Once the king of mobile gaming, over the past few years, Nintendo has found itself caught flatfooted by the rise of smartphones. Although the company’s 3DS portable game console can’t be said to be a total flop, it’s certainly not selling in gangbuster units compared to previous consoles, like the DS or Gameboy. The reason why is simple: most people have a perfectly good gaming device in their pockets all the time now in the form of their smartphone, and don’t want to have to carry around (let alone buy) an entirely separate device dedicated to gaming.
Many critics have suggested that it’s time for Nintendo to give up and just start releasing games based on its prize characters such as Mario or Link as iOS apps. Such advice is short-sighted, but that doesn’t mean Nintendo can’t be better leveraging Apple’s iOS platform… which is exactly what the Big N seems to have in mind.
In an interview, Nintendo Of America President and COO Reggie Fils-Aime said that the Gameboy-maker was “experimenting” with mobile platforms.
“We recognize that there are a lot of smartphones and tablets out there, and so what we’re doing is we’re being very smart in how we use these devices as marketing tools for our content,” Fils-Aime said.
He went on to say:
We’re also doing a lot of experimentation of what I would call the little experiences you can have on your smartphone and tablet that will drive you back to your Nintendo hardware. It’s largely going to be much more marketing activity-oriented, but we’ve done little things where there’s some element of gameplay – a movement, a shaking, something like that.
In other words, don’t expect a full Mario game on iOS, but do expect Nintendo to release marketing tie-ins for upcoming 3DS and Wii U games… for example, a Mario endless runner.
Many people will wonder why Nintendo doesn’t just give-up, and just start releasing games for iOS, but that’s too cynical. Nintendo is, in many ways, Japan’s Apple, tightly integrating hardware and software to create a magical experience. Telling them to just give up on hardware is like telling Apple to start licensing iOS to competitors and stop making iPhones. But Nintendo does need to be smarter about what a gaming console even looks like in a world saturated with smartphones, and it looks like they have finally started.