge pile of money that Nintendo floats on is produced in large part by their dominance in the handheld space, I’d imagine that there are a lot of sweaty and uncomfortable meetings happening in Japan right now. The irony of all this, of course is that if Apple does become a big player in the gaming market, it’ll happen despite, not because of Jobs’ genius. Of course if it works, he’ll still get the credit and claim this was his plan all along.
Knowing Jobs, he’ll probably believe it.
Update: Just got this Tweet from a friend over at IGN:
Phone just failed the impulse gaming test. Tried to buy 2 games but they were too big to download over the air. Sales lost.
Yeah. That’s a problem and something that if Jobs is really serious about turning the iTouch into a gaming platform. He’s going to have start imposing some uniform standards for apps in addition to actually providing developer support. It should be interesting to see just how serious he is with this.