It’s 2016, and tech hacks the world over are heartily slapping each-other’s backs, because Nintendo’s done exactly what they demanded in a slew of know-it-all opinion pieces.
After the shock announcement in March 2015 that Nintendo would partner with DeNA to release games for smartphones and tablets, it was perhaps inevitable the Japanese giant would slowly wind down production of its own consoles, leading to last-minute panic-buying of the last few 3DS handhelds on the shelves.
And now, less than a year later, the first multi-platform smartphone release of a Nintendo property is ready for download: New New Super Mario Bros.
On installing and launching New New Super Mario Bros., there is the usual tingling sensation of excitement. Sure, Nintendo is just recycling its own IP yet again, but recycled Nintendo has in previous years still bettered the vast majority of other handheld games. And given that New Super Mario Bros. and New Super Mario Bros. 2 were both modern classics, how could New New Super Mario Bros. be anything but? It has twice as much new, after all!
But tapping ‘Start’ sends a chill down the spine. What is this? Mario is in low-quality 3D? And hang on, he’s running without you holding down any controls, virtual or otherwise! “Tap to jump”, says the flashed-up instruction window. “Swipe down to slide.”
Hang on, isn’t this just… Temple Run? Confusion immediately leads to the first death, as Mario is killed by a suspiciously out-of-place Toyota Corolla. This is swiftly followed by the first of many shop pop-ups: Would you like a ‘Castleful of Mushrooms’ for £69.99? How about £1.99 for a (single-use) Star? And for just £4.99, permanently unlock Mario’s ‘Racoon Suit’!
Our princess is in another castle
Jaws hit the floor in a deafening crescendo. Nintendo is gone, and in its place is the mere husk of a great gaming company that once was. The few savvy commentators still alive after the great journo purge of 2014 point out that they’d warned everyone about this.
They’d said Nintendo had thrived because - rather like Apple - they owned both hardware and software, and could therefore innovate around the company’s own platform. They’d warned Nintendo that offering ‘free’ demos or mini-games on iOS or Android would be pointless, given that people into freebies burn through free content and then merely seek out more free content, rather than immediately popping out to buy some new hardware and plastic games cartridges. They’d urged caution based on what had become of Sega and Namco, both once-proud companies now reduced to whoring out old properties and packing them full of freemium nastiness and in-app purchases.
And now Nintendo is irreversibly caught in the quagmire, never to be the same again.
Naturally, though, because a large number of smartphone gamers have no taste and seemingly hate up-front purchases but are happy to waste small fortunes on IAP, New New Super Mario Bros. hits number one on Google Play and makes it into the ‘most grossing’ section of the iOS App Store, staying put until the heat death of the universe, occasionally troubled only by follow-up Nintendo hits Fruit-Swap Zelda, artillery game Angry Kirby, and one-thumb side-on iCopter knock-off F-Zero Mobile.
On seeing Nintendo raking in cash once again, the very relieved hacks feel vindicated, right up until the point they are bludgeoned to death by ex-Nintendo fans wielding specially sharpened NES controllers.