It may seem like the Dark Ages of smartphones now, but not too many years ago it was perfectly acceptable for a smartphone to be considered a smartphone if it were just able to (barely) browse the Internet, check your email, and was a bulky thing that looked more like a brick than a piece of advanced technology. Playing a simple game, like popping bubbles with your stylus, was about as exciting as it got in the mobile gaming front in those dark days, but thankfully we’ve progressed quite a bit. And now we’re looking at console-like graphics on devices that seem as thin and light as paper. And while Apple now seems to be the frontrunner to the mobile gaming market, we’re seeing an old-school name make its way into the smartphone gaming arena, as Sony Ericsson gets ready to launch the Xperia PLAY here in the States (it’s already available overseas). But, what about Nintendo, the name that’s synonymous with video games (and mobile gaming, too, truth be told). Should the house that built Mario get into the smartphone game?
As it stands right now, Sony’s PlayStation games have only been made available in the smartphone market thanks to emulators. And while some Android-powered devices out there have been able to play them without a hitch, sometimes the controls don’t translate well to a touchscreen device, and some gamers out there just don’t want to have to deal with finding and downloading game ROMs. They want to be able to turn their device on, find a game they want right there, and start playing without hassle. And now, thanks to Sony Ericsson and the upcoming launch of the Xperia PLAY, that’s going to become a reality.
Nintendo on the other hand doesn’t seem all that interested in getting into the smartphone game. The Japanese company is certainly busy selling millions of its mobile videogame consoles, like the recently launched Nintendo 3DS, but with all these other companies, like Sony and Microsoft especially, showcasing the competitive and lucrative nature of the smartphone market, I’m wondering if Nintendo will ever launch a phone.
But, more to the point, I’m wondering if it would be a good idea for Nintendo to launch a phone. There are a few different routes that the company could take. They could launch a Nintendo-branded phone, manufactured by them, or they could partner with another manufacturer and just work closely with that company to put Nintendo’s name out there. That latter option would probably be the best, as it would mean that Nintendo could partner with a well-known name in the smartphone industry (say, like HTC?) and not have to worry about questions about hardware (other than, “is that enough?”). Nintendo could focus on how the software is presented, and bring both new and old titles to the smartphone world.
But knowing Nintendo, there’d be major pitfalls. Nintendo’s multiplayer rationale for their home and mobile videogame consoles is pretty out-of-whack, especially compared to the competition, and that would probably be carried over to a smartphone. If a Nintendo-phone was made, there’d probably be Friend Codes that owners would have to use to make special calls, or even video calls. But, it would be kind of cool to see your Mii (a digital representation of yourself, made famous on the Nintendo Wii) on your phone, and made visible on other people’s Nintendo-phones.
Do you think Nintendo should make a phone, or get into the smartphone game at all? Would more competition be a good thing? Or do you think Apple, Microsoft, and Sony (plus all the third-party and independent studios out there) have it pretty well-maintained at this point? Let me know in the comments what you think.