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Nintendo making mobile games was inevitable, and it's good news for everyone

Andrew Hayward | March 23, 2015
For players of all stripes, the name Nintendo is synonymous with gaming. But for die-hard enthusiasts--at least, the ones not blinded by nostalgia--it's a name also associated with stubbornness, and a slowness to adapt to market changes and emerging trends.

The other thing that scares some fans is the idea that the Nintendo brand and its top series might be associated with mediocre games. But the premise that Nintendo has been a perfect steward of its games is a myth: Its beloved franchises already have lesser entries amidst the true classics. Remember the horrific Legend of Zelda games that somehow made their way to the Philips CD-i? Both the Mario and Pokémon series feature several middling spinoffs and side games. (Mario Party 10 is out this week — need I say more?)

Admittedly, I'm optimistic that Nintendo will take this opportunity to be a force for good in the App Store and other mobile storefronts. It's a company that has pushed for innovation and chastised freemium games for diminishing the value of a quality product — so it has incentive to figure out how to satisfy mobile players without leaving them cheated by the business end of things. The best-case scenario is that we wind up with some legitimate, well-made Nintendo games on our phones, playable wherever we are without the need for a secondary device.

And if all this arrangement produces are Zelda-themed match-three puzzle RPGs and Mario endless runners, is that really such a horrible fate? Even if half the games are trivial or unmemorable, perhaps the other half will be good — or even great. Whatever the case, a so-so iOS game is not going to make Nintendo's next insta-classic console game any less meaningful, just as the existence of successful free-to-play games on various platforms hasn't ruined the premium gaming market.

If making broad, mainstream-focused mobile games allows Nintendo to take even bigger risks with its console hardware and games, then it's well worth the slight risk of perceived brand denigration. And give the company a little credit: for whatever missteps it has made and may continue to make, it still produces brilliant games with regularity. Nintendo isn't likely to simply cash its checks on this one, especially when there are so many eyes watching its next moves.


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