There’s been a lot of armchair analysis lately about Nintendo’s current financial situation. Thanks to slowing Wii hardware and software sales, a rocky launch for the 3DS amidst pressure from iOS and Android, and a so-so reception to the Wii U at this year’s E3, many are ringing the SEGA Dreamcast death bell for the once king-of-the-hill of video games.
“Just create software!”
“Nintendo is dead!”
The commentary comes from fans, media, and even other developers. The most common of these quotes takes aim at the changing landscape of mobile gaming. Because of how consumers play phone-based games, “Nintendo should put all of their games on iPhone.”
Re-read that sentence.
The company that currently makes its biggest fortune in Japan from portable gaming, and with its handheld 3DS outselling the rest of the consoles and handheld gaming-specific devices combined, should stop doing the only real thing that’s bringing in its money. Sure, sales of the 3DS don’t compare to the DS in terms of its heyday, but the 3DS is outpacing the device in its first year with several huge, system-selling pieces of software yet to come.
The 3DS is far from dead. The Vita is far from dead. The mobile phone market has changed how we play portable games, but it hasn’t replaced them. There is still a strong segment of the market that wants a portable device for a more traditional gaming experience when their TV is in use, on long plane flights, or for experiences that phones and tablets simply can’t deliver (yet).
The idea of Nintendo putting their games on iOS instead of (or in addition to) 3DS equates to asking the same of Sony and Microsoft for the Vita, PS3, and 360 respectively. The market on the iPhone is bigger, but it’s not right for one giant reason:
There are no buttons on an iPhone
Placing the classic Nintendo games on a mobile phone would sell millions, and including DLC or pay-to-play mechanics (buy coins and 1UPs for real money!) would result in piles of cash for Nintendo. If the company is going to re-issue these games on its virtual console every so often, there should be no reason why it doesn’t explore the notion on iOS, right?
One thing stands in that way.
Have you played Mega Man 2 on the iPhone? It’s not a good experience. Heck, it’s actually a fairly horrible experience. The same falls with Sonic the Hedgehog, Street Fighter, and Final Fantasy games that have made their way to the phones. In order to translate the games’ classic controls to the devices, on-screen d-pads, joysticks, and buttons are created. These aren’t actual buttons, just flat, digital replacements.
Considering that Nintendo’s classic games rely on pixel-perfect movements that cannot be achieved with on-screen buttons, and that Nintendo usually strives for perfect experiences, just dropping in a virtual controller would never get past the company’s ideology. It would be a sub-par experience.
So, it wouldn’t be a classic Nintendo game any more.
I still want to play Mario games, but with buttons and a d-pad, not with swipes. I don’t think that the majority of gamers disagree.