Nintendo Chief Says They’ll Make iOS Games Over Mario’s Dead Body

Nintendo Chief Says They’ll Make iOS Games Over Mario’s Dead Body

Now that Nintendo’s lucky anthropomorphic Mario star is fading, there’s been a lot of talk about the game maker looking for Princess Peach in another castle: the iOS App Store.

To speak more plainly, since Nintendo’s 3DS console is a bust, and since Apple’s App Store is such a phenomenon, there’ve been consistent rumors and shareholder insistence that Nintendo should take their cherished game properties to an iPhone near you.

Will it happen? Fat chance, Nintendo says.

In a recent interview, Nintendo president Satoru Iwata says that Nintendo will not make games for iOS devices.

“That is absolutely not under consideration,” he said.

I have to say, I think he’s right. Nintendo’s successes have all come from leveraging their in-house game characters and series to sell their own hardware. If you can chalk Nintendo’s recent foundering to anything, its that there recent first-party games haven’t really been any good. If Nintendo’s going to 1-Up itself here and jump start its foundering console businesses, it needs to get back to doing what it does best: making great games.

  • Tim Cooke

    Nintendo’s first party games are still excellent.  It’s their third party console support that sucks right now.

  • FJ

    lol wut? Mario is fading and the 3DS is a bust? 

  • GregsTechBlog

    Their hardware also sucks. Either underpowered with poor controls (Wii), or they cause eye strain unlike anything else (3DS). 

    Sure, you can turn the 3D off, but then you’re paying for something you won’t use, and you have that tempting switch up there at all times. 

  • Miles Mueller

    The 3DS came out earlier this year and they already have lowered the price more than $50 bucks.  It costs them $100 to manufacture it, they’re selling it for $170.  Terrible profit margin!

  • AlecTheFirst

    1-Up itself. ICWYDT.

  • Mark G

    Nintendo may not bring Mario to iOS, but with little effort many of their fans can with a simple little emulator. As far as I’m concerned, Nintendo should use this to their advantage and make some sales on their original NES or SNES titles. Maybe it will even help promote some of their current listings for the Wii or 3DS.

    Lets face it, how many grown adults would play or buy Super Mario Brothers if it were in the App Store? Quite a few would be my guess.. Now how many of those same adults will carry a portable Nintendo DS or 3DS with them to do the same? Very very few I’m willing to bet.

  • carlospacheco74

    They won’t bring their games to iOS as long as Nintendo is making money off consoles. Specifically handheld which has been their bread and butter for the past 10 years. Nintendo has been very slow to bring their classic titles as downloads and obviously they want to control it 100%. The days of charging 40$ for re-issues of Super Mario and Starfox are over… the reason the 3DS is not keeping up is because of apps on iOS. Why would I want to buy old games for 40$ when I can try new innovative ones on my iPhone for $1.99? There are still people are still willing to pay $40 for classic Mario rehashes on consoles but those days are numbered. Nintendo will fight until the end to keep its first party titles away from other distributors but I think if Nintendo wants to survive it will have to change its distribution and evolve to today’s standards. 

  • prof_peabody

    A product is generally “done” when it starts using gimmicks to sell itself.  This has *always* been true, from fins on cars in the 50’s to jazzy designs for sneakers, and a million other examples.  

    3D was a gimmick in the 50’s the first time it was popular, it was a gimmick in the 70’s the second time and remains so now in the 2010’s.  If the games aren’t good enough and the hardware isn’t good enough, adding 3D won’t do anything but temporarily disguise that fact and perhaps distract the user for a season while the platform slowly goes broke.  

    The 3DS is a stop-gap product designed to make you think that something new is going on when in fact it’s really the same old everything.  If Nintendo had an idea where the platform was going, or a new hardware or software design, they wouldn’t have tried to tack on 3D in the first place.  They are just dancing on ice here.  

  • Jan Becker

    And that’s why Nintendo is stupid. They could makes so much money with those games…

  • EmmaMitch557611616577

    Collapse lol wut? Mario is fading and the 3DS is a bust?

    Heyy Guys, I just got a $829.99 iPåd2 for only $103.37 and my mom got a $1499.99 HDTV for only $251.92, they are both coming with USPS tomorrow. I would be an idiot to ever pay full retail prices at places like Walmart or Bestbuy. I sold a 37″ HDTV to my boss for $600 that I only paid $78.24 for.
    I use BÏDFiRsT. COM

  • Federico Rossellinni

    Hasn’t Nintendo heard of something called ‘Product Lines’ ?   Having a different category of games for iOS only, not only is very feasible for them, but it would also be very profitable.   They have a unique speed to market opportunity here, and they don’t see it?   they’re stupid indeed.

  • weadre

    Most console manufacturers actually make a loss on hardware, and recoup that through software licensing. As far as I’m aware, Nintendo are the only console manufacturer to actually make profit on each unit sold from day one. Sony for instance were losing $100+ per unit for years after the ps3 launched.

  • dale2000

    “They won’t bring their games to iOS as long as Nintendo is making money off consoles.”

    I agree with you, since they’re not making money off the original NES anymore, but could make more off original NES titles.  And while you observe that they are still selling re-hashes on newer Nintendo platforms, I think the argument becomes very weak to not release once-exclusives outside Nintendo hardware.

    There should be some sort of generational rule… If the game is released during:

    The current hardware’s generation … they should keep it exclusive to that hardware
    One gen behind current hardware … they should diversify out to other Nintendo hardware
    Two gen’s behind current hardware… they should open the floodgates to everyone willing to port the game.

    IMO.

  • CharliK

    Why will I not be shocked if a year or two down the road, they are going bankrupt and someone buys them out and first thing they do is port all the games to Android and iOS

  • MoistPup

    Ok, wow, this is some crazy talk by John Brownlee.  Super Mario Galaxy (1 and 2) were among the best games I have *ever* played on any platform. 

    Zelda on the other hand… meh.  Give me 2D top down view on any device, iOS is probably perfect for supporting it.

  • Cold_dead_fingers

    I completely disagree with you. As far as gaming systems go, there really is no vision needed. Gaming systems just get more and more powerful. That’s all that really needs to happen. Nintendo could have made a true Vita competitor but instead they decided to create a more fun experience. While I question some technologies added like an accelerometer and cameras, 3D is fun on the system. 3D is often integrated really well into the games too.

    What makes no sense is asking for games from a top game maker for a system that doesn’t have physical buttons. Hell, Apple could create a gamepad for iPods and iPhones and that would make sense to port Nintendo games. Until then, there’s no point of even talking about games on iOS.

  • MurderinMurphy

    “Nintendo chief says they’ll make iOS games over Mario’s dead body.”

    What’s that old saying about pride and falling and whatnot?

    Also, Nintendo can always, *ahem*, get a new chief.

  • fortninety

    It’s pretty obvious some folks here have zero familiarity with Nintendo. This statement from Brownlee is all that one needs to do, and has been the reason why Nintendo has billions in the bank…

    “Nintendo’s successes have all come from leveraging their in-house game characters and series to sell their own hardware.”

    … Though I also take issue with how their recent games are no good. Whomever said Super Mario Galaxy 2 is one of the finest of this generation knows what he/she is talking about.

  • kriswm

    I have a feeling this is gonna bite the CEO in the a**.
    We’ve seen A LOT of CEO’s get booted out lately for not producing results and catering to what consumers are clamoring for.
    i wouldn’t be surprised to see a push from the board or shareholders for his resignation soon.

  • Raymentj

    Ummm sorry to break it to the Nintendo head, but Mario is not alive, just sign on the dotted line! ;o) 

  • Mr C

    Grammar!

    “its that there recent first-party games haven’t really been any good”
    You mean “it’s” with the apostrophe, and “their” rather than “there”.

  • Raymentj

    ‘You mean “it’s” with the apostrophe, and “their” rather than “there”.’
    Fullstop should be contained within the “apostrophe.” Even when quoting. It’s all fun and games! lol ;o)

  • imajoebob

    Prescient?

  • Adrian Werner

    Of course they won’t. Why would they? You can’t make any real money on iOS gaming. The platform is popular as hell, but the ultra low prices of games, focus on cheap, short and primitive games, insane competition and growing focus on freemium titles all lead to a simple fact: nobody is making big money on iOS gaming outside Apple. Mario titles would sell well on iOS, but the money made on that would be laughable to Nintendo, a mere pocket change not worth risking cannibalization of their hardware sales.

  • Stuart Otterson

    Depends on the style being deployed http://www.worldwidewords.org/

  • Stuart Otterson

    Just like Apple could be making so much money licensing their OS to other platforms.

  • Stuart Otterson

    Nintendo take the Apple strategy in many respects.

  • oriorda

    You seem to argue against yourself. If, as you claim, Nintendo’s special skill is in making great games, it follows it isn’t so good at making platforms. And second rate platforms have little or no chance of success these days. Ask RIM. Better, therefore, to ditch its hardware and get onto iOS as fast as it can.

    The argument nobody makes money from iOS gaming except Apple is belied by the data. Rovio, for example, has somehow parlayed itself into a $billion+ valuation based almost entirely on iOS sales.

  • TechHog

    Nintendo’s still making far more money from being in the hardware business than they would if they switched solely to iOS. The entire smartphone gaming business brought in $2 billion in revenue last year. Nintendo alone brought in $12 billion in revenue in that same timeframe. Rovio was the exception, not the rule, and that bubble may pop eventually. Besides that, Rovio has a fraction of Nintendo’s value.

    I know that Nintendo’s profit this year is going to be very low, but there’s no reason to believe that it would be higher if they switch to iOS, and in the long term Nintendo will make far more money by staying in hardware if the 3DS succeeds. Right now, things are looking up for it. 

    I won’t blame you for your mistakes, however. You don’t seem to know much about the gaming business. It’s totally different from the phone business. In the gaming business, hardware always plays second fiddle to software. Why do you think the DS beat the PSP, or the Wii beat the PS3 and XBox 360? Even then, while Nintendo’s hard has flaws, it’s solidly built and is far from “second rate.”

  • TechHog

    The board agrees with him, and the shareholders don’t have enough power to do anything because the biggest shareholder was the former president and the guy that put Iwata there in the first place. And the shareholders are wrong, anyway. Nintendo is way to large of a company to survive from only iOS development. They would have to scale back big time.

  • TechHog

    What dream world are you living in? lol

  • TechHog

    lol. They have $13 billion saved up. It’s 100% impossible for them to go bankrupt anytime soon. And with 3DS picking up, you and the shareholders will be eating a five course meal of crow very soon.

  • TechHog

    Because it would remove incentive to buy their hardware, which could actually cost them profit.

  • Stuart Otterson

    “In the gaming business, hardware always plays second fiddle to software.”
    In some respects Apple isn’t that dissimilar. They never did go for overly powerful hardware but they didn’t need to cus the close integration of software was what made the hardware powerful compared to rivals.

  • TechHog

    You’re saying that the 3DS was done before it even released?

    Besides, it’s using games to sell itself. It’s easy to tell that you have zero knowledge of the gaming market.

  • TechHog

    True. However, oriorda is acting as if 3DS is an Android phone.

  • oriorda

    The game has moved on. What worked 10 years ago is far less relevant today. People don’t want multiple devices each dedicated to a function. They want a platform they can carry around with them that does everything they want: email, videocalls, books, TV, movies, surfing and a hundred other apps, of which gaming is just one. I make an exception here for hardcore gamers, who – I assume – may be happy to stick with a dedicated gaming device. But for every one of those I am guessing there are MANY (dozens for sure, and maybe even hundreds) who want to have their gaming supplied on their platform of choice.

    So, if you want to be in the mass market, you need to be on a platform used by the masses. Nintendo isn’t going to be one of the very small number of platforms the market settles upon. This logic leads one to the obvious conclusion if Nintendo wants to stick around: get onto the winning platform(s).

    And if Nintendo believes hardcore gamers will demand bells and whistles on their device, then build a plug-in to attach to the winning platform(s).

  • TechHog

    “Cause eye strain unlike anything else?” That is a comical exaggeration. And anyway no one with sense buys game systems just for the hardware.

  • TechHog

    That report was wrong. It has been confirmed that they’re now taking a loss on each 3DS sold.

  • oriorda

    ‘not worth risking cannibalization of their hardware sales.’  This is exactly the conundrum faced by incumbents: how to kill the goose that laid the golden eggs so you’ll have new geese tomorrow. It’s called ‘disruption’ and it’s very hard to do. Your entire company is geared to keeping the old goose alive, whilst a small cadre of innovators is trying to bring the new goose to the table. Whilst these internal fights are going on, a new entrant makes its appearance with something completely disruptive. At the beginning, the new boy is ridiculed and nothing is done to build a competitor. By the time the incumbent realizes the new boy has eaten most of its lunch, it’s over. 

  • TechHog

    By that logic, Sony and Microsoft both need to give up and go to iOS as well.

    Your logic is way too simple. You need to take a step back. A company as large as Nintendo can’t survive on iOS. To make money as a primary iOS developer, they’d need to scale back considerably. There isn’t a single company primarily developing for iOS that’s even a quarter as big as Nintendo is. Don’t you think that there’s a reason for that? This is something that would only be done in the absolute worst-case scenario, and Nintendo isn’t even close to having to take measures that drastic. If the time comes that they decide that they’d make more money in the long term by shifting away from hardware, they’ll likely have no choice. For now, giving up hardware in favor of iOS development won’t help them. They’d be jumping the gun. 3DS still has great potential to be a huge success, and Wii U might shock us all.

    You’re going to be eating a lot of crow this holiday. I assure you of that.

  • GregsTechBlog

    No, but you don’t buy a game system if the hardware causes eye strain within seconds of playing, and nausea if you keep playing. 

  • TechHog

    If that happens to you, it’s because you have a medical problem. Only a small fraction of people are affected in that way. (Though I will admit that some games have a flawed 3D effect that causes issues.) That has nothing to do with Nintendo at all, and it can be turned off anyway. And your “tempting switch” argument is just stupid.

  • GregsTechBlog

    20/20 vision. 
    10 seconds in front of a 3DS: “I’m going to go BLIND!”
    Thanks, but no thanks. I’ll stick with my more powerful, higher definition, slimmer, and more capable iPhone, thankyouverymuch. 

  • oriorda

    You seem supremely confident in your analysis. Time will tell if you are right to be so.

    To take your examples, Sony is finished as a significant leader. It had its day and failed to develop a longterm strategy that recognizes the primacy of software. I don’t know of a single significant piece of Sony software, in fact.

    Microsoft, to take your other example, will likely be one of the platforms that survives. Despite Ballmer, it looks as though it has at last hit upon a strategy that may well succeed in the mobile market. And Microsoft does know software and how to distribute it, and it has a proven ability to sew up effective hardware partners.

    Nintendo’s current size is no guarantee of its success on its current path. History is littered with huge companies that died because they failed to adapt. Most recently RIM and Nokia have been heading towards the morgue for this very reason.

    If, as you say, Nintendo as it exists today cannot survive off its software, then the sooner it slims down to meet the reality that the day of the dominance of the dedicated gaming platform is over, then the higher the chance it will still be around in 5 years.

    Attaching importance to what happens this holiday indicates to me a very short sighted nature for prognostications. What happens this Christmas is hardly an indicator for the next 5 years.

  • TechHog

    10 seconds? Oh, I see. Yeah, 3DS needs some time to get used to. But if you’re happy with you iPhone, who am I to say anything? Just don’t blame Nintendo for your unwillingness to give 3DS a real chance. :)

  • oriorda

    Excuse me? In what parallel universe could what I have said been twisted into a claim that 3DS is an Android phone?

  • TechHog

    No matter what happens, they’re not going to lose $13 billion dollars in five years. And stop putting words in my mouth. I didn’t say that they couldn’t survive of of their software; I said they can’t survive by sticking to iOS only. The comapny would have to change so much that it wouldn’t be Nintendo anymore. All of their top game designers would leave or be fired due to Nintendo not being able to pay them anymore, and they would have to flood the market with cheap, quickly-made games, which will affect the quality of the games, which would affect how they sell. If they don’t sell, Nintendo dies. It would be a huge risk that doesn’t have a great chance of paying off in the end. It only makes sense if Nintendo has no chance of succeeding with hardware.

    Also, Sony has a ton of huge games. None are as big as Mario or Zelda, but they still have more than enough to keep their gaming hardware alive.

    Arguing with you is useless. You still think that the gaming market and the smartphone market are exactly the same, so you’re talking out of your ass. It’s also clear that you don’t play any games other than Angry Birds. You don’t have the slightest clue what you’re talking about. The irony is that iOS would exist if Apple had the same attitude as you.

    You’re involved in the stock market, aren’t you?

  • TechHog

    That was a metaphor. I mean you’re acting as if 3DS is competing in a market where the main selling point is hardware due to software being largely the same.

  • TechHog

    Way too many metaphors in there. You went from sounding clever to trying to sound clever and failing horribly.

    Anyway, why are you so certain that smartphone gaming and dedicated gaming can’t co-exist? Dedicated gaming has always been niche, and as far as I can tell smartphones are expanding the market more than they are eating it. And why is it that you think that only the market leader can survive in a market? That’s what you call a monopoly.

  • oriorda

    There’s just the one metaphor there. You can discover this by counting. Start with one.. then proceed.

    Agreed: dedicated gaming can coexist. However, my point is it’s the nature of a disruption that the incumbent fails to appreciate early enough just how devastating to its business model is the new reality, and how much it needs to trim and or adapt to accommodate. Think Kodak.

  • TechHog

    Nintendo has already acknowledged $1 games as a danger to their business model and the entire industry. Right now, they’re trying to fight it, but if that doesn’t work they’ll try something new. Every five or so years the entire gaming landscape changes. Nintendo knows this. They’re a stubborn company and they won’t change until they feel they have no choice. This has worked against them many times, and it could work against them now. The only thing is that they still bring in more revenue than the entire mobile gaming industry. (Profit is another story, but then again you’re comparing one company to thousands.) The only way that going into iOS would benefit them at this point would be if they were to cause a total disruption in that market. Doing that would take away resources from software developed on their own platforms and give people a very good reason not to buy their hardware, which would only benefit them if they can’t sell that hardware anymore. 

    Just like you said that one good holiday season won’t be enough to say that the 3DS has a healthy future, giving up because they had one bad quarter really doesn’t make sense. If they followed that logic, they’d have given up 15 years ago when PlayStation took over. Could they do something like porting some of their older games to iOS without hurting their platforms? Maybe, but many of those games have been ported everywhere already, so the actual sales would be questionable. 

    That said, Nintendo probably should consider ways of using iOS to market their hardware and software. That would probably be the best way of adapting, given their current state. Sadly, they consider iOS a competitor, so that probably won’t happen. (Well, actually, one of their affiliates has already taken that route, but it’s not likely that they themselves will.) Time will tell how things turn out. I stand by the notion that only Nintendo’s business model is in potential danger, however, and that they company is not in any danger of dying soon unless they get desperate and start spending money aimlessly.

  • oriorda

    I agree with your assessment.

    It’s the mark of a true business visionary that he can foresee the effects of disruption and take EARLY action himself to disrupt his own business model. It’s completely foolish for the Nintendo guy to stick his head in the sand and hope iOS and Android mobile gaming will go away. Imagine what he could do if he unleashed his company’s skills and vast experience onto building a gaming strategy that really took advantage of the incredible software and hardware platform offered by iOS in particular. It’s not going to go away and it is – probably –  going to eat his lunch.

  • TechHog

    He knows that iOS won’t just go away. It’s just that he views iOS as a competitor and, therefore, doesn’t want to support it. And the thing is, it is a competitor. To go with your analogy, he feels that it’s better to fight to keep his lunch than it is to just hand it over without a fight. As it stands, diving headfirst might end up benefiting Apple more than it benefits Nintendo. They would make iOS more popular, but would end up killing their main source of revenue in the process. Really, it’s smaller devs that have the most to gain from iOS. One of the biggest gaming company in the world, however, won’t earn too much.

    There are large devs on iOS, but the vast majority of them still support dedicated platforms. With iOS, you’re forced to make low-budget titles to sell them at a low price, so it leaves a lot to chance. You need to come up with a mind-blowing, addictive, fun and quirky game that no one would expect. Nintendo could come up with such an idea, but then the question becomes “why not flesh this out more and put it on our platform instead?” That’s the issue with Nintendo. It’s also why Sony and Microsoft don’t put original games on iOS. What seems logical to you is actually unprecedented in the gaming industry and has never been done by a platform holder in any sort of big way. Maybe you’re right and it is time for that to change. I guess we’ll see in time, but Nintendo isn’t the type to wave the white flag while they still have a fighting chance. The pride and honor of Japanese culture also plays a part, but I won’t get into that. They’ve been around for well over 100 years for a reason. 

    But I guess only time will tell if they’ve made the right decision. Will they ever hit the point they reached in 2007? I don’t think so. They’ve peaked, and that’s why investors want them to move on to iOS. The only question is whether or not they would actually grow from where they are right now by switching to iOS, and it seems that Iwata feels that the answer is no.

  • Wow.

    Nintendo’s recent games haven’t been good? And what has been? Call of Shit?

  • dodoria

    iPhone is not a game console. With it’s extremely poor battery life, it’s not even advisable to play mini games if you need to use it as a phone for calls and sms. I leave home early in the morning and go back at night and I have to charge my iPhone every day and I only play mini games occasionally when I’m out. 15 minutes playing a low graphics game 
    on my iPhone 4 takes almost 5% of the battery. That’s not exactly a good standard for a device that is supposed to handle games. Don’t forget web browsing and of course smsing and calling. It might have many functionalities but not the battery to handle it all.

  • GregsTechBlog

    Try letting your battery completely drain and then fully recharge. The battery on my iPhone 4 has lasted me for two days of browsing and gaming before needing a charge. 

About the author

John BrownleeJohn Brownlee is a Contributing Editor. He has also written for Wired, Playboy, Boing Boing, Popular Mechanics, VentureBeat, and Gizmodo. He lives in Boston with his wife and two parakeets. You can follow him here on Twitter.

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