Do Androids Dream of Emulated Mareep?

Could the future of gaming be the smartphone? Oliver believes it’s the present.

By Oliver Milne. Posted 11/18/2011 15:00 4 Comments     ShareThis

Androids dreaming of Mareep masthead 2

Since about 2008 we have lived in a world where the prediction of the end of the console/handheld has become as common place as the prediction that Politician X is corrupt or Christmas is going to be on December 25th this year. Yet in this same period video gaming has become the largest media industry backed up by sales of both the Wii and DS rocketing. So with the rise of mobile gaming and explosion in casual gaming, where next for Nintendo? Change the business model? Stick with what works? Or maybe they should pack it in and go home?

You may have read our very own Kevin Knezevic’s article on the growth of the mobile gaming experience, especially Angry Birds, and the challenge it presents Nintendo. I think, however, Nintendo have a bigger problem than just than the casual market, with its focus on simple mechanisms creating a heroin-like addiction to success, they risk losing their core audiences– children and “real gamers” (overly large children).

Children are a fickle bunch with no loyalty to the past, mostly due to not being alive for it. So Nintendo’s decidedly 20th century approach to children’s gaming is going to come back and bite them very heavily in the behind. I am not denying for a second that Nintendo continue to create great franchises for kids– who would possibly deny that this generation of Pokémon is just as adorable in its pastel colour range as any of the preceding 58 generations of digital companions. The thing is, as times change we simply cannot rely on the fact that Peach looks like the stereotypical Princess because I just don’t believe children are going to see her dress in all its pink floaty beauty. Why would a parent buy a dedicated console so that a child can play a colourful but relatively simple Animal Crossing game when they can get the same experience for free online, from their tablet, from their phone, from their television etc etc etc. The answer is that they won’t; anecdotally, I can tell you that all the under tens I know are well on the way to being dedicated gamers but the chosen platform appears to be Mummy’s laptop and Daddy’s iPhone, not the expensive, unversatile 3DS.

So what about more serious gamers? You know, the ones between 14-30 years old who spend much of their time sat in the dark, alone. In other words, me. For the last 6 weeks I really haven’t touched my DS; I still haven’t bought a 3DS despite it finally getting some titles that would have been compelling regardless of how much they stick out from the screen and I haven’t played a console game since I poured sections of my life into Xenoblade Chronicles.

Metallic Rose DS Lite
Oliver doesn’t actually have the Metallic Rose DS Lite, his regular pink DS Lite is just covered in a thick layer of dust!

“Oh! You’ve stopped gaming then?” I hear an entirely fictitious audience cry.

No. In fact, if anything I’ve been gaming more and increasingly in appropriate situations (You can’t take your DS out at a friend’s party or while a lecturer is boring 7 kinds of hell out of you, but phones exist in a black spot in modern society). I’ve been playing a selection of RTS, RPGs and FPS games all off my mobile phone, and you know what? It’s been awesome.

Graphically most of these are on par or better than the majority of DS titles and while the input mechanisms are usually simpler, the result of having just the one screen to play with, the gameplay that these producers are capable of is no less compelling or complex. Oh, and instead of shelling out £30 for a game and finding out that it is awful, you pay on average about £5 which makes you more likely to be adventurous and less likely to punch something when it turns out adventurous choices normally turn out to be shit ones.

And it’s not just me, mobile gaming is by the far the industry’s fastest growing sector and increasingly it isn’t just casual gaming solutions it presents, but rich and varied games that make you excited to be a passionate gamer.

But all is not lost for Nintendo! A great number of my friends have turned their android phones into a “best of” library of Nintendo ROMs; they are even willing to pay about £5 for the emulator. So what does this tell us? Nintendo and their partners are still creating stimulating content that people want to play and that if given an opportunity all but the most ardent of pirates will pay for content.

So children won’t know who you are and older people won’t care. Whatcha gonna do Nintendo? How about you start by releasing classic NES, SNES, GB and GBA titles on the Android and iOS marketplaces at a reasonable cost. How many people would pay £7 to play Mario Kart or Fire Emblem? I’m no researcher but I can tell you: babillions. In fact, why doesn’t Nintendo continue its trend of leading the industry by announcing their intention to develop original content for mobile platforms, recognising it as the future of gaming?

We all know why these things won’t happen soon. It would mean a a fundamental change in Nintendo’s business model and an acceptance that what they are doing now won’t work in the future and in a hostile and competitive business environment that could mean a short term loss of revenue.

But heed this warning, Nintendo folks! I’ve loved your content my entire life and will always buy it because you’ve distorted my brain and turned me into a automaton fanboy, but if you don’t embrace mobile gaming you’ll miss the opportunity to distort the thinking of a whole new generation. If you don’t even try, you may as well go home now.

4 Responses to “Do Androids Dream of Emulated Mareep?”

  • 402 points
    geoffrey says...

    I don’t deny the shift in the industry/the people who fund said industry. But for me personally, if it needs a virtual joystick, then I don’t want to play it. I have huge hands, and my thumbs “roll” off virtual joysticks almost instantly, to the point of being practically unusable. Games that function with touch and swipes (I have all three versions of Cut The Rope on my iPhone) are awesome. But in terms of action games, RPG games, etc – if the only way to control it is a “joystick,” then I need a joystick. A real one.

  • 225 points
    wombatguy880 says...

    The problem is every person who proposes this always thinks he/she is the normal gamer. We understand that you play your RTS and some rpg type games on these things and of course you play your bejeweled clones and angry birds on these things as well, this does not mean this is what gaming is or will ever be. I’m all for interesting new ideas and even new ideas that can use a touchscreen exclusively (the mario minigames on nsmbds were amazing and multiplayer). The problem is your current market does have some negatives. Sure I can search through the market and find some real gems but I also find more shovelware then has ever been on any system before. It’s the nature of what they have to do. These services wouldn’t be anywhere near their current lineup without being free or nearly free to develop for and while that’s a beautiful thing, it also means I have to contend with a lot of games that aren’t even as good as the early flash games available for free on the web. The systems are great but to make them perfect for all gaming then they need analog sticks, buttons, and a population who doesn’t immediately boycott a game because it’s more than $5. We can already have that in real systems like the 3DS and others. For the record I own a Acer Tablet and do enjoy it but it will never replace a dedicated gaming platform for the majority of game experiences. Scrabble and Angry Birds work well with it though.

  • 432 points
    dmgice says...

    Once upon a time, I could compose my own ringtone on my cell phone and I have an amazing version of Snake.

    Less than two years later, I had to update that phone and those options were no longer available for me. Five years from now, that version of Angry Birds you purchased will have to be repurchased or might not even run correctly on the newest iOS or Android device.

    My Copy of Tetris for the Game Boy still works inside of the original Game Boy and I have owned it for thirty years. No need to modify the device or repay for it. The same is true and will be true of every $40 3DS game that I own. I paid $40 for Ocarina of Time 3D Edition and I now own that game FOREVER. That “Spy Mouse” or “Cut the Rope” game that I “own” on my iPod won’t be there forever. Even less if the rights expire and repurchase or re-download becomes impossible. Look up Brave Story on the PSP as a good example in the United States. Unless you bought it within the window of it’s availability, the only way to get a copy of it is through UMD. The PSP Vita will also never see a copy of the game. However, my UMD copy will always be there.

    I believe that quality is subjective when it comes to games. If I wanted to be provocative, I could say that I enjoyed the entire iOS line up back when I played them in the Wario Ware series. People forget that Wario Ware is a satire of the phone market. (Why do you think the number one title is about a bird?) There are a few iOS success stories, but they are fleeting. Angry Birds is a good toy line, future animated series, and decent ad-supported pack in. However, it is a product of the device it is on. Until I can purchase Angry Birds on a cartridge or CD/DVD, than it will remain affixed to what ever whim the temporal iOS or Android Market has. That said, for every Angry Birds on that market, there are literally hundreds of thousands of games that just do not make it.

    A future with Nintendo on the iOS or Android would assure that MILLIONS of games would not make it. Think for a moment about how many games on the iOS are literally the same concept. Right now, the only reason the iOS has so many titles is because Apple let everything but charity games/apps fly on the device. You will find knock-off products galore on the system. Nintendo would poison the iOS market entirely; IF they were allowed protection of their own IP on it. Allowing Nintendo in as a serious iOS designer would do what Sega, EA, and SquareEnix already do: Harm and deter the smaller publishers. Nintendo already has this problem on their own consoles and handhelds. But on those devices, they have more control of what comes out, better IP control, and better profit margins. Imagine if anyone could have made an NES game and get away with releasing it everywhere without any moderation. It would be exactly like what happened to Atari. Nintendo’s limiting control was what kept the NES alive, even when both Sega and Atari released more powerful competing systems.

    TL;DR: The cellphone market is temporal, offers no protection for original content, and I already played every iOS game ever when I beat Wario Ware.

  • 849 points
    ejamer says...

    I never understand these articles.

    Right now Nintendo controls their own fate – they have full control over hardware and software, know exactly how far their games can be pushed and what the end user experience will be, and profit twice over by selling hardware along with the biggest software titles that are being playing on that hardware.

    Yet you and many others are advocating that they abandon this (working) strategy for one where they relinquish any control over hardware or the operating system where games will run? You really think they will be much better off selling games at 1/10th of the price while receiving a smaller cut of the revenue at the same time?

    I understand the allure of short-term profits and increased visibility. But it still seems like a selfish demand from gamers who always feel they should be catered to, and from stockholders who care only about today’s profits and have no concern about the future viability of a company.

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