Game over, iPad: Why Nintendo holds the key to fragging Apple's tablet

Time for Apple's competitors to storm the App Store...

If Apple's competitors are really serious about toppling the iPad from the tablet top spot, they should look at the game plan of Japanese console maker Nintendo, says's Nick Heath.

So strong is Apple's grip on the tablet market that nothing its competitors can throw at it - be it better hardware specs or Flash support - seems capable of dislodging the iPad from its pedestal.

HP has already admitted defeat by discontinuing the TouchPad and a major US retailer has cut the price of RIM's BlackBerry PlayBook, just months after its release.

But trying to beat Apple on UIs or design was always going to be like challenging Usain Bolt to a race. What RIM et al should be doing is copying the game plan of Japanese console maker Nintendo.

Nintendo has been a global force in video games for three decades, with generations having grown up whiling away their afternoons in the company of Mario and Zelda.

Apple iPad

Nintendo's motion-tracking control system has proved to be a huge hit for the WiiPhoto: Nintendo/

Nintendo's longevity is no accident. Long before Apple coined the phrase 'there's an app for that' to describe the rich bounty of its App Store, Nintendo grasped the importance of a killer software line-up.

What's kept the kids coming back and also brought new fans into the fold has been the games - the adventures of moustached plumber Mario, the derring-do of Link in The Legend of Zelda and the wave-your-hands-like-a-madman gameplay of Wii Sports.

Wii Sports is a particularly fine example of a game that sold a system. The Wii Sports and Wii console bundle proved so popular that the Wii remained in short supply worldwide for more than a year after its release. And the Wii remains the best-selling console of the current generation of games machines.

For many people, Wii Sports was the Wii. A sales clerk at a games outlet once told me that people would come into the shop and ask to buy "tennis", when what they meant was a Wii with Wii Sports.

These games are a big part of the reason Nintendo has been in the console game longer than anyone else. And what's the one thing these games have in common? They were all developed and published by Nintendo.

Nintendo's first-party games are the jewel in its crown - the marquee titles that keep fans returning to its machines, year after year. Indeed the company has suffered when it has failed to put out a strong first-party line-up. Nintendo's US boss Reggie Fils-Aime recently blamed the slower-than-expected sales of its 3D handheld console, the 3DS, on the lack of classic Nintendo titles for the device.

Software is where Apple's tablet competitors are missing a trick. It's time for them to start getting serious about developing apps themselves and putting cash into building gold-plated software that makes iPad owners weep with envy. They can't leave it to third-party developers to make the killer apps that will sell their system.

HP's TouchPad was a classic example of...