For over a year now, Nintendo’s investors have been pressuring the gaming giant to go mobile. And we’re not talking handheld systems, either. Since the initially disappointing sales results of the company’s 3DS, financial backers have been asking the Big N to consider allowing Mario to make a jump of a totally different kind: onto Apple’s iPhone.
Despite the massive dent the platform had made in traditional portable marketshare, however, Nintendo’s reaction towards iOS - and mobile in general - was cold. Specifically, company President Satoru Iwata was firm on the fact that the company’s IP would only be seen on its own products, as long as he was around. Flash forward to today, and gameplay on phones and tablets has only gotten more popular, making up a staggering 58 percent of the 2011’s $3.3 billion in portable revenue. It’s in this context that one keen fan has launched a web and Facebook campaign once again asking Nintendo to look towards the future.
Aptly dubbed “Nintendo go mobile,” the effort is a conceptual look at some of the ways the company could bring its IP to a phone near you. What makes it unique, however, is the special care and attention that seems to have been paid to devising a strategy that - far from degrading the reputation of classic franchises - would complement existing titles wonderfully.
For example, “Super Mario Dash” is a suggested title that would transplant the residents of the Mushroom Kingdom to the world of the endless runner, testing players to see how far they can take each character amid a field full of enemies, obstacles, and power ups. Think of it like Mario meets Rayman Jungle Run. Other standouts include the same one and two button “Nintendo Classics” that exist on the 3DS eShop, like Excitebike and Punch-Out!!, as well as Mario Kart Arcade GP - an existing title seen at quarter arcades that has lay untouched for years.
Meanwhile, the unnamed creator calls him or herself a “true fan” who “[feels] like a relative” of a company that refuses “to see that any major portable handheld gaming system that is not a modern mobile phone, is in it’s [sic] final era.” And like a relative, the author says, they are trying to gather groundswell around an idea that could bring attention to something Nintendo won’t acknowledge. While not all encompassing, the argument makes strong points about the way today’s current market leaves little social or practical room left to carry around a dedicated handheld gaming system, especially when contrasted against the massive market penetration by iOS and Android. Moreover, I love the way all the suggested titles deftly avoid stepping on the toes of their original inspirations, instead acting as clever “supplementary” content.
One visit to the campaign’s growing Facebook fan page, however, and it’s easy to see a small but vocal group hotly debating the merits of the idea. User Matthew Maldonado counterargues that “Nintendo’s hardware sales remain stable overall,” and contends that “Until standard game controls...are supported in phone hardware by way of a peripheral that is in mainstream usage, there will always be a market for handhelds.” Practically speaking of course, that’s what this all comes down to: debate. In all likelihood, Nintendo’s recent hints of a mobile web version for their Wii U “Miiverse” are the closest the company will come for some time to touching the phone and tablet market. The first step to change, however, is generating discussion, and I find “Nintendo go mobile” to be easily the most compelling attempt to do so, where this subject is concerned. But then, maybe it’s just because the campaign creator dredged up Uniracers as a suggested classic remake. Man, I loved that game.