The tragic future of Nintendo on iPhone, iPad and Android

You think Nintendo should scrap its consoles and head for other platforms? We’ve seen where this leads, and it isn’t pretty…

It’s 2015, 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.

The Japanese gaming giant spent 2014 slowly winding down production of its consoles, leading to last-minute panic-buying of the few remaining 3DS handhelds and Wii U consoles on the shelves.

In just a few moments, the first multi-platform smartphone release of a Nintendo property will be made available for download: New New Super Mario Bros. Costing just RM3.31 on iOS and entirely free on Android, hacks the world over are rubbing their hands together with glee, positively frothing at the prospect of figuring out all the many different ways of saying “I told you so” over the coming weeks. They’re positive a “beleaguered” Nintendo will again be propelled to the dizzy heights of gargantuan profits, cutting-edge relevance and extra-shiny shininess on smartphones and tablets.

Game Over

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 RM69.99? How about RM1.99 for a (single-use) Star? And for just RM4.99, permanently unlock Mario’s ‘Racoon Suit’!

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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 in 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.

[Samsung Galaxy S4 render by wahashmi; iOS renders via Pixeden]

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