So I've had this idea for a blog post swimming around in my head for a while now. Then today, I was listening to the latest episode of the Build and Analyze podcast with Marco Arment, and (starting around minute 61) he discussed the Nintendo 64 and some parallels between Apple and Nintendo. I figure as a former self-proclaimed Nintendo "fanboy" and still a huge fan of both companies, I think I can speak pretty well on this topic. Both Nintendo and Apple have a very strong sense of "we know best”, and they make seemingly unpopular design decisions because they believe it will result in a better product. As Marco pointed out, Nintendo opted to stick with cartridge-based games in the Nintendo 64 while other games moved to CDs. Those discs were cheaper and had more storage capacity, but at the time came with the sacrifice of long load times that the player had to sit through. Similarly, Apple has (so far) refused to offer 4G/LTE in the iPhone even as most other manufacturers are moving to LTE's significantly faster data speeds. The tradeoff? LTE burns through your battery too rapidly for many people to keep their phones charged all day. In both cases, the company opted to stick with older technology because the new technology, while offering some advantages, had sacrifices that were too much for most people.

But both companies are willing to do the opposite, to pick newer technology that they believe in even when doing so seems to be an unpopular move. In 2005, Nintendo revealed the controller for the Wii console, which eschewed 20 years of evolution in game controllers and instead relied primarily on motion-sensitive controls. Many insisted it would never work, and in fact a lot of gamers today still don't like it. However, there's no denying that motion-based gaming was pioneered by Nintendo and has become a market success, with motion control systems added to both the Playstation 3 and the Xbox in 2010. Similarly, Apple dropped the floppy drive from the iMac in 1998, a famously unpopular decision at the time but one that has clearly proven to be advantageous. They’re now beginning to remove optical disc drives from their MacBooks, a move which offers some advantages but still has plenty of opposition.

There are certainly similarities between Nintendo and Apple, most notably that the "we know best" attitude has earned both companies their fair share of critics but also plenty of praise. Whether it means pushing technology ahead or holding it back until it’s ready, they’ve shown that they’re willing to go against the grain for the benefit of their users.

AuthorConnor Graham