Change is afoot. For years, Nintendo has operated under the simple philosophy that their games could only be played on their systems, but we may be seeing a new tack in the wake of the Wii U’s poor performance. A report in Japanese Newspaper Nikkei (which has had a good track record on predicting Nintendo rumors), suggests that the company is going to start releasing games on smartphones.
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According to a report on IGN, the company doesn’t appear to be going whole hog by releasing actual games designed for phones. Rather, it’s planning on using phones as a promotional platform for demos and videos intended to drive the company’s primary business. Kotaku points out that this is in line with what CEO Satoru Iwata said back in October:
“I feel that we should make an effort to take advantage of [smart devices'] existence. For instance, we already made it possible to browse Wii U’s networking service called Miiverse on smart devices. Starting with this attempt, we are discussing among us how we can expand the use of smart devices to help drive the business of dedicated gaming systems…. Twitter timelines filled with tweets about Monster Hunter and Pokémon can certainly help create awareness for the products, and we also know that many watch Nintendo Direct on their smart devices. Rather than simply viewing smart devices as competitors, we should consider ways in which we can use them for our business.”
Some argue that there’s no point in trying to sell smartphone games because the potential for profit is so much smaller than with hardware, but that’s missing the point. This isn’t a substitution, it’s an addition. Selling games on smartphones extends the Nintendo brand while, ideally, leaving the AAA console market intact. The bottom line is this: smartphones are the most ubiquitous game consoles on the planet, and video games companies ignore them at their own peril.
Something has got to change in the house of N. The Wii U isn’t another Virtual Boy-style flop brought on by a bizzare and unmarketable device, it’s a perfectly fine system with no place in the modern gaming economy. People go back and forth on what the company should do, but I really see no downside to releasing demos on smartphones, or even, for that matter, full games. The idea of cordoning off recognizable and desirous brands from paying customers doesn’t add up. I’m not suggesting Nintendo abandon hardware or release the next major Zelda game on the iPad, just that it let those outside the walled garden get a peek inside.
So Nintendo should start making demos, start releasing older games on smartphones, even start making smaller games specifically tailored to touch controls. It increases the visibility for the core business by getting more people engaged with the company, and that’s a good thing.
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