Let’s begin with a well-established, well versed fact. Nintendo’s 3DS has not had the most elegant or successful launch in the company’s long and illustrious line of portable gaming machines. Between a lack lustre release line-up, poor battery life and of course the massive price drop, you would be forgiven for thinking Nintendo has lost their way a little in the portable domain. Increased competition and capabilities from mobile devices such as Apple’s iPhone have taken a sizeable chunk out of its target market, with people combining the joys of gaming and phoning into one easy to carry solution.
When the scale of success the DS enjoyed is measured against the relative indifference 3DS is being greeted by, it does not make for promising reading. We have industry news sites, analysts and investors predicting or suggesting that Nintendo should begin to make games for opposition hardware such as iPhone/iPad or Android powered smartphones. So could Nintendo make the leap from home hardware systems to the dark side, and start to support monolithic companies such as Apple in its crusade for world domination?
In my humble opinion, the answer would have to be no, at least not in the near future. Even if Nintendo does decide to bring content to iPhone, I do not think it will be in any recognisable guise that we are familiar with. Remember; Nintendo is ridiculously introverted (in a good way) when it comes to the industry it navigates so well. Putting their name or IPs to anything other than Nintendo hardware has only proven to be disastrous, the CDi for example, with memories of a camp Link still resonating in the darkened corridors of internet land, forever besmirching the series’ fine reputation.
“Adventure” is used in the loosest possible sense of the word.
My opinion on the matter is that the whole situation smacks of inflammatory “tabloid”-like sensationalism of the subject. Yes the 3DS is performing below expectations, yes Apple and companies that develop for Apple/Android devices are making an absolute mint, but does this mean Nintendo should now follow suit? Of course not! Like it or not, part of what makes Nintendo so desirable to the consumer and revered by the industry is its irremovable stubbornness. Nintendo (again in my opinion) is not viewed as stubborn in the arrogant way of “well we don’t want people to play our games unless they buy Nintendo products” (even though they are). No, Nintendo is seen as stubborn in a protective, good for the industry type of way; whereby the experiences it curates would only work best on their proprietary hardware. Whoring Nintendo IPs out to different companies would be like taking Buzz Lightyear from Pixar and letting Dreamworks’ Shrek have his fiendish way with him. It just doesn’t seem right.
Whether you agree with this assessment of Nintendo’s intentions or not, I still think it would be very shortsighted of it to release content on iPhone et al. Churning out titles for rival formats would surely devalue 3DS and maybe, in the long run, Nintendo. What is the point of buying a 3DS if Nintendo is putting efforts into other portable systems, especially if it have always been known to produce games for its own systems. As pointed out in my previous article, Nintendo has become ever more reliant on its own software; to turn the tides against shovelware so to produce games of the same caliber for rival systems would make no sense in my eyes. Of course, Apple would welcome Nintendo aboard the app store train, and there is no doubt the big N would make a killing on the sales front, but at what price? Can you really imagine Nintendo, a company steeped in Japanese and self-righteous traditions releasing games for an American company, each said to be the other’s biggest rival? I personally find this hard to see happening, but at the same time would not discount it flat-out.
A snapshot of things to come?
One thing to think about is that if Nintendo were to release content for iPhone then it does not have to be affiliated with Mario or indeed any of Nintendo’s core line of games. It could (for example) deliver a fitness app which works with Wii Fit or produce games through another development team created solely for iOS type devices. Saying that, I still find it difficult to envisage a future where this type of scenario actually comes to fruition. Far more likely is the outcome that, if (and only if) Nintendo deems it appropriate, it will wield its significant financial muscle to buy out a mobile firm, much the same way Google has just purchased the cellphone arm of Motorola. Although, even this is fanciful at such an early stage of 3DS life.
My gut feeling about 3DS is that sales will turn around once quality titles are released for the system. There is no need to panic. Titles such as Metal Gear Solid 3D, Mario Kart 7, Super Mario 3D Land and Super Smash Bros. 4 are sure to buoy the sales figures, significantly increasing the install base of the fledgling system. Talk of Nintendo content jumping ship to rival hardware is just reactionary investor and rumour talk in relation to the current woes Nintendo is suffering. You can imagine as an investor it would be easy to forget where Nintendo was before the Wii and DS dominated their respective hardware sales charts. Slight wobbles in comparative sales at the beginning of 3DS life cycle can and will be ironed out as the system progresses.
This is not to say we will never see Nintendo release some sort of content on iOS but for the time being and at least whilst Iwata is at the helm, it will not be happening any time soon. Even if Nintendo does decide to release content for iOS, I believe it will be in an unexpected form that many of us would not have seen coming. Certainly Nintendo would not be foolish enough to devalue and harm prospective sales of its (for now) number one console by developing similar content for rival systems, one of which it makes no money whatsoever from in sales.
Of course, it would be dangerous to second guess Nintendo, and who knows. We may well see an Apple developed Mario game, where coins are replaced by hundred dollar bills, mushrooms are apples, Bowser is Bill Gates and Princess Daisy is the personified embodiment of Nintendo, being saved by a moustached, olive skinned, dungaree wearing Steve Jobs from the clutches of obscurity. This incidentally, would still beat the crap out of the CDi’s Zelda games.