Nintendo may be on to something with free game demos

Evan Selleck
Contributing Editor from Arizona
Published: January 28, 2014

Playing a game on your smartphone isn't uncommon. In fact, it's probably one of the most common occurrences on any device these days. Folks who don't even consider themselves gamers probably have a few games on their phone, just in case they need to waste some time. I know a lot of people who would never touch a video game console's controller, or download a game on their computer (outside of, say, Minesweeper), but who absolutely love Candy Crush

The truth is, you don't need to be a gamer to enjoy the titles that are available on your smartphone or tablet. Most of them are designed to just waste time, to fill a few gaps in your busy schedule when you need them to. What they also do, though, is keep kids entertained, like they used to be with standalone mobile gaming machines, like Nintendo's GameBoy of yesteryear.

These dedicated gaming machines still exist, but with the rise of the smartphone and its library of (usually) cheap video games, many believe they're on the path to becoming extinct. So, what's the obvious step? For these companies to make their games available on the mobile devices that people have fallen in love with, and widely adopted. The smartphone is the kitchen sink, and it can throw just about everything you need right in your face when you need it.

Sony's done it, with their PlayStation Mobile experience bringing a lot of different games to smartphones and tablets. Nintendo, though? They're sticking to their ways.

For better or worse.

Yesterday, late in the evening, it was reported that Nintendo would finally be bringing some mini-games, along with product news and information, to smartphones. However, right out of the gate it's something slightly different than what most people have been clamoring for, or probably even expected. Instead of releasing full games, like any mobile-specific Mario title that you could find on something like the 2DS, they're going to release smaller, more compact titles. These games aren't meant to keep you playing on your smartphone, though.

Instead, Nintendo wants you to see the limitations of your current all-in-one device, and go pick up the dedicated gaming machine they've got waiting for you in a retail location near you. They want to tease you on the smartphone, and get you to bite on the full product with their brand on it. Oh, and then buy all the more expensive games, too.

It should be noted that Nintendo has since denied this report from Japan's daily Nikkei, but we should have expected them to. That doesn't mean this isn't coming, or even that Nintendo won't announce it very soon. They've denied things in the past that have come true, just like every other company.

Back in 2011, I tossed out the idea that maybe Nintendo should just toss in the towel in the mobile department, and focus on the in-home console. The 3DS and its variants have seen a lot of attention since then, and the mobile-specific games for Nintendo's library are still some of the most popular. In all honesty, I'm glad Nintendo didn't call it quits, but I also think they'd see quite a big boost in sales if they released their titles on smartphones.

I get why they don't want to, though, and Nintendo's a big enough name that they've still managed to earn success in areas that many people thought would be dominated by other companies. In fact, if Nintendo is indeed planning on releasing free software and demos to entice people to buy the full experience on their hardware, I think that's a great plan. It's like Nintendo has been looking for a way, a more meaningful way, to yell at everyone, "Hey! Our experience is better!" and they've filly figured out a way to do it.

We'll just have to wait and see if it happens, and if it works. What do you think? Do you think Nintendo should release demos for games you won't be able to buy on your smartphone, but will instead have to go buy one of Nintendo's mobile gaming consoles? Or should they just release full retail games for smartphones and tablets?