Nintendo: no to mobile gaming. Good on them.

Nintendo: no to mobile gaming. Good on them.With the recent announcement of a Pokemon game for iOS and Android, hopes were high that Nintendo would bless the mobile gaming scene with its charms. Instead, Ninty pointed out that Pokemon Co is effectively an independent entity, and reiterated that it’ll only develop games for its own hardware.

Initially I was a little disappointed, but the more I think about it, the more I respect Nintendo’s stubbornness and, well, refusal to move with the times.

I have a huge soft spot for Nintendo, having been reared on the SNES (Super Nintendo Entertainment System). I fondly remember the 8 and 16-bit days when Nintendo and Sega ruled the gaming roost, before Sony and Microsoft came along.

When Sony’s PlayStation 2 and Microsoft’s Xbox outsold the Nintendo Gamecube and Sega Dreamcast in the early noughties, Sega did the smart thing and bowed out, announcing that it’d give up on hardware (which typically isn’t particularly lucrative) in order to become a third-party software developer.

Meanwhile, Nintendo, undeterred by the fact that the PS2 outsold the Gamecube by a ratio of almost 7:1, soldiered on with the Wii. Oh how we laughed when Ninty debuted the motion-based controls. But clearly that gamble paid off, and now both Sony and Microsoft have followed suit with their own motion thingies.

The moral of the story? Nintendo knows best. Or does it? It recently released the first autosteroscopic gaming device in the 3DS, but it’s currently struggling to outsell the DSi. And there was the ill-fated Virtual Boy, which sold less than a million units and was discontinued after six months.

Perhaps it’d be more accurate to say that Nintendo has enough big fat cash cows that it can take the odd risk now and again. Pokemon, which it has a 30% share in, is still hugely popular, and then there are the Mario games, Nintendogs…

But it’s not just about money. Sure, Nintendo could fire out a handful of mobile games for iOS and Android, possibly even come up with something to give Angry Birds a run for its money, and ultimately pocket a few bucks. But Nintendo doesn’t like mobile gaming.

Nintendo has been quite outspoken about its dislike of the mobile gaming scene, particularly the quick-fix nature. And I have to agree. With the notable exception of Angry Birds, there haven’t been many mobile games that have served as anything other than a brief distraction.

Don’t get me wrong; there are some great, innovative titles out there. Indeed, some have a distinctly Nintendo-esque flavour, such as iBlast Moki. But for every iBlast Moki or Angry Birds there are thousands of forgettable duds. It’s definitely a case of quantity over quality.

I doubt Nintendo is particularly fond of the increasingly popular “freemium” model either, where developers give games away for free and seduce players with in-app content. It’s woefully transparent and arguably a bit tacky. Nintendo, on the other hand, prides itself on good, honest, family fun.

So while Nintendo is possibly shooting itself in the foot by refusing to make a foray into mobile gaming, you have to respect its stance. And don’t forget, the Wii is this generation’s biggest selling home console, and the Nintendo DS is the biggest selling handheld of all time. I’m sure Kyoto’s finest will be just fine.

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3 comments

blizzard7  Jul. 11, 2011 at 14:08

You could say the same about the Wii in terms of game quality. The amount of shovelware nonsense on the Wii makes me cringe. Even Nintendo's own IPs aren't immune with games like Donkey Kong: Barrel Blast, Wii Music and My Pokemon Ranch being particularly dreadful. Also you pay £1 for a game on iPhone, you're not going to be too bothered if it sucks, but £25 on a Wii game that's bad is going to make you very unhappy. Whatever happened to Ninty's "Seal of Approval" eh?

I was also reared on the SNES and soldiered on through the games droughts which plagued the N64 and Gamecube. When I heard about the Wii I thought "Finally! Now they're going to pull third-party support in again!" but instead the Wii got second-rate ports and another games drought. Speaking of ports, it staggers me how many times Nintendo can port a game and still charge full price (£30). Don't get me wrong OoT is a classic (as is Mario 64), but don't tell me that as much work went into porting a game (complete with all its bugs) as it did to make the original.

Nintendo needs to show the 3DS isn't an N64 port machine and it's games offer more value than the dozen or so iPhone games you can buy for the same price. Look at Steel Diver, a cool game, but is it really worth £30?

Microsoft have nailed it with Xbox integration on WP7 and arguably it's one of the biggest attractions on WP7.

supermetroid  Jul. 11, 2011 at 18:18

I'm just not sold on games on smartphones. Why play games on a small tiny screen when you could play games on a large TV with more immersive sound?

justanother182  Jul. 11, 2011 at 20:00

I'm with supermetroid, and I think the OP implies Nintendo feel the same. With all the duds out there, considerably outweighing the notables of the Mobile games industry, (such as Angry Birds, mentioned), I don't think Nintendo feel a need to enter this platform, full of advert-heavy, all-inclusive for good/bad, under the one-size-fits-all moniker "Mobile Games".
It doesn't fit their image, and they don't need it.
Just because they *could* enter this market, doesn't mean they should.
Which I think they know.

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