With the 3DS struggling and Wii sales plummeting, it would seem as if Nintendo's (mushroom) kingdom is rapidly crumbling around it.
Coupled with its sales concerns, the company is now facing increased pressure from investors to develop games for smartphone platforms like iOS and Android. Some see a lot of sense in it.
Nintendo, however, isn't convinced. Here are a few reasons why.
1.) Nintendo would lose control over the experience.
As both the Wii, DS, and, to a lesser degree, the 3DS have shown, one of Nintendo's greatest strengths lies in developing unique hardware to test the limits of its ingenuity. There's a business reason for this, too: by making both the hardware and software, Nintendo creates a quality control bubble for its products. In this way, it's just like an Apple product. There's a reason Apple doesn't allow its operating systems to run on non-Apple hardware; the same situation applies for Nintendo.
Abandoning their own hardware in an effort to make software that runs on devices designed by other companies would strip away Nintendo's control over the gaming experience. Nintendo has to meet another company's demands, to a degree, not its own. The bubble is popped.
Games would be made by Nintendo, sure, but they wouldn't be Nintendo games.
That's why it's not difficult to understand Nintendo's staunch refusal to put Mario on Apples's iOS mobile operating system. Both Nintendo and Apple aim for as much control as possible; it is for this reason that they have both been so successful. The irony of meeting Apple's demands, or any other company's, is not lost on Nintendo. And the company loses home-field advantage, too.
2.) Nintendo believes it offers richer experiences than the simplistic games seen on smartphones.
Smartphone game play tends to follow a specific format: Titles like Angry Birds and Cut the Rope take very simple gameplay mechanics and add on increasingly complex situations for players to use them. Made to be simple, these titles rarely venture too far beyond their basic formulas. That's why people play them.
In contrast, series like The Legend of Zelda and Metroid offer much longer, more varied experiences, many of which span dozens of hours. And while the company is quite familiar with the mobile platform, it's not as familiar with the myriad distractions and interruptions that a smartphone offers, drawing users away from gameplay.
3.) Nintendo believes smartphone games have a long way to go.
This is admittedly a subjective point, but smartphone games in 2011 are not yet near the point to surpass the quality and craftsmanship of titles from Nintendo and other established game developers. And Nintendo sees joining the fray akin to driving a BMW through the 'hood.
"These (mobile) platforms have no motivation to maintain the value of the gaming," Nintendo president Satoru Iwata said earlier this year at 2011's Game Developers Conference. "Quantity is how they profit. The value of software does not matter to them."
Iwata, of course, has an obvious conflict of interest in being neutral on the subject; really, it's hard to argue that Nintendo and upstart mobile game developers are doing vastly different things.
Sure, Nintendo's games offer entire new experiences and worlds, but many smartphone-based games have demonstrated how compelling they can be. (An Angry Bird doll, anyone?)
4.) Nintendo does not want to admit that failure is partly its own fault.
A lazy argument would be that Nintendo's recent stumbles can be blamed squarely on the meteoric rise of gaming on the smartphone. And it's partly true: it is impossible to argue against the notion that smartphone games have not had some impact on Nintendo's game sales.
But the reality of Nintendo's downfall is a bit more nuanced than that. Nintendo has failed to sell consoles because it has failed to make the proper games to take advantage of them. Historically, when Nintendo consoles have succeeded, they have offered a compelling lineup of in-house games that naturally can't be had anywhere else.
But the latest hardware from the company, the Wii and 3DS, have not been able to capitalize on this. While the Wii was popular at its onset, the consumer attraction to physical gaming -- you know, moving around and all that -- has been refocused on Microsoft's Kinect extension for the Xbox. (Sony has a similar offering.)
And the 3DS attempts to use cheap party tricks -- 3D viewing, dual screens -- to hide an otherwise lackluster gaming library. Can you name a game on the 3DS? Can you name one you or your spouse would actually want to play? These are two issues that Nintendo aims to fix later this year with the release of titles from some of its most popular franchises. It may be a bit too early to count Nintendo and the 3DS out.