Nintendo, bring your games to our smartphones and tabletsEvan Selleck - Contributing Editor
For the last couple of years, maybe even a few years now, mobile gaming has taken a bigger slice of the overall conversation regarding the mobile industry. We've already seen how big of a presence Apple is, and how much of a force they are in the mobile gaming industry. But it's not just the Cupertino-based company that cares about gaming. Indeed, rumors have it that Google is ramping up their focus on gaming as well, and even BlackBerry has made sure that some of the more popular gaming titles out there on other platforms, are already available on its own mobile OS.
Finding a game to play on your phone has never been easier. What's better is that they aren't all super simple titles anymore, either. Some of the games we play on our smartphones and tablets are quite deep, whether it's in story thanks to a Role Playing Game, or just through sheer content. Some take your attention for a long time, while others are meant to just give you a quick escape for only a handful of minutes.
Whatever you're looking for, by now you've realized you can find it through a digital retail outlet, like Apple's App Store or Google's Play Store. And I'd be surprised if you didn't have at least one game on your mobile device, or devices.
It's this (relatively) safe bet that Nintendo is reportedly banking on. According to a story in the Japan Times, Nintendo is gearing up to put together development tools for developers and designers to bring smartphone games to their home console, the Wii U.
If you haven't seen a Wii U yet, it's built around a touchscreen game pad that allows you to interact with Wii U games in a whole new way (compared to the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3) for home consoles. You can even play full games, like Activision's Call of Duty: Black Ops II right from the game pad, without having to take over a living room television. It's a great idea, yes, but the Wii U hasn't taken off quite like Nintendo probably expected it to.
There are plenty of reasons for this, but one of the primary ones is a lack of game selection. While I'm sure that Nintendo is working on this issue in other avenues, it sounds like they are trying to tackle it by thinking a little out of the box as well. It actually does make some sense to allow for smartphone games, like Shadowgun or Infinity Blade II to be run on the Wii U's game pad, and I can see where Nintendo is coming from.
However, I think anyone who wants to play Shadowgun or Infinity Blade II and already has it on their phone or tablet, will probably just play it on their phone or tablet. It's not like the Wii U's game pad has a great battery (it doesn't), so the benefit would seem to be a slightly larger screen -- if you only play games on your smartphone.
Basically, Nintendo is doing it backwards. Two years ago I asked you if you think Nintendo should just throw in the towel on mobile gaming in general, but I don't think that's something they'd have to do. In fact, Nintendo seems downright determined to make their mobile devices, like the 3DS, stand out against the competition, especially with a true sequel to Legend of Zelda: Link to the Past coming down the pipe. So Nintendo isn't giving up on mobile. Now they just need to put a bigger focus on it.
Instead of allowing for developers to port "smartphone games" to the Wii U, make it possible for developers to bring Wii U titles to smartphones. Nintendo, start licensing software to get it on devices running iOS and Android, or BlackBerry. Don't want it to work on a Windows Phone, just because it's a Microsoft platform? Fine. But start embracing mobile in a realistic way, and you'll probably see a big turnaround.
Depending on the games.
I'm not saying that Nintendo should give up the hardware business. I can't see the future and I don't know how the Wii U will be faring in a couple of months. However, I do think that Nintendo could make a killing off bringing their first party characters, like Mario, to mobile platforms other than its own offerings.
What do you think Nintendo should do? Would you love to see a real Mario title released for your phone or tablet? Or do you think Nintendo's current plan is the best one for mobile gaming? Would you play a mobile game on your console? Let me know!