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Editorial: Nintendo’s mobile push feels wrong, but is the right thing to do

They don't have much of a choice.

Late Wednesday afternoon, Nintendo went and broke the internet.

They did what they said they never would, what man expected them never to do. They’re going to make games for what they’re calling “smart devices”. That’s phones, tablets and what not. Nintendo are teaming with Japanese company DeNA (pronounced like DNA, by the way) which, low and behold, make games for smart devices, as well as the infrastructure like online stores and online services behind them.

This news came completely out of the blue and shocked pretty much everyone. Since the introduction of the App Store by Apple onto iOS devices just six years ago, Nintendo has vehemently denied and resisted calls to get on the mobile bandwagon. Iwata has been saying no to investors and fans in as many different ways as there are languages on Earth. This move has made analysts say Nintendo is doomed even more so than usual, spooking investors, dropping the big N’s stock value right off. While correlation doesn’t always equal causation, Nintendo’s lack of presence in the mobile marketplace hasn’t been left unnoticed.

It wasn’t until last year that Iwata’s stance on smart devices began to soften. With the proverbial writing on the wall, something had to be done to acknowledge these devices and the part they play in not just gamer’s lives, but the life of every connected human being on the planet. In a very short time, smartphones and tablets have not just changed computing and gaming, but our very way of life.

Let’s get a few things out of the way first to clear the air. This announcement does not mean that Nintendo is giving up on either home consoles or portables. The Wii U isn’t going anywhere and the 3DS isn’t either. To ensure this message was clear, Iwata even announced the name of Nintendo’s next ‘hardware’, codenamed NX. We don’t know what it’s going to do, but Nintendo says it’ll change the way we game again with a whole new concept – that’s something to worry about another year. For now, Nintendo have confirmed that they are remaining loyal to the dedicated gaming scene.

Dr Mario knows how tablets work.

Dr Mario knows how tablets work.

Nintendo have put off acknowledging smart devices for long enough, possibly leaving it too late. What they’ve decided to do is what Nintendo always does, tackling a problem in a very Nintendo way. This usual of course of action means things aren’t explained very well and there are numerous caveats and exceptions. Nintendo’s caution is pretty justified, as their track history shows they don’t get everything right the first time and, in some areas, never quite do. Online gaming works on Nintendo consoles, but its bare bones. The eShop is only now becoming a competent enough marketplace and the ‘account’ issue hasn’t really been resolved even now.

That is why this collaboration is one of the best things Nintendo has done for a while and the best solution for this situation. I’ve been reporting Nintendo news for 15 years, following them as a fan for even longer, and Nintendo need to be commended for taking this bold step into the modern marketplace. If done correctly, and given enough time, this deal with DeNA will fix several problems Nintendo has as a company, improving their infrastructure and defining their role in the ever-growing mobile marketplace.

It’s scary, isn’t it? Nintendo games, on smart phones and tablets. It just sounds wrong. We’ve been told for years by Nintendo and Satoru Iwata that all of this is bad, that it would devalue important IPs, that it would mean the end for the Nintendo we know and love. Well, Nintendo is already doomed (!), so what does it matter its games show up on phones? But wait, I hear you say, won’t this distract Nintendo from its ‘proper’ games on dedicated consoles and steal away money from development? That’s why Nintendo has teamed up with DeNA. I hadn’t heard about them before this week either, so it’s ok to admit that, but it has the infrastructure and the know-how to do what needs to be done. If people really enjoy playing games on their phone, then why shouldn’t Nintendo leverage this opportunity?

The thing is, we’re not going to see mainline Nintendo titles here. Iwata and DeNA have made it absolutely clear they’re only working on original titles, suited to mobile game play that can be played for minutes at a time. One could argue that the Nintendo 3DS is portable and they sort of do this already, but you aren’t going to see The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask on your iPhone or Android device anytime soon. In fact, you’re not going see any classic Nintendo game on there. Nintendo know the controls don’t work on those devices any good, so they’re not going to even bother.

Mario has always been on phones... or under.

Mario has always been on phones… or under.

These mobile games are likely not going to appeal much to you and I, the classic Nintendo or gaming fan. I feel old as hell saying this, but while we’ve grown up with D-Pads, 8-Bits, 64’s and triggers, kids are growing up with touch screens, Minecraft and in-app purchases. It sounds completely crazy but so does whatever crap is on the radio these days to my ears.

I’m really, REALLY (really) excited about what this means for Nintendo’s online efforts. I don’t mean online as in multiplayer, but more what DeNA can do with the Nintendo Network ID, the eShop, Miiverse and the dreaded ‘account’ system. I mentioned it before, but Nintendo do things in a very Nintendo way. Sometimes they suck and sometimes they just function alright – that’s where Nintendo has been for years now. We’ve heard about them making a new web eShop for years now. Earlier this year, we heard about the account system getting redone. Now, we know how and when this is going to happen. Club Nintendo is even getting completely redone on this new system. Nintendo is too stubborn of a company to be able to make this system themselves, but by crafting this deal, they’ve effectively acknowledged that they don’t understand easy it is to use highly advanced and content-rich platforms like the App Store, Google Play Store, Steam and every other online system in the world where you can just download your purchases at the push of the proverbial button. This stubbornness is what makes Nintendo what it is. God, it’s frustrating sometimes.

Nintendo ‘going mobile’ isn’t going to be the end of all the games we love and enjoy from Nintendo, I truly believe it. I think it might even help them – this has been too big of a distraction for far too long and it’s hurt not only their pride, but it’s left their bottom line in tatters.

Nintendo fans need to look at the gaming world as it is – changed – and accept the new order of things. Everyone needs to remember that change is good. Keeping things the same never helped anyone.

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About The Author
Daniel Vuckovic
The Owner and Creator of this fair website. I also do news, reviews, programming, art and social media here. It is named after me after all. Please understand.
3 Comments
  • Leiigh
    March 20, 2015 at 12:20 pm

    This news is easy to parse, but as we have seen already there are so many inconsistencies and flat out untrue parts to this being reported.

    There seems to be more of a ‘F*** Nintendo’ vibe than usual online, given the fact that the company has made great strides in recent months. The announcements were LIVE-STREAMED IN ENGLISH and I am still seeing misinformation being spread. American gaming has and will continue to spin whatever happens to their benefit.

    The American train of thought wasn’t always ‘Nintendo should go mobile’, it was “Nintendo should go AMERICAN’. That is, allow themselves to be bought by a Disney or Amazon (let’s say) and go third-party.

    This announcement is as far away as ‘American-friendly’ as things could possibly get.

    Little Johnny USA doesn’t like that.

    We do not know what to expect, yet mega-gaming sites feel it fine to publish unsubstantiated crap after they asked the coffee girl “what characters would you like to play games of on your phone” so I’m not going to make any judgements until the software starts coming out. I’ve even seen more than one report that this is a ‘back door’ excuse for Nintendo to go completely software only.

    I stand by this:

    https://twitter.com/blueredandgold/status/413635764338323456

  • JJ
    March 20, 2015 at 7:54 pm

    Uggh I wish it wasn’t like this but the title really does sum it up, ‘NINTENDO’S MOBILE PUSH FEELS WRONG, BUT IS THE RIGHT THING TO DO’. As much as I dislike smartphone gaming, I’ve always thought Dr Mario would be so great on a phone. I don’t really know how to feel about this situation but I guess as long as Nintendo continue to make console games I’m happy .

    Anyway well wriiten article!

  • March 22, 2015 at 5:23 pm

    I don’t think it feels wrong, at all. I mean, look at all the little spin off games that have been coming out for years on Nintendos consoles. Pokemon Dash and Trozei, as lame as they were, would work well on mobile devices. There’s a ton of fun, small games they could make. Hell, they could do what Sega have been doing on mobile recently. An endless Mario runner, Links Crossbow Training on tablets, a Kirby themed Doodle Jump rip off, etc.

    Basically, make the same type of games we already see on mobile, but with Nintendo IP put on top of it. From what DeNA already do, that’s essentially what we’re looking at anyway.

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