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'Imagine paying 99 cents just to get Mario to jump higher' - cynical Nintendo shareholder proves Iwata right

Author:
Jonathan Lester
Category:
News
Tags:
3DS, IAPs, Mobile games, Nintendo

'Imagine paying 99 cents just to get Mario to jump higher' - cynical Nintendo shareholder proves Iwata right

As the ever-expanding mobile and tablet market continues to gain ground, Nintendo's reluctance to embrace the scene in any meaningful way has drawn fire from pundits and stockholders alike. One of their American shareholders has now penned an open letter urging the company to focus on mobile gaming and in-app purchases to fill their coffers.

And, in doing so, arguably proves that Iwata's stubbornness is a blessing in disguise. At least as far as us gamers are concerned.

Hedge Fund manager Seth Fisher spoke out via the Wall Street Journal [via MCV], stating that the company is "well placed to make an immediate entry into mobile" gaming. "We believe Nintendo can create very profitable games based on in-game revenue models with the right development team," he wrote. "The same people who spent hours playing Super Mario, Donkey Kong, and Legend of Zelda as children are now a demographic whose engagement on the smartphone is valued by the market at well over $100bn."

'Imagine paying 99 cents just to get Mario to jump higher' - cynical Nintendo shareholder proves Iwata right

Let's be clear about this: Fisher's comment makes perfect sense as far as it goes. As a sideline, mobile gaming would be an intelligent way to provide extra funds to funnel back into Wii U and 3DS development, not to mention viral advertising via companion apps that tie into major console releases. In future, this could well be a major earner for the company, and an opportunity for a new audience to enjoy their wares if handled properly.

But not content with stopping there, Fisher suggested that IAPs would be a perfect way of increasing their profits. "Just think of paying 99 cents just to get Mario to jump a little higher," he continued, presumably twirling a comically-oversized moustache.

Oh dear. Now we have a problem.

This patently gross misappropriation of the freemium model aside (what's next, 69p Blue Shells?), Fisher's recommendation inadvertently points out an interesting irony in terms of mobile gaming's threat to Nintendo's traditional dedicated handheld business.

'Imagine paying 99 cents just to get Mario to jump higher' - cynical Nintendo shareholder proves Iwata right

Mobile gaming is here to stay, along with its evolving use of free-to-play monetisation, but the sector has fallen prey to shady business practices, headline-grabbing disasters and, most importantly of all, an enormous glut of derivative, shonky, broken and even malicious software that hits the marketplaces on a daily basis - burying truly great games under a veritable mountain of tat. Though the scene is continually improving and offers plenty of genuinely excellent games, all too often we see developers adopt a 'me-too' mentality, simply cloning rather than creating. Not to mention perpetrating all manner of money-grubbing chicanery that leaves us apoplectic with rage.

What was viewed as an exciting new frontier a few years ago has found itself increasingly mired in growing pains, its reputation tarnished for the time being, leaving many veteran gamers understandably unwilling to trust the market beyond a few favourite titles and throwaway fads.

Nintendo, meanwhile, offer an inexpensive handheld console with great games that are certified for the platform. Games that are painstakingly crafted with tender loving care, priced at a premium, but guaranteed to work, nay, delight, and offer their quality content without the need to continually dig out the credit card. Bizarrely, what most of us view as Nintendo's biggest enemy is, in many ways, their greatest ally - proving that there's still a place for gamers to indulge their craving for lovingly-crafted exclusives that are perfectly designed for a portable device, not chopped up, compromised and sold on piecemeal.

'Imagine paying 99 cents just to get Mario to jump higher' - cynical Nintendo shareholder proves Iwata right

There's no denying that Nintendo can and probably should look to use mobile gaming to their (and our) advantage, and would be able to do so without compromising their principles. It's possible to develop mobile games that are brilliant, fair and worthwhile - goodness knows that there are hundreds of examples out there. But as things stand, I've personally found my smartphone and tablet gaming habits sharply declining over the last few years, while my 3DS and even Vita play time has shot through the roof.

I can currently buy any number of amazing Mario games... and should I want to jump higher, I can just play as Luigi. We'd love to know where you stand on this.

Add a comment6 comments
kinkinkaid  Feb. 27, 2014 at 15:17

Great article Jon!

dumbjam  Feb. 27, 2014 at 15:40

I think we have seen that there is a market for higher priced mobile games but I genuinely think that Nintendo could easily monetize their back catalogue in the same way they provide these games on virtual console. I don't think Nintendo will ever be a free-to-play or freemium company.

smashbrolink  Feb. 27, 2014 at 16:18

Nintendo's back-catalog should steer well clear of the mobile market.
Nintendo's games, on the whole, are not meant for the mobile market, where games that offer mostly quick bursts of minigame play are the order of the day.
Nintendo's games are long, lovingly crafted games that ask their players to sit and stay on for a while to experience their worlds, not play 5 minutes then walk away mid-level to return later without a care.

If Nintendo wants to make new IP's that are intentionally designed to be short and shallow like most mobile games, then let them do that.
But not with their mascots/first-party characters.
We've got to keep their brand value intact if they're going to have any chance of staying in the console races, and there's just too many competing games on the mobile market for Mario to make long-term profit off of these people.
Nintendo would not last as a mobile-only company, and it would only harm the name of their icons in the console side of things to have themselves associated with short and shallow mobile games.

Nintendo and mobile do not mix.

stevenjameshyde  Feb. 27, 2014 at 17:13

Nintendo's games, on the whole, are not meant for the mobile market, where games that offer mostly quick bursts of minigame play are the order of the day.

Final Fantasy 1-6 are available for £12-odd each on iTunes/Google Play, and people are paying that willingly. There's no reason why Nintendo games from the era couldn't do the same

Whether they should or not is a different debate, mind

graalcloud  Feb. 27, 2014 at 19:24

Nintendo's back-catalog should steer well clear of the mobile market.
Nintendo's games, on the whole, are not meant for the mobile market, where games that offer mostly quick bursts of minigame play are the order of the day.
Nintendo's games are long, lovingly crafted games that ask their players to sit and stay on for a while to experience their worlds, not play 5 minutes then walk away mid-level to return later without a care.

If Nintendo wants to make new IP's that are intentionally designed to be short and shallow like most mobile games, then let them do that.
But not with their mascots/first-party characters.
We've got to keep their brand value intact if they're going to have any chance of staying in the console races, and there's just too many competing games on the mobile market for Mario to make long-term profit off of these people.
Nintendo would not last as a mobile-only company, and it would only harm the name of their icons in the console side of things to have themselves associated with short and shallow mobile games.

Nintendo and mobile do not mix.


Nintendo actually invented the concept of using a handheld for "short bursts of pure gameplay". Pick-up-and-play titles are the reason for their handheld success. Simply play Wario Ware on GBA and you will find that most of the concepts in minigames on android and iphone markets are ripped off from this game. In fact, the second level is conceptualized around that ironic fact that you are playing the games on a mobile phone.

Last edited by graalcloud, Feb. 27, 2014 at 19:25
Ronin4life  Feb. 27, 2014 at 21:12

The blessing was Never in Disguise...

It was always painfully obvious to anyone who either A) had a brain or B) Didn't want to see Nintendo die a horrible death

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