2014 was the year of everyone having an opinion on what Nintendo should do, and early indications are showing that trend only gaining more steam as we plow through the first quarter of 2015. The reason being, of course, is that Nintendo is more or less having its financial lunch eaten by the rise of smartphone gaming. Or, you could make many other compelling arguments as to why Nintendo hasn’t been doing great, like naming confusion between the Wii and Wii U, the dwindling need for a dedicated portable gaming machine, software costs versus free to play games, lunar cycles, or whatever else.
At some point, Nintendo has to do something about it, as shareholders will only put up with falling profits for so long. Per the Nikkei Asian Review from a recent interview with Nintendo President Satoru Iwata, Big N will be shifting towards releasing cheap games based on older titles and recognizable smartphone games:
The Japanese company plans to re-create games for the Nintendo 3DS portable system based on past titles and smartphone offerings. Keeping development costs low will enable it to provide the content at prices as low as several hundred yen.
Free trial versions will also be increased. The idea is to boost the name recognition of new titles and drive purchases of the full versions by letting people play the first stages gratis.
It’s a tricky situation, as personally the whole reason I love my 3DS is because the games always feel like (as much as I absolutely hate using this term) “real games" with high production values, sky-high levels of polish, and everything else that makes first party Nintendo games great. There’s tons of awesome platformers on iOS, for instance, but all of them lack the certain je ne sais quoi of a Mario game. Similarly, there’s tons of rad action RPG’s on the App Store, but none come close to comparing to Ocarina of Time.
It’s not just nostalgia that makes these games feel better, even recent Mario or Zelda games have an unmistakable level of quality that put them in a league of their own- And it’s something I have no problem paying Nintendo’s usual asking price of $39.99 a pop for. The problem is, mobile gaming has now raised an entire generation of gamers who have grown used to a limitless supply of games they can either get for free, or at maximum, a couple dollars. When you’ve got more games than you even have time to play on your iPhone, iPad or iPod touch that you got for free or nearly free, how appealing does a $199.99 console with $39.99 games feel? The answer, as evident by Nintendo’s dismal financials, is “not at all."
It’s hard to say how doomy and gloomy we should get over a couple lines out of an interview, but my 3DS is going to collect even more dust than it does normally if it shifts into a platform filled with recycled popular smartphone games and weird re-releases or spinoffs based on old IP- Particularly if those re-releases are specifically built around the idea of being quick to develop and sold at a low price. It’s entirely possible there’s a huge market for that kind of thing, but it’s not why I bought my 3DS.
Either way, Nintendo was an interesting company to watch throughout 2014, and that trend is proving to continue to be true as they keep struggling to remain relevant and profitable in a world of Clash of Clans and Candy Crush. With that being said, I’m still totally arriving at my local Target before dawn next Friday to attempt to score a Majora’s Mask New 3DS XL.