Nintendo has good reason to not develop for iOS

Nintendo has good reason to not develop for iOS

Summary: Nintendo's investors may want the company to develop games for iOS, but is the move really the best one for the company or its customers?


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.

Topics: Smartphones, Apple, Hardware, Mobile OS, Mobility

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  • Agree with everything but #4

    I don't think Nintendo's failure is their Games. Using the Wii and the DS series the first party games by Nintendo are almost always top notch and sell well. Their failure has been their console. While the Wii is a good system and it sold well it lacked the all around gaming experience. If it wasn't for the 1st party titles I do not think the Wii would have sold as well. The 3rd party developers felt content in many cases to water down the titles ported over to the Wii and reserved the games geared towards the more hard core gamers to the XBOX and the Playstation. This was partially Nintendo's fault too because as any Hardcore gamer would say much of the gaming experience revolves around online game play. This was Nintendo's weakest sport. That and the lack of storage to apply expansions and whatnot.

    I hope that Nintendo addresses this with the Wii U as that looks like it could be an impressive system. All that being said I still think Nintendo is one of the best innovators in the gaming industry. They always seem to have the new ideas despite the fact that their execution of those ideas is sometimes weak. I firmly believe that the Kinect and Playstation Move would not have surfaced like they did had it not been for the Wii.
    • RE: Nintendo has good reason to not develop for iOS


      Wow it blocked out a word because I combined hard and core in one. I didn't think that hard core (without the space) was a bad word.
      • RE: Nintendo has good reason to not develop for iOS

        @bobiroc Nah, the Wii was the big hit for the better part of 3 years but it had very few great games... The console sold well though.
      • RE: Nah, the Wii was the big hit...

        @Peter Perry

        I think that was the point I was trying to make. Most of the best games came from Nintendo directly in my opinion. I still think that if they improve the online capabilities in the Wii U that Nintendo could become a top player again. They have always had the best quality in hardware over XBOX and Playstation and they continue to think outside the box.
    • RE: Nintendo has good reason to not develop for iOS

      The problem with the Wii is that only Nintendo itself seems capable of making good games for it.....and all of the games Nintendo has made for it.....

      Super Mario Galaxy 1 and 2
      Legend of Zelda Twilight Princess
      New Super Mario Brother Wii
      Punch Out! Wii
      Donkey Kong Country Returns
      Super Smash Brothers
      Mario Kart Wii
      Metroid Prime
      Super Paper Mario


      Are all excellent, but they are also all retreads....their appeal is based almost entirely on nostalgia. Endlessly recycling Mario Kart and Super Smash Brothers et al is starting to wear a little thin.
      Doctor Demento
  • RE: Nintendo has good reason to not develop for iOS

    I think they should create a real DS Phone and use Android... If they do it right, they can show Sony that half baked efforts aren't good enough to beat the real deal.
    • RE: Nintendo has good reason to not develop for iOS

      @Peter Perry

      That is probably not a bad idea to be honest. This phone could sell well amongst the kids today that seem to get phones at the age of 10 - 12. That being said I have to agree that smart phone gaming is pretty basic over what is offered by a dedicated gaming system.
      • RE: Nintendo has good reason to not develop for iOS


        Exactly my opinion.. Nintendo, if they make a successful phone device, would be a great phone for the younger gaming crowd. Parents could purchase a single device that includes a way to contact their child.. How many children would forget their phone but not their DS? :)
  • Game Library

    I'll admit, the library isn't great at the moment. However:

    "Can you name a game on the 3DS? Can you name one you or your spouse would actually want to play?"

    Challenge accepted: Zelda: Ocarina Of Time. I own the N64 version, both Game Cube versions and the Wii's VC version (I'm such a sucker). If I bought a 3DS, I'd buy it for that, and the older NES games that will be (supposedly) available.

    There's always Dead or Alive as well.
    • RE: Nintendo has good reason to not develop for iOS

      @awindle@... That's actually their point. The game you picked has been ported multiple times, meaning there's no need to pick up a 3DS to play it.
  • Nintendo might have good reasons

    But if the investors in the company don't agree with those reasons...Well, you know the rest.

    Probably better all around though. I mean, if Nintendo did put its library up on iOS that's probably the only games I would buy. Instead I can keep giving my gaming money to companies who actually are interested in it.
  • Its too little too late for them to make a "Nintendo Phone"

    They'd need an entire non-game ecosystem that they can't build and couldn't interest anyone in if they did. And no one wants a dedicated handheld gaming device any more. Android is a steaming pile of crap and the Android apps suck, especially games. So they are left with writing for ios or windows phone or both . Windows phone is by far the better gaming platform and will soon pass iPhone in marketshare so they should swallow their console pride and go all out building Xbox live versions of their games. After gat they can worry about facebook games and then maybe iPhone if it's still viable. They can always keep their console business on the side to give it one more chance to come up with another hit but the way Xbox has crushed it I'm thinking once the phone games take off they'd end up killing it off anyway.
    Johnny Vegas
  • RE: Nintendo has good reason to not develop for iOS

    "Nintendo has good reason to not develop for iOS"

    Because they make games for kids, most of whom don't have iPhones.

    Despite what the jaded techies living in rich neighborhoods may believe, no it is not that case that parents generally buy expensive cell phones for their kids.

    Indeed, it's my opinion that some of the richer parents are perhaps buying their kids way too much and not properly teaching them the value of money. So we end up with a bunch of spoiled brats who think that everything must be handed to them on a silver platter.

    No, you should not be buying your kid a phone. If they're not old enough to work, give them an allowance and allow them to buy it themselves. If they're old enough to work, they should be working and using their own money.

    "Nintendo believes it offers richer experiences than the simplistic games seen on smartphones."

    Yup, I would agree. I'm sorry, but "Angry Birds" is not a good game at all. It's just a way to pass the time when you're bored. If you want a rich gaming experience, it's simply not to be found in any iOS game I've encountered so far. iOS is good enough for casual gaming, but not good enough for the hard.core gaming market that wants a far richer gaming experience than shooting birds while praying the physics gods will allow you to beat the level.

    Nintendo just has to cut back on the gimmicks a bit and refocus on their core market. I think the Wii Remote may have given them too much faith in gimmicky things. Sure, the Wii Remote was a success, but I think it was an exception, not the rule. Most new gimmicks fail.

    I also think that Nintendo has to walk on both sides - with both the hard.core and casual gamers. Casual gamers are far more numerous - but are also far more fickle, and are less likely to stick around. Hard.core gamers are smaller in number, but far more loyal and more likely to stick around and continue to support the platform. You need to appeal to both IMO.
    • What about iPod touches?


      I actually see a lot of kids with these. Up until Nintendo cut its prices you could actually get a brand new iPod touch for less than the 3DS. My brother has an iPad and his two kids have the Nintendo, they mooched grandmas iPad and left their Nintendos at home on their last vacation, LOL. If the 9 and 10 year old kids are grabbing iOS devices over Gameboys then Nintendo has a bigger problem than it is admitting.

      P.S. Speaking of ownership costs it is far FAR cheaper to game on iOS devices than Nintendo. I mean it's not even in the same ballpark. Yes you get more with Nintendo but should parents care as long as the kids are happy?
      • RE: Nintendo has good reason to not develop for iOS

        "Speaking of ownership costs it is far FAR cheaper to game on iOS devices than Nintendo. I mean it's not even in the same ballpark"

        Yes, and it is also cheaper to buy a bicycle than a car, so I guess that is the reason why nobody buys cars anymore and now everyone rides

        Yeah, a smartphone is fine for a boring, repetitive game like Angry Birds or Cut the Rope where all you do is move your finger half a millimeter over and over again......try playing a complex game like The Legend of Zelda Phantom Hourglass or Professor Layton on a phone, can't be done.
        Doctor Demento
      • RE: Nintendo has good reason to not develop for iOS

        @Doctor Demento

        No wait? No go on! Who just had to slash the price of it's device below cost to spur sales and who cannot keep the shelves stocked?

        Well Cobra brought up ther severe handicap of the iPhone price. Doesn't exist. There is no comparison, iOS devices are multipurpose computers that can also play games, the Nintendo gameboy is just that, a game machine good for little else beyond Nintendos library.

        Nintendo just gave the Old Guard speech that precedes soo many inevitable declines. You know the: "our core business is strong, our customers loyal and true, and we are staying the course" that has been given many times before just by other companies that are about to start posting quarterly losses. The fact that they had to address it means it is weighing severly on them. They don't want to publicly admit that a subtle but significant change in the game has occurred and they have no answer.

        And of course the hardcore book reader "ebooks will never match the experience of a book you can hold, touch and own". WHOOPS! Did I say ebooks? I meant PC games "consoles can never match the depth of PC games" darned it, I did it again. Maybe I meant the movie industry? Music perhaps? LOL. Just another in the long list.
      • RE: Nintendo has good reason to not develop for iOS


        The biggest problem I have with my iPhone (and previously my iPod touch before I bought the phone) is that the games are nearly all casual. You don't really have an equivalent of Zelda on it. I don't think Angry Birds will keep kids busy on long road trips or flights. But then again, that might depend on the age of the kids.

        The iPhone is certainly capable of running such games, as it has plenty of horsepower, including hardware accelerated 3D and loads of storage space. But it's kind of annoying that it doesn't have some of the more serious, less casual games.

        "Up until Nintendo cut its prices you could actually get a brand new iPod touch for less than the 3DS."

        Well, I guess we'll see what happens. It's pretty unclear what Nintendo will do at this point.
  • My list:

    1) Nintendo has milked most of its first party franchises for all they're worth. How many Mario, Zelda, Kirby, and Metroid games exist again? rehashes can only go so far.

    2) as stated above, the iPod Touch has green pastures of free games, and the $10 a 'premium' game costs on that platform wouldn't be enough to pull anything off a clearance rack on a Nintendo.

    3) Most iOS/Android users who want Nintendo games have them - it's called an emulator, along with 'the shady side' of the internet for the ROMs. Really, Nintendo's quiestion is whether it's worth the effort to attempt to monetize that demographic.

    5) Nintendo has an image problem amongst adults. There are plenty of people on the train in suits playing angry birds. There are very few who pull out a Nintendo product to play games on. Nintendo's super family friendly image and toy-like devices will inherently lack the cache' of having an iPhone.

  • Message has been deleted.

  • Nintendo could leverage both markets

    There is a classic library that nintendo can access to feed games for ios and if done right they could build a proper emulator and sell lots of those older nintendo games. There are some game though that are better served on Nintendo's hardware.

    There is a danger to removing that part of Nintendo business and you see what happened to Sega when they left the console space.

    Nintendo has to know that the bubble was bound to burst. The wii was a last gen system competing and winning in this Gen. They neglected the online market on top of that which was sure to be a problem.