In a recent interview, Nintendo of America's president Reggie Fils-Aime revealed that the venerable gaming company has been tinkering with making games on iOS. Unfortunately, it isn't on full "Mario" or "Zelda" games, but rather smaller tie-in games.
"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," said Fils-Aime in a television interview. "We are 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."
So what does that mean for you? Ports of existing Nintendo games or proper sequels are off the table, but two other kinds of games may be coming to your iPhone or iPad soon. First, companion apps that work with Nintendo games. Maybe you go digging for treasure that you can add to a new "Legend of Zelda for Wii U." Or perhaps a "Super Mario Bros." minigame unlocks suits you can use in a new "Super Mario" game for the Nintendo 3DS handheld. The second possibility is small, branded experiences that stand on their own, promoting Nintendo's characters in the hopes it leads to system or game sales. You could be playing just mini game, such as a simple Smash Bros.-themed endless runner or a Metroid-based tower defense game.
It is no surprise that Nintendo is not yet ready to start putting entire games on mobile phones. The company has a thriving business selling titles from its older hardware in a Virtual Console app that plays on Nintendo's current platforms, so those would not make the jump to iOS.
And the company's own portable business with the Nintendo 3DS and the Nintendo 2DS is still going strong. Responding to data firm NPD Group's latest gaming sales numbers, the company said that "sales of Nintendo hardware systems in November increased by 100 percent over the month prior." That includes nearly 770,000 units of the Nintendo 3DS family, the company said pushing lifetime total sales past 10 million. The company also stated that several games had triple-digit growth over October, including legacy titles that are years old.
The company's Japanese management has made its views clear in the past. Speaking to gaming site CVG, Nintendo president Satoru Iwata said that Nintendo's game experiences require Nintendo hardware. "I'm really responsible for the long-term future of Nintendo as well, so I would never think about providing our precious resources for other platforms at all," he said. "And because we have hardware and software developers in the same building, they stimulate each other. Those kinds of conditions have enabled us to create something that no other companies can create."
Iwata has also criticized mobile games in the past, particularly during his keynote for the 2011 Game Developer's Conference. "The objective of smartphones and social networks, and the reason they were created, are not at all like ours," said Iwata. "These platforms have no motivation to maintain the high value of videogame software. For them, content is something created by someone else. Their goal is just to gather as much software as possible, because quantity is what makes the money flow. The value of videogame software does not matter to them."
Perhaps Fils-Aime's revelation that Nintendo is working on iOS content shows a subtle shift in the company's mobile stance. Either way, when Nintendo does start publishing games for Apple's devices, don't be surprised if they are small experiences that lack the scope or depth of past games from the company's lead franchises.
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