Reality Check: 3DS vs. iOS

The battle no one really cares about.

Stop me if you've heard this one before: People walk into a consumer electronics store with money, or perhaps even a credit card, firmly in tow. They're intent on purchasing an iPhone to satiate some form of technological hunger, but as they meander past blaring televisions and several conveniently placed displays of that newly released Blu-ray with 12 hours of commentary tracks, something beckons a few feet away. A kiosk--its stiff prongs outstretched with an offering of a shiny Nintendo 3DS.

Hello, I'm an iPhone…

They play it. They're enamored with it. Now, confronted with a choice, they weigh the pros and cons of both devices. With their objective to purchase the iPhone overthrown, they grab a 3DS from the shelves, run to the register, and zip out the door with their new toy. Meanwhile, the iPhone stays on the shelf--trapped inside its cardboard vessel but maintaining hope that, one day, someone will liberate it from its dark existence. If there's a touch of unfamiliarity with the aforementioned anecdotal tale, it's because it doesn't happen; it won't happen; and it's just stupid.

These devices exist on such different levels from each other that the thought process involved in buying either is vastly different. Apple's iOS gadgets are do-everything multimedia devices. They ostensibly provide the functionality of ultraportable PCs and, therefore, are designed to perform the requisite tasks associated with that designation and perform them well to achieve any success. Thus, justifying a purchase becomes all that much easier because of their multifaceted nature, and if you're specifically looking at an iPhone because you actually need a phone, then it's a mental slam dunk.

Of course, it's true that you can also play games on the iOS devices. In fact, you might have heard about a successful game involving perturbed fowl or another that involves the delicate slicing of fruit, but how many people primarily purchase an iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch because they want to play these games? Perhaps a better question is this: How many people play these games because they exist as a part of Apple's app store ecosystem? There isn't much evidence suggesting consumers purchase Apple devices expressly to play games, but the success of games on the iOS platform reveals that there are plenty of people playing them for any number of reasons--most of which can be sufficiently debated in an entirely different topic.

The point is that Apple's mobile products are accidental gaming devices. The infrastructure cultivates a space for games to thrive, but that infrastructure was born out of digital music, the rapid evolution of the iPod hardware, and Apple's ultimate goal to dominate a domestic technological area that was previously languishing. But, to be clear, this is not a dedicated handheld gaming market we're talking about here.

If anything, that part of the gaming universe has prospered because of Nintendo, which has largely dominated it for more than two decades, starting with the release of the original Game Boy in the late 1980s. While each successive version of the Game Boy hardware featured its own changes and enhancements, they were and continue to exist as gaming machines. Are consumers going to be supremely peeved that their 3DSs don't have built-in e-mail clients? What about Flash support? Texting? Various kinds of media playback? No. Consumers know what to expect from these devices and they know what they want from them. They want features that enhance the experience of playing games on that platform and they just want good games. Anything else is secondary.

…and I'm a 3DS.

That doesn't mean Nintendo isn't keen on making its products more mass-market friendly. It dropped the Game Boy name in favor of the DS to distance itself from the infantile association and because it just made sense for marketing purposes. Plus, many games Nintendo has produced for the DS line are conceptually easier to swallow for those still looking at the appetizers on the gaming menu. While these tactics can be construed as "taking on Apple," keep in mind that Nintendo started going down this road long before the arrival of the iPhone and that growing an audience base means that there's going to be some inevitable, if unintentional, clashes for consumers' free time.

That's where the real battle lies. The fight for attention is a universal theme across all entertainment mediums, and relative to this scenario, it begs this question: Which device are you ultimately going to devote your money and time to? The answer comes down not only to personal preference and whatever goals the user has in mind, but it also comes post purchase. You know why you bought an iOS device and you know why you bought a 3DS, but it's up to their respective manufacturers and software developers to make you remember why you did.

(Reality Check is GameSpot's recurring editorial column. Each week, members of the GameSpot editorial team sound off on current gaming events as well as various topics that surround the gaming industry.)

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Discussion

218 comments
Yossi1007
Yossi1007

my ipod 4g long ago surpassed the psp or the ds (graphically and in gameplay) it is a one hell of gaming device BUT FIRST OF ALL ITS AN IPOD!!!!!! i bought it for its music and video games togather!! note: i hate iPhone and i am proud of my k610i

Roddimus09
Roddimus09

These two devices are both great in their respective ways, but as to assume that players do not want a system that does it all is ignorant, sure there are some hardcore dedicated fans out there that require physical media (thus the demise of the PSP Go and that GameStop virtually tried to kill it for obvious reasons). The thing is that the iPhone has become this garden of casual games, a sector that Nintendo coveted, but the iPhone still cannot deliver a deep traditional experience with soley touchscreen controls. That is the problem with iPhone, the problem with Nintendo is that people DO want a device that does all that other multimedia stuff-WELL! Not a half-assed browser! This is where I believe that this article had no bearing on anything besides a dilemna that has already gone on for a few years, what it should of instead focused on was the two new phones that may just do all that now. The Sony Xperia Play and I know that this site has not really talked about this, but the possiblities of gaming on the Kyocera Echo. I will say no more because even though I do not believe either of these devices will overtake these behemoths I do believe they will leave an indelible mark on our future of portable gaming in the next couple years.

Nelhew
Nelhew

To those people who believe next gen phones will have 3D. You're very wrong. Iphone and Droid phones will never be able to put 3D with a touchscreen. A 3D image is generated with a pair of eyes. If your finger blocks the screen it will be like the 3DS problem all over again. You will take time to refocus again and again. If you have a phone like that, Good luck to you. You will probably be suing apple for a refund or get a new iPad 2 from them instead.

auron11022
auron11022

I'm just not sure what the point of this was.

supernaught360
supernaught360

I dunno, I think Nintendo may have just sealed the coffin for themselves with the 3DS. Because guess what? The next big revolution in smartphone tech is obviously going to be 3D support (can you imagine navigating your droid/iPhone in 3D??) All the smartphone designers need to realize is this: touch screen game controls are too limiting. There's nothing holding any one of these companies back from offering a slide out or connectible joypad configuration - THEN the game publishers will jump right in.

tyranitaronweed
tyranitaronweed

"Are consumers going to be supremely peeved that their 3DSs don't have built-in e-mail clients? What about Flash support? Texting? Various kinds of media playback? No. Consumers know what to expect from these devices and they know what they want from them...." Wait, what? The iPhone doesn't have flash support anyway! One of the reasons I got suckered into an iPad was because I thought it would be cool to watch Newgrounds stuff during a car ride or something, but guess what, NO FLASH SUPPORT!!! Damn Apple. Now I have to do like an assload of inconvienient research before I buy anything over $50 to make sure I'm getting what I'm expecting.

Morpheus9950
Morpheus9950

tyco_ex You makey no sense. iphones are expensive as hell, i doubt most "techies/gamers" can afford them. A 3DS or PSP or whatever handheld you're buying doesn't cost ~$100 a month. Plenty of people will buy them instead of a fancy phone.

Derbedeu
Derbedeu

lol ... what's with all the hate against apple?

tyco_ex
tyco_ex

What you're missing is that people need a phone. People don't need a handheld gaming system. If you already have an iphone or an Android phone (and if you're a techie/gamer... you probably do) then why spend money on the 3DS? The question isn't whether someone will choose an iphone or a 3DS, the question is whether you will choose an iphone AND a 3DS, or just the iphone.

aFatDog
aFatDog

@LedGamer Did you actually read this article or did you just come here to use that outdated phrase obnoxiously?

stephenbarr
stephenbarr

@Kermyt Sony Ericsson Xperia Play. Maybe thats what your looking for?

LedGamer
LedGamer

oh now i get it, an iphone isn't the same thing as a 3ds. cool story bro.

HappyApryl
HappyApryl

I had an iphone 3GS...I also owned a DSi XL, and a PSP before I bought the iphone. As far as games go on the iPhone, they were okay. But they aint got a hope against a true handheld made for games. I demo'd several games on the 3GS, and only kept 2. Both of which I only played a few times because the DS had the same games, on bigger screens, and easier to control. Sure they cost more, but you get what you pay for pretty much. I ended up selling the iPhone because it was inferior to several other new Android based phones on the market, which did not use propriatery programs to transfer stuff to and from, larger screens, better coverage, the list goes on. I will never buy another Apple product because of the proprietary programs needed to run them. And never ever buy a phone of any brand for the gaming library. nothing compairs to the handhelds designed specifically to play games...sorry Apple.

Kermyt
Kermyt

I personally cant wait for the new phones with Real games. i currently have a HTC Desire - favourite game is Tower Raiders (prior to that Angry Birds), yes i play it at home too not just when on train or bus. I also carry with me my NDS (current game Plants vs Zombies) if they could combine the two then happy days. HTC's screen is bigger and clearer than the NDS, it also has more processing power. So yeah i think its time we had a real 'Game Phone'. Why not talk on the phone whilst playing video games.

Marenms
Marenms

there you go, 3 minutes of my life thrown to garbage ... seriously, what am I reading ?

starduke
starduke

If I wanted a phone I still wouldn't get an Iphone, becuase i just don't like apple as a company, I'd get an Android, or something. If i wanted to get something to play games I'd get a 3DS, and hope that the 3d wouldn't give me a migraine. The problem with multifunctional devices is that they do many things, but they don't do one thing well. I have a cell phone I use for calls, and just for that, and I have DS lite i use for games, and just for that. And they are both excellent at what they do.

ElFlechero
ElFlechero

As far as these questions are concerned: " Are consumers going to be supremely peeved that their 3DSs don't have built-in e-mail clients? What about Flash support? Texting? Various kinds of media playback?" I agree, that the answer is no. They just won't buy it, not nearly as many as would have. Not with the multitasking devices that are available, and will still keep you amused on that bus ride, class lecture or lunch break. I'm not getting a 3DS, and won't get an NGP either, as much as I want one, unless there's a model that makes calls. How many pockets do you think I have?

PSdual_wielder
PSdual_wielder

I see iPhones with a pretty different but well defined role in terms of games. They're bite sized, cheap, and meant to be played with a casual mindset. If I want an epic rpg with a 90 campaign I would pick up a final fantasy remake on the psp or something.

Rafandrews
Rafandrews

It all depends on who you are and what you want. Personally I would never buy an iPhone if my other choice were the 3ds. Why? because I don't like the idea of being tempted to play games, listen to music, and watch movies on a phone, which I will most likely need to make calls. I can go on three days without charging my phone; if I had an iPhone I'd most probably have to charge it with frequency. Besides, I play video games alot, I don't want games to be the secondary attraction on my console but the main attraction.

Dynamo11
Dynamo11

iPhones are pretty poor anyway, after my 3G died I bought a HTC Desire and haven't looked back

The-Longshot
The-Longshot

Awesome article, glad someones putting it to rest. I concur, those of us who have iphones have them for a reason, and those of us with a 3DS have them for a reason as well, and some people are just lucky enough to have both!!

gudni
gudni

If i am out looking for a phone and just happen to be loaded at the moment, i might look into the iphone. But im really just into gaming and i dont mind having a separate device to make phone calls from, so of course the 3DS is the obvious choice and probably anyone who calls themselves a gamer would agree.

dawnofhero
dawnofhero

3DS all the way when it comes to gaming. iPhone is a phone. You talk to people. 3DS is a game system. You play games on it; real games with game cases and manuals and cartridges. Why yak on the phone when you can be playing video games?

ronnieo54
ronnieo54

wow a well written article that isn't rife with speculation or fan-boyisms.

suspenser
suspenser

@ Darkcloud_San When you say xfinite instead of crossfire in your system specs it leads me to believe you got way to much pc for you abilities.

Darkcloud_San
Darkcloud_San

@mariokart64fan yeah RE4 port was Horrible i saw watch videos of had friends show me and all i have to say is never in my life would i play it on a phone with no buttons and ripped down graphics really man you tell me that you can sit there and play a game like that on you no you mariokart64fan just saying a phone with no buttons and the iphone 4 battary life for gaming is WOW lets not even go there makes the 3ds feel like a DSI lmao and i know what im talking about i have friends and family with the iphone 4 or a 4th gen ipod LMAO talk crap about the 3ds huh please

mariokart64fan
mariokart64fan

iphone games may be cheaper , because not many of them are highly anticipated titles and when they are their usualy ports of 2004 games such as resident evil 4

KWHCoaster
KWHCoaster

@Ndente - "iPhone games are cheaper and easier to get" And throw away...

KWHCoaster
KWHCoaster

Point for 3DS. No way for your significant other or employer to disturb your peace and quiet with an "emergency".

indie83
indie83

I agree with the entry column, both hardware platforms serve two entirely different markets. The 3DS solely for gaming purposes and the Iphone (and such other devices) the telecoms / entertainment market. It is only by the natural evolution of software / hardware that phones now can claim to exist as gaming devices. I'm still of the opinion that separate devices usually fit the bill much better, that is a combined washing machine and dryer is normally not as good as buying two separate dedicated machines. Note: I have both the 3DS and Iphone

Darkcloud_San
Darkcloud_San

Hmm how stupid would it feel to do multi touch on a 3DS and if you are so smart which seems your not everyone knows that resistive touch screen is 10 times more accurate. As for trading in your 3DS that's stupid as hell you spend 250 on something and then trade it in and got not even 100 bucks back for if you didn't want it why get it me on the other hand will never trade anything in but w/e on that the think about wisdom05 makes sense cap.. Touch multitouch screens on a dual screen DS device right. The bottom screen isnt even more that 3in and he's retarded right? As for my PC being overpriced that's not just my tower alone that's my whole system my 6 24in monitors running in x finite with my 3x 6990s and other things :D. Oh I will be getting a NGP as well and I can't wait im a gamer everyone i have everygaming system and will continue to get them all because i like them but i will never get anything Apple you couldn't pay me or give me a job there ether. Apple only has one thing going for them which will die soon and that's the cheap games because of the NGP and the 3ds's online stores just watch

Draxargh
Draxargh

@Darkcloud_San I think you overpaid for your PC... If iOS can get TF2 though, then I'll be impressed.

Draxargh
Draxargh

This article is "Obviousness for Dummies." They both have their pros and cons, even as gaming devices. Is the iPod Touch a gaming device? Yes, it is, because you can game on it. Is it going to successfully adapt the types of games that can be played on dedicated gaming devices? No, because of the touch input gives you no tactile feedback or accuracy of something with buttons. Is that an issue? Yes and no. Yes, because first person shooters, fighters, and most other genres suffer without dedicated buttons... No because it creates new genres and game types. They do both offer motion, and thats nice. It is a shame that 3DS doesn't offer multi-touch, though. Unlike Wisdom05 's unwise comment about "what now who needs multitouch" retarded comment, the more ways to input the better, and that even includes multitouch softkeys on the lower screen. Does it NEED it? Not necessarily, it has buttons, but could it gain from it? Yes. Will it ever get it? No, because the 3DS uses antique pressure sensitivity, which is a shame. Capacitive is where it's at (Thank you NGP!!) In the long run, it's all about preference. How avid a gamer are you? Ipod games will rarely get the attention of a game that you'll find on a dedicated machine for gaming, but does that mean you wont get high quality, addictive games with value? Absolutely not. They fill two entirely different niches, and the subniches that they both fill are going to be in different quantity and quality. 3DS is a gaming machine first, everything else second, while iPod is everything else first, gaming second. You get what you buy, just know what you're buying. I had an ipod touch, but I sent it seaworthy (a decision I later regret) in a fit of glitch when I was on deployment, luckily I have an Android. And I do have a 3DS which will most likely be traded up for, what I believe will be, the superior PSP2. Do I have anything against any of the devices? No, they all have their pros and cons. Just don't be a tard and know what you want before you buy it.

ImperfectSEED
ImperfectSEED

Personally i though i reckon having only touch screen to play is nice so you dont have grime and such going into your console, it does get annoying as your fingers get in the way. Also the fact that you dont have solid buttons so your fingers dont always register the movements or the commands you want. Take street fighter for instance, commands get awkward and dont register well. Screen gets blocked by your fingers. It was an awesome concept at first to finally have street fighter 4 as a portable but it was so limited. As with ds however you dont need to worry about your fingers blocking the screen as you have the second screen on top for the main. You get your solid buttons as well as short cuts for the non-pros. I do like both however and yet like this article states both are two different things. I wouldn't like to carry something as big as the 3ds in my pocket for music. iPhone/iPod is often my preferred choice for that. Sorry to say but if anything get every single console like me ;D No hating here, its not the console which makes a game great, its the game itself which makes a game great.

Shadowmax889
Shadowmax889

Well i have an iPhone 4 and i have a DS and now i am saving money to buy a 3DS so Why dont have both?

Equinox9
Equinox9

Pffft please don't even try that. Iphone and Ipods have piss poor battery life if you're playing video games on them. I'd know I have an Ipod touch and my friend is complaining about his Iphone 4 (which he doesn't even play games on btw)

anthonettex
anthonettex

I dont fit in this category for I have an Android and a PSP. Oh wait... I like the 3DS (though the maximum 3D effect did give me eye-strains) but the battery life is where I'll have to put it down to an iOS device instead. Until 3DS2 comes out with better battery life, you're going to have to gimme an iPod Touch. As for Android games.. what games?

wisdom05
wisdom05

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

wisdom05
wisdom05

oh lets not forget the stuff that comes out in may 3d recording, netflix, Browser with FULL HTML5 and webkit, 3D video Chat, music/video streaming, and better multitasking & etc.. and if you don't believe me go watch the 3ds video with Reggie. so what no fanboys what multitouch? please why would the 3DS need that

wisdom05
wisdom05

@ Darkcloud_San Wow if that doesnt say it i dont know what will but you know fanboys and pple that think apple game is uniqe will still hate on you right i for one dont own anything apple and i never will i have psp's DS's and the 3ds and i love it i dont do the 3d thing as much but thats not what sold me its the graphics and the games to come because of the hardware and graphics have improved. what pple dont understand is that the GPU inside the 3ds is 10-15% shy of a Xbox 360 so think about it the new EShop will have more Developers to make games for them like the CEO of Gameloft has said this is what e have been waiting for. so not only will we get Flash card games but from all the same developers that apple has and mobile game developers are jumping all over this like white or rice. ppl forget that dedicated hardware that doesnt change on a device will make games and content are more amazing and if you dont believe me on that apple fans your living in a cloud b/c the iphone/pod proves that. so the pple that make these 10buck games are going to say which they have look it up on the net are going to say better than 3 and 4th gen ipods graphics with buttons and a eshop for download able games WTF lol now who wins

bennae66
bennae66

@Darkcloud_San I logged in just to give that a thumbs up

Darkcloud_San
Darkcloud_San

U know what F it you F'ing fanboys GIVE ME PTSD when i hear or see the word apple. you know what let apple be the only Freaking Cell phone the only gaming device let nintendo, sony and Microsoft die. right because the iphone is the S^#& right the best damn gaming/cell phone in the world right no F'ing choice for anything else but apple because the DS Series with bad graphics out sells iphones/ipads/ipods & sony PS3 and XBOX 360 Combined right. you hear that everyone dont buy anything but apple. I mean your suction cup virtual joy stick changes the world right? buttons and tactical feedback are a thing of the past right. Game developers will always sell their hardworking games for $10 right? i should go toss my PS3,Xbox 360,Nes,SNES,N64,PSP and my whole GB/DS series and my Asus G53JW laptop and 8K desktop away and get a iphone and ipad because apple just does everything and give me a sense of real gaming right. F@#$ APPLE!!! wait i got somthing for you lets see apple gamers do this up, up, down, down, left, right, left, right, B, A select, start F@#$ing Never, take you 2hr battery gaming iphone and shove it. SRY Gamespot for losing it

Darkcloud_San
Darkcloud_San

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

Indyskater
Indyskater

@Jedilink109 I can't stand playing those games on the touch screen. Like I said, until the iphone has real game controls, it's no match for a real game machine. Street Fighter IV ios vs Stree Fighter IV 3DS. 3DS wins hands down.

FusionRain
FusionRain

Gingerbread sounds really good right now...

QWERTYCommander
QWERTYCommander

The 3DS's internet browser is supposed to have Flash support, actually.

lavaar
lavaar

Who would want a crappy Iphone that is already way behind the curve when they can have an android...

Jedilink109
Jedilink109

@Indyskater Check out some of the games first man. Dead Space for iphone is an entirely new Dead Space game on the iphone. Looks incredible and plays just like the console Dead Space games. There's also N.O.V.A. 1 and 2 which are great. Not to mention the gobs of games that were previously released for other systems and now on iphone as well like Price Of Persia: Warrior Within, Rayman 2, Beneath A Steel Sky, Monkey Island 1 and 2, Doom, Doom 2 RPG, Lara Croft And The Guardian Of Light, Phoenix Wright, Dragon's Lair, Chu Chu Rocket, Driver, R Type, Grand Theft Auto Chinatown Wars, Duke Nukem 3D, Plants Vs. Zombies, Sonic 1, 2, 4, and Spinball, Tony Hawk 2, Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3, and plenty more. There's TONS of great games on iphone. UNFORTUNATELY everyone wants to focus on the stupid crap like Angry Birds and some fruit slicing thing. BULL CRAP. Don't listen to all of that. There's great stuff to play on iphone. And this is from someone who never thought they would have anything good to say about Apple products. There are good games despite it being a platform you'd associate with having the stupidest games on it ever. I was actually REALLY surprised when I started finding GOOD games for the thing. I've actually been playing a lot of games on it lately because some of them are seriously really good.

benboz
benboz

I rather iOS than 3Ds any day