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Once seen as an expensive, unnecessary product for most, sales of the iPod touch have doubled over the past year. This puts its selling rate nearly that of the iPhone itself. One of the reasons behind this recent explosion in sales is the availability of attractive games available in the iTunes App Store. Many of the games come close to graphics available on the Nintendo DSi or Sony PSP. The rise in units moved has placed recent quarter sales of the iPod touch nearly on par with the Nintendo DS for the same quarter.
At the end of 2008, Apple stated that the company had sold an overall total of 30 million multi-touch units, and of those 30 million, 17 million were iPhone units, while the remaining 13 million were the iPod touch. Tim Cook states that during the first 2009 quarter, that number has grown to 37 million units combined, despite the poor economy.
With such a large user base, developers are attracted to develop for the iPhone OS, and as Cook says, "it unleashes a whole new level of innovation that keeps Apple years ahead of everyone else."
Reports from Apple state that the company had sold 3.79 million iPhones during the first quarter of 2009 out of the reported 7 million multi-touch units moved by the company. That leaves 3.21 million iPod touches that have been sold from the beginning of January to the end of March alone.
The number of multi-touch devices have now nearly caught up to the quarterly sales figure of the popular Nintendo DS handheld system. These figures place Apple's iPod touch [and iPhone] as very strong potential competitors for the handheld gaming department. In the calendar year of 2008, Nintendo reported selling 31.43 million Nintendo DS handheld units, averaging 7.86 million a quarter. Apple has sold 7 million combined iPhone and iPod Touch units in the most recent quarter.
Of course, Nintendo DS sales figures probably slowed due to the pending release of the new Nintendo DSi. A true test will be the two companies next quarter results. If the iPhone and iPod touch can continue their momentum and how well the Nintendo DSi will fare in the troubled economy.
Still, the rise in popularity of the iPod touch as a handheld gaming device is apparently a surprise amongst many, who never dared dream that the App Store would serve such a catalyst to driving Apple's multi-touch devices as strong gaming devices.
Even Needham & Co's analyst Charles Wolf did not appreciate what the role of the iPod touch was when it was first introduced back in September 2007. He says that "it’s now clear that the touch has emerged as a viable game-playing platform."
According to Apple, about a third of the 35,000 apps in the App Store are games. It's possible that the rise of the iTunes App Store, and its ability to deliver competing gaming content for a fraction of the cost of a DS or PSP game, could be a factor in driving sales of the iPod touch.
Apple is indeed making its presence known to the handheld gaming world. Watch out Nintendo and Sony!