Nintendo Is Experimenting With iOS Apps


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.

  • Maxx1987

    It’s about freaking time. When you look at how good EA is selling apps and how good GTA works on the iPad. It can’t be to hard for Nintendo to sell lot’s of apps on the iPad and iPhone as well. Starting with Super Mario World, everyone will buy that one!

  • iJustinCabral

    If nintendo released Super Mario Kart, Super Mario World, and Pokemon on iOS, they would easily become the top paid apps.

  • Derek Schlicker

    Contrary to what Reggie Fils-Aime says, they’re not being smart about this at all. They don’t even need to develop new games.

    Take anything popular from the NES, Super NES and N64, update the look and feel of the old school mario and zelda games, sell them for $5, and they’ll rake in millions without a lot of cost.

    If anything, they’re being dumb by not fully committing to re-releasing old games. Really dumb.

  • Steven Quan

    Don’t agree with the author at all. His analogy with Apple doesn’t hold any water. Nintendo could easily port over old games like the original Legend of Zelda or Mario Kart (the SNES version) which Nintendo has no intention of ever re-releasing on any of their new consoles.

    Those old ancient games are no different from games like Pac Man, Street Fighter 2, Galaga, Defender, or Joust, all of which can easily be found in the App Store. These are old ancient games that nobody would release on a dedicated console like a Wii U, but would fit right in on a iPhone or iPad.

    Nintendo doesn’t even have to design the freaking game, all the hard work is done. All they have to do is port it over. If Nintendo would offer the original SNES version of Mario Kart with online playability that would undoubtedly be an overnight hit and it wouldn’t even be that hard because the graphics on the original Mario Kart were ancient.

    The old games like the original Mario Kart do not have anything to do with Nintendo’s long term gaming strategy. That’s why the author is wrong when he makes the comparison with Apple. Apple does have a long term strategy with their vertical integration of building software and hardware, but the older Nintendo games have nothing to do with Nintendo’s present or future long term strategic goals. None of those games would show up on any of Nintendo’s new consoles, hand held or not so what’s the point of holding them back?

  • Confusion_Lives

    I would have to say “Bye Bye Nintendo”, your future looks bleak when you’re so narrow minded. I am not about to go and by another console just to play your games, however I have two kids that would love to play mario kart etc on their iPads. There’s money you’ll never see.

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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