This week, Oasis Management founder Seth Fischer sent a letter to Nintendo president Satoru Iwata, once again demanding that the House That Mario Built release games for the iPhone, iPad and other mobiel platforms.
“The same people who spent hours playing Super Mario, Donkey Kong, and Legend of Zelda as children are now a demographic whose engagement on the smartphone is valued by the market at well over $100 billion,” the hedge fund manager wrote. Fischer says that Nintendo is “well placed to make an immediate entry into mobile” with “arguably the largest library of casual games.”
Generally speaking, Apple fans tend to agree with Fischer. After all, by all appearances, it seems like the iPhone is killing Nintendo by the death of a thousand cuts. Nintendo has even acknowledged that iPhone games have cost the company over a billion dollars in lost sales, and that they will soon be experimenting with iOS apps.
That said, Nintendo is, in many ways, the Apple of Japan. Not only do they specialize in integrating hardware and software, they have a comparatively huge war chest that means they can afford to take time to regroup. Nintendo has been in this situation before, after all: Apple lost the gaming edge with the Nintendo 64 and Gamecube, only to regain it with the Nintendo Wii. To become a software-only maker for mobile devices is to essentially give up what makes the company great. It’s the equivalent of Apple selling OS X to any computer that can run it, a la Windows.
On his part, Nintendo President Satoru Iwata says that just because everyone has iPhones “doesn’t mean that we should put Mario on smartphones,” and seeing what Fischer envisions for an iPhone version of Super Mario Bros., it’s easy to understand why.
“We believe Nintendo can create very profitable games based on in-game revenue models with the right development team. Just think of paying 99 cents just to get Mario to jump a little higher.”
Is that really the Nintendo game people want to be playing on their iPhones?