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Should Nintendo Go Mobile?

Yesterday, Bill Mudron tweeted:

I'm kinda wondering if we won't see Nintendo start releasing super-simple games on smartphones within the next 2 years.
@mudron

First things first: Bill Mudron is a Nintendo fan. This isn’t some anonymous internet troll clamoring for Nintendo to go third-party. This is an admirer of their wares with a genuine interest in the company and upon posting this tweet several others rose to agree with him. This isn’t a new sentiment; Nintendo’s own shareholders have wondered why Nintendo doesn’t sell games on Apple’s App Store. I've been hearing this a lot lately, however it's this tweet that pushed me to address it.

With that said, let's take a quick look at why Nintendo should publish content on mobile devices. Putting their games on another platform increases their visibility and creates mindshare. People want Nintendo software on their phones because phones will always be more convenient than a dedicated gaming handheld. It is a bigger market and let's face it there is a lot of money to be made on the App Store. But while doing so would certainly bring a short-term boost to their bottom line it would damage their current business ventures in the long run. Let's look at the reasons for this.

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Nintendo & Annual Sequels

Its something I noticed in the most recently in the CVG interview with Alex Hutchinson. While the most shocking point in the article was made by Hutchinson, the thing I'll be focusing on here was mentioned by the interviewer:

Why do Nintendo get it right? It releases a new edition of the same franchise every year and no one bats an eyelid. Why?

Please tell me what "franchise" Nintendo rehashes annually, because I would like to know. The only example I know of was the Hudson Soft developed Mario Party titles during the Nintendo 64/Gamecube generations. Following that, there was a 5 year gap between Mario Party releases on the Wii. These is no other Nintendo franchise that has sustained a regular annual release schedule.

So, with that in mind I'm going to make an assumption: I'm going to assume that the interviewer meant Mario games. It's something we've all heard before–its often regurgitated as fact across forums. And while it may make business sense to consider Mario a franchise, its very different from most franchises.

Mario as a Label

First off, Mario is a character; he stars in a variety of video game series, each of which may spawn their own sequels and spin-offs, but they are all unique. Mario titles span a wide breadth of genres, such as platformers, party, sports, puzzle, fighting and RPG. All of these games are fundamentally different and often only see one iteration per platform per generation. The only thing these games have in common is the Mario universe and characters. It is because of this that he functions more as a label for all of the games he stars in–a guarantee of quality, light-hearted whimsical fun. Meanwhile, Western studios are pumping out a new Madden, Call of Duty and Assassin's Creed in a year or less and these are sequels in the same series with the same gameplay.

Fact: Madden has been on an annual schedule for over two decades.

The "Subtle Racism" of Game Journalism?

Alex Hutchinson, Creative Director at Ubisoft, in an interview with CVG:

How big is the challenge of keeping Assassin's Creed fresh and interesting as a franchise?
We were reading reviews about Revelations and a few people were asking whether this was the end of the franchise, and we were thinking 'er slow down'. I mean, I'm no huge fan of Metacritic but the game got an eighty on there. That's not too bad really.

But the way we see Assassin's Creed 3 now is as a franchise, like Mario or Resident Evil, that will have its ups and downs.

Why do Nintendo get it right? It releases a new edition of the same franchise every year and no one bats an eyelid. Why?
You want my real answer? I think there's a subtle racism in the business, especially on the journalists' side, where Japanese developers are forgiven for doing what they do. I think it's condescending to do this.

Seriously?
Yeah. Just think about how many Japanese games are released where their stories are literally gibberish. Literally gibberish. There's no way you could write it with a straight face, and the journalists say 'oh it is brilliant'.

Then Gears of War comes out and apparently it's the worst written narrative in a game ever. I'll take Gears of War over Bayonetta any time.

It's patronising to say, "oh those Japanese stories, they don't really mean what they're doing".

I wish I could forget that the gaming industry is a bag of dicks, but they just keep talking.

3DS Miis!

I picked up a Nintendo 3DS a little while back and I've been having plenty of fun playing with it. It's packed to the brim with features, some returning from previous Nintendo offerings, others new. One of those carried over from the Wii is the Mii Maker application. While I played with the original, I found myself having a great deal more fun interacting with the 3DS variant. Perhaps its the immediacy of touch as opposed to the aiming interface of the console. For your pleasure I've included my ninja Mii, Obama, Horatio Caine and Trollface below. More