Nintendo should make two great games for iOS

The idea that Nintendo should make games for iOS has been floated for a while now. Many disagree. I don't. It's not so much that their market share is declining, but that it's being converged out of existing by a confluence of ever-improving mobile devices and ever more encompassing living room boxes. In that regard, John Gruber compares them to BlackBerry, a once dominant player now struggling because the business changed and they didn't change with it. He also compares it to iTunes on Windows, something Apple was smart enough to embrace, and reaped considerable rewards from. From Daring Fireball:

Here is what I'd like to see Nintendo do.

Make two great games for iOS (iPhone-only if necessary, but universal iPhone/iPad if it works with the concept). Not ports of existing 3DS or Wii games, but two brand new games designed from the ground up with iOS's touchscreen, accelerometer, (cameras?), and lack of D-pad/action buttons in mind. ("Mario Kart Touch" would be my suggestion; I'd buy that sight unseen.) Put the same amount of effort into these games that Nintendo does for their Wii and 3DS games. When they're ready, promote the hell out of them. Steal Steve Jobs's angle and position them not as in any way giving up on their own platforms but as some much-needed ice water for people in hell. Sell them for $14.99 or maybe even $19.99.

It's a great piece, and something that those who love Nintendo as it was need to realize if Nintendo is going to continue to be - their old business is over, the only thing that matters is their finding a new one. Maybe they can do that with their own hardware, but maybe that's not the only thing they can do. BBM is going platform, arguably too late. Hopefully that's not a parallel that will hold.

Source: Daring Fireball

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Rene Ritchie

EiC of iMore, EP of Mobile Nations, Apple analyst, co-host of Debug, Iterate, Vector, Review, and MacBreak Weekly podcasts. Cook, grappler, photon wrangler. Follow him on Twitter and Google+.

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Reader comments

Nintendo should make two great games for iOS


+1 I'd buy that in a heartbeat, even at a premium price. Anyone who's ever bought a Mario game, new or used, knows its not gonna be cheap. Don't think that would change for an iOS Mario game.

If there's no physical controller, then it wouldnt be a real Mario.
Nintendo knows what they're doing. They are not gonna go down the same road as Sega. We're talking about a company that is over 100 years old.
They have been cursed by the fact that every other console they release, doesnt sell as good as the one prior or after.

I would be all over a Mario game in iOS the second it was available. Nintendo strikes me as company with too much pride in what they think their business is to give up on a model that is failing them. It is said around here a lot: don't mistake your product for your business. Nintendo is continuing to do that and unless they realize they need a change the only change that will happen is traditional Nintendo's end.

I too agree and would absolutely love to see Nintendo games on iOS. Imagine Mario, DK, or Metroid with a runner genre twist. I can envision a lot on how they would look.

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He's not wrong about this though. The pieces Gruber does where he's wrong are always obvious because he's angry. Whenever he writes an "angry dude" piece he's always totally wrong. Thankfully those are few and far between.

The question Gruber does not consider is this:

"How much of Nintendo's software creativity is spurred on or even dependent on its ownership of its own hardware?"

I'd say, the answer is...a lot. Mario Kart does not start without the first usuable shoulder buttons in the industry. Starfox does not get off the ground without shoulder buttons, and if N does not aqui-hire the entire 3D mechanism. (Ditto for Donkey Kong Country.). Mario does not explode to his current popularity without Mario 64, which was only possible as N designed a platform around its requirements. Zelda Twilight Princess expanded that franchise immensely, and it would have not been possible without the unique capabilities of the Wii.

In fact, the franchises Gruber cites so approvingly have *all* had their best and most popular iterations when Nintendo game design and worked hand in glove* with Nintendo hardware design. When Nintendo game design has not informed or capitalized on Nintendo's unique hardware - think the GameCube generation - that is when they have suffered. Forget whether they *should* - there is little evidence to suggest that Nintendo *can* design games for someone else's hardware.

* Except for the actual Nintendo Power Glove. That was just weird.

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There's a lot of truth in that. I hadn't thought of it until you pointed out some great examples, and Apple is certainly a company that can appreciate having their software and hardware work together.

The same Alan Kay quote people (like Gruber) approvingly apply to Apple:

"People who are really serious about software should make their own hardware"

Also applies to Nintendo. Part of the reason they have made two decades of seriously great game software is that they also control the hardware. It is truly puzzling that people - especially people who loudly proclaim it Apple's secret sauce - do not or cannot see that for other companies.

"especially people who loudly proclaim it Apple's secret sauce - do not or cannot see that for other companies."

I love your point. I wish apple would bring iTunes to android. Will never happen either.

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I think the hardware is seriously over-rated. People who talk about plastic buttons being better or worse than other plastic buttons are arguing minutia and generally not making sense.

*Any* game, made by *any* game maker that has a "shooter button" can have that button replaced by a touch control and 90% of their users won't give a crap that it's now a touch control instead of a plastic trigger. It's the same argument of plastic typing keys versus on-screen keyboards and we know where that ended up.

In any case, there are already *approved,* fully licensed add-on *plastic* controllers for iOS devices. Nintendo could just as easily get behind that initiative or indeed, they could have worked with Apple from the get-go to enable their own *branded* add-on plastic controller. They just haven't. And even if they started this next week, it would be a year or more before it comes to fruition so it's already too late to prop up next years decline.

This is plain old short-sightedness at best. Gruber is right. Nintendo should have already acted. They have their head in the sand.

You may wish to consider, in light of your twin statements that hardware is overrated, and that Gruber is right, that in the very same article he states:

"I can’t recall ever once truly enjoying a D-pad style game on the iPhone."

I humbly submit this is not a coincidence.

The simple fact is that interface matters, and, in games, the controls *are* the interface. How they function is critically important to the quality of the game. If you care first and foremost about the quality of the games you make (as Nintendo clearly does), why would you subordinate the quality of your games - and thereby your entire destiny - to the whims and approval process of another company, especially one as secretive and antipathic to outside input as Apple?

No matter how bad we all want it, deep down WE ALL now that is not going happen ! probably ever ! Nintendo is console-and-handheld company, NOT a only-software company.

Unless of course Nintendo has the same fate as Sega and has no choice to jump in to all platforms to make games. And we know that is not going to happen with Nintendo, looking at how well 3DS sales (not so much on Wii U though)

so lets move on :p

I would be willing to buy some classic style (not the 3D stuff) gameplay in the way if Castlevania and Metroid, absolutely, but I have a feeling that if Nintendo released anything for iOS it would either be something truly old school (card games) or something to supplement their online game store just like Sony and Microsoft.
... Mario Kart has been missing in action for a while...
... I see huge opportunity for additional touch screen support by enabling iPad [mini] to function as additional Wii U game pads.

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Nintendo games for Apple helps Apple way more then Nintendo I don't get how this could be the same as Apple putting iTunes on Windows.Sony making games file Android is working get for them and Sega stock is blowing up since they went games only even Microsoft is making great mobile games and Windows phone is blowing up just like the Xbox. NO none of this is true so why would it be different for Nintendo

Software that would compliment their existing hardware: A way to collect Streetpass tags from my iPhone and then transfer them to my 3DS to complete the minigames later. That's a half measure for sure but they could go further to just allow you to play the Streetpass Plaza games on your iOS device if they really wanted to.

The problem with this is that touch alone as an interface is very limiting. It is very nice to sit back and use a D-Pad and buttons and not have to frantically tap a screen to enjoy a game.

I'm not missing the point of Gruber's article when I say that I prefer controls and I know that introducing different games is what Nintendo would need to do to keep their hardware platforms from being canabalized. With that said I think it would be much cooler for Nintendo to release hardware that compliments the iOS hardware and gives gamers a way to play their classic catalog using authentic Nintendo controls.

Since iOS 7 has MFi support for game controls this would be an interesting idea.

AirPlay + Virtual Console + iOS + MFi Bluetooh SNES controller = Something I'd be interesting in.

I've gone on long enough and jumped around a bit but this is an interesting subject for sure.

Right now, the money in iOS is in freemium that is generally bad for consumers. Nintendo, I think, could push the iOS market to a more traditional drive prices higher. However and this is a big however, if I were a game developer for iOS I would pray every night before bed that Nintendo doesn't come to iOS. They will suck all of the revenue up and the marketshare. Everybody knows how hard it is to compete with Nintendo and it won't be any easier on iOS.

From a financial standpoint, it doesn't make sense for Nintendo to make software for iOS. The entry-level iOS product that would be suitable to run that software would be the iPod touch and those start from $229 where as the newly announced 2DS will be $129.99. That's over $100 difference and buying the 2DS will open you up to an absolute massive games library on both the 3DS and DS systems, not to mention the Nintendo eStore, which allows you to buy games from older consoles such as the NES, SNES and even some Sega consoles.

There's a great article I read over on MacStories, It goes in to the actual numbers that Nintendo are shifting this generation compared to last generation and puts to bed this strange wave of Nintendo and Apple-related blog posts that seems to have arisen as of late.

I don't know about anyone else but I own a 3DS and I'm thoroughly smitten with the device and it seems a lot of us are, which is why this console is constantly hitting the top of the hardware sales list. Check out and their hardware sales chart for global units sold.

When looking at these different sources, it makes me feel like Rene Ritchie and indeed loses credibility in that I can't exactly trust what I read here, which is unfortunate as this is my first comment and I've been a regular visitor of the site for a few years now.

I know that wishing for Nintendo software on an iOS device seems like a harmless thing to do but when you start making false claims and citing sections of articles out of context to back up your opinion/wish/whims, it really starts to show and overall is a poor thing to be doing.