How I’d love to see Nintendo exploit iOS

Nintendo faithful, please don’t take offense at what I’m about to say. I’m not suggesting for one moment that Nintendo get out of the hardware business or port its most famous characters to iOS. I’m a card-carrying 3DS fanatic, and I’ll be first in line for Wii U.

But I also own an iPhone, and, here’s what drives me crazy:  thinking about the bazillion casual phone owners who think Angry Birds and Fruit Ninja (as good as they are) represent gaming’s creative zenith.

Nintendo could easily blow these people’s minds if they wanted to.

Do me a favor. Have you got a Youtube-ready mobile phone on your person right now? Please use it to bring up this gameplay video from Nintendo’s Rhythm Heaven Fever and view it. While watching, hold your phone in gaming position and pretend you’re playing along by tapping the screen.

Don’t you wish you could actually buy RHF for your phone right now? Try watching a few more RHF videos in this manner. This title could easily capture the hearts and dollars of casual gamers the world over.

Here’s my point: although 3DS is proving to be a hit, it’s never going to saturate popular culture like the DS did. The 3DS is for gamers of all ages (and kids who are smarter and more open-minded than their parents). The mass casual crowd has moved on to their phones, and most of those folks have no interest in purchasing a 3DS, a PSP, or any other dedicated gaming device…ever again.

Nintendo could continue to ignore them, but why? Why not use mobile phones to make as much money (eeeeasy money!!!) by taking their 2nd tier franchises like Rhythm Heaven and Brain Age to the people…and publicizing their own hardware in the process?

Everybody wins in this scenario. Rhythm Heaven would sell millions of digital copies and the casual gamers would be woken up to the fact that, yes, Nintendo still makes handheld games better than anyone. I’m sure a lot of those folks would be more inclined to look at a 3DS-exclusive new Rhythm Heaven title and possibly buy the Nintendo handheld for the experience.

I’ve made a similar argument before, but it seems to grow more pressing with each passing month; Nintendo could reap gold from the phone market, with very little R&D investment — and without endangering their core AAA franchises.

What do you think, readers? Could any harm come from Nintendo bringing Rhythm Heaven or Brain Age to mobile platforms?

Many thanks to Holly for her recent review of RHF, which got me to stop waffling and buy one of the year’s best games!



  1. Against this idea. I love Rhythm Heaven and if people find any Nintendo games on phones, they will not purchase Nintendo Hardware. Rhythm Heaven is a quality Nintendo game for me and I enjoy it more than Kid Icarus: Uprising. We only use two buttons for Rhythm Heaven so it would work on other platforms but I love pressing physical buttons; it wouldn’t feel the same tapping a touch screen. I also love Rhythm Heaven Fever because I play it on the TV and my entire family listens to the catchy tunes. I just wish everyone would stop wishing Nintendo games were available elsewhere.

  2. Job, I agree that RH on Nintendo hardware will always be the better experience. But, I’m talking about the millions of people who will — as things currently stand — never buy Nintendo (or Sony or Microsoft) hardware and never experience Rhythm Heaven. It’s a vast, vast untapped market that the Angry Birds folks are making millions from (again, nothing against Angry Birds or its creators).

    Let’s say Nintendo makes a new RH game for 3DS and/or Wii U in the near future. What if, at the same time, they launched a sort of RH-lite for $1.99 on iPhone and Android, aimed at the folks who have no idea this series exists. I’m convinced RH would gain a slew of new fans and that a small percentage of them would go looking for more RH, find it on Nintendo hardware, and possibly discover a world of better gaming. I honestly think bringing *some* of Nintendo’s less-hardcore franchises to mobile platforms would boost Nintendo’s presence in the public pop-culture consciousness while not harming their own platforms.

    Everybody from Obama to Aunt Gertie in Siberia knows Angry Birds. No one knows Rhythm Heaven besides core Nintendo fans. It doesn’t have to stay that way.

  3. I’ve felt similarly to this before, but with the Wario Ware games instead. I’d be in favor of this as long as they develop original games for mobile instead of straight ports, and that they continue feeding their own handhelds. They once wanted a three-pillared strategy, and with mobile gaming on the rise, they could use it.

  4. It still wouldn’t work. The market has segmented. The super casuals will stat on their iPhones. More educated casuals who may have owned a DS previously will move back to 3DS when and if it reaches critical mass, or when certain games call for it. Most probably won’t though. And certainly wouldn’t if there was Nintendo games albeit 2nd tier games on the AppStore. And now with Mario games coming hard and strong, I would not like to live in a world where Nintendo’s weird and wacky casual directed games are no longer part of the exclusive line up leaving only Mario Mario F**king Mario.

    Now if Nintendo made some kind of App that added to a game, like a pokedex, or a leaderboard app, or some wild idea that Im not smart enough to come up with, that I have no problem with. But Nintendo’s games must stay on their platforms. It is their strength. Super casuals have no interest in brand loyalty when it comes to software. It’s mainly just the next big thing, play it to death, move on to next big thing. It’s rubbish gaming for the lowest common denominator and I don’t want Nintendo to be any part of it. If the classier kind of gaming has less users, so be it. Let Nintendo figure out how to grow their segment of the market. But it won’t be by poaching the iPhone users who only play Words With Friends, Angry Birds and Draw Something. (although I must admit Draw Something would be a perfect 3DS “game”)

    I really thought Infendo had stopped pushing this idea. It won’t work, Nintendo won’t do it anyway, so let this be the last we hear about it alright?

  5. @ The Adza: Well, I can’t guarantee this’ll be the last you hear about this; how else could we get your well-stated responses on this matter?

    It’s all well and good for us as gamers to say Nintendo can be happy with a smaller share of the gaming market, but I have to believe the company’s got bigger aspirations than that. Look at the rapid changes in place already: it’s looking like — starting with NSMB2 — most big future 3DS and Wii U games will be available as digital downloads as wall as hard copy retail releases.

    I can’t believe there isn’t some way for Nintendo to use Apple to their advantage. Disney’s Where’s My Water is a top-selling iPhone game, but it’s not going to stop anyone from buying Epic Mickey 2 or Kingdom Hearts DDD. If nothing else, it reinforces Disney’s image as a top-quality entertainment provider (if fact, WMW is one of the best games they’ve ever produced).

    I wouldn’t want to see all quirky, experimental games disappear from Nintendo consoles, either. But it doesn’t have to be either/or. They can do both. I can almost guarantee you an iOS Rhythm Heaven would reach a wider audience than all RH games combined have done in cartridge format so far, and it wouldn’t stop RH fans from buying the next incarnation for a Nintendo platform. As always, it’s about the games. If Nintendo would produce great games for their consoles *and* great smaller-scope titles for iOS, they could succeed on both fronts. With Nintendo’s move into digital releases, maybe the price points are heading in a new direction, too (though I’m not holding my breath for major change yet, there.)

  6. Not going to happen. Nintendo would have to pay royalties and that’s a huge no-no.

  7. Can’t say I want this. Not a big fan of virtual controls of any sort, really. Angry Birds is okay, don’t like fruit ninja. Although I do have games on my phone (an Android device) I do not consider it a gaming machine. I’d rather pull out any of the systems from the Gameboy to the PSP and play games on them, rather than use the buttonless phone.

    However – I do think there is a market for games on tablets and such. Something you can hook a controller up to and play… But Nintendo is covering that wit the Wii U controller.

    Hmm. Interesting that.

  8. You are stupid. Dot.

  9. Sounds like an interesting idea Richard, but I can’t see Nintendo doing that. Being part of Apple’s success would almost like be shooting themselves in the foot. Sure they could make tons of easy money (read: $1 apps=easy money? >.>), but using your competitors platform to launch your own great games sounds like a bad idea.

    Admitting defeat in that round-a-bout sorta way, is something I can’t see the current Ninty doing. Maybe later, if the WiiU completely bombs out, the 3ds starts going into nuclear meltdown, and all of it’s eShop titles start sucking… (I don’t see that happening.)

    I’m against it, whether it’s the creation of new games for iOS or just re-hashes. Nintendo games belong on Nintendo consoles. Anything else.. would just be downright Sega. 😉

  10. I think Rhythm Heaven is way too hard for those millions of phone users. At least in my experience, most people just can’t play RH due to its difficulty level. So, I think RH would be a total failure on iPhone.

    The average phone user doesn’t want, need or care about Nintendo-quality games. They just want the next clone of some flash game that has been available for free on PC for years. (And there’s nothing wrong with that! I just say, let them enjoy their games, while I enjoy mine!)

  11. @ Hitokiri_Ace: “Downright Sega?” That’s a scary thought, indeed. I agree Nintendo needs to retain their identity and integrity, but I still believe there’s a way they can leverage Apple’s dominance of the casual market to their advantage by making use of a huge distribution system that’s already in place — Use it like a Trojan Horse to publicize their own hardware.

    I’d never want to see Mario, Link, Samus, Kirby or Pokemon on an iPhone. But Brain Age, Rhythm Heaven and — heck — even Nintendogs are franchises currently being largely ignored by gamers (most Nintendo fans included), while the phone crowd would eat ’em up like buttered popcorn. And this is coming from one of the very few 3DS owners who bought Nintendogs +cats (on launch day) and *still* thinks its one of the system’s best-looking games! Think about it: N+c was created for the very audience that’s abandoned Nintendo handhelds for phones. It’s a great property. Most casual gamers aren’t coming back, and most gamers aren’t interested. Should Nintendo abandon this terrific franchise (and let fifth-rate FTP pet-sims steal their thunder from now on) or take it to the people who want it?

    I have to admit, your “downright Sega” comment remains a sobering warning. There’s one factor I can’t deny: the App Store, at its worst, can be a cesspool of bad taste and unauthorized ripoffs. I hate to think of a Nintendo game sharing virtual shelf space with five dozen fart simulators. In contrast, the eShop’s an oasis of quality releases in a family-friendly atmosphere. I know where I’d rather shop; it’s a shame most of the population buys their games at the other place. I hope there will always be room for Nintendo’s quality approach, but sometimes survival requires politics and a bit of compromise. Knowing where to draw the line makes all the difference in the world, and I think Nintendo could walk that tightrope better than most.

  12. @ frstOne: I didn’t want to say it, but, yeah…an iPhone version of Rhythm Heaven would have to be “dumbed down” a bit — and have less exacting timing requirements. I do think, however, the music, basic hook, charming art and hilarious scenarios would win over the water-cooler/Starbucks crowd in a heartbeat. Even though iPhoners seem to settle for shallowness, they do tend to buy the quality titles (with a little nudge from the Apple folks who choose which games to spotlight each week).

  13. Most people who play mobile games play in public places and they don’t use sound – Rhythm Heaven would NOT work

  14. I think that if Nintendo released cheap, paid demos of their 3DS games for iPhone they could have a real winner.

  15. You have good points though Richard, and it’s great to see new ideas. It will certainly be an interesting future for Nintendo, and I’m kinda excited to see how they fare.

  16. TERRIBLE idea. period

  17. I like reading the thought out, intelligent reasons for why someone doesn’t like the idea. What I don’t like is someone says it’s a bad idea and leave it at that. I want to know what makes someone think that. I mean sure, 9 out of 10 people on this site would disagree with Richard, and it may be obvious what the MAIN points on why they think that, but when they don’t express it, you can tell they’re maybe a blind follower of the big N, possibly just don’t want to attempt thinking of the possibilities good or bad, OR just too lazy to type up their reasons. It’s so boring to read “TERRIBLE idea. period” or “You are stupid. Dot.” doesn’t give anyone any insight on the inner workings of their rational behind it. I would find it much better if they said “I agree with so-and-so” or something along those lines.

    Now as for me, Richard, I do disagree with this, though I do understand what you’re getting at. But when you think about it, putting any small dose of a good, casual, Nintendo game onto any smartphones, or whatever, won’t woo any casual smartphone gamers into buying a Nintendo console to play the full or better version. Why would they? They have a version they can play on their iPhone or Android or what-have-you for a much cheaper price. They don’t care about the content or quality. If it’s addicting, they’ll be content with what they can get on what they have, for .99 cents to a couple dollars. Nintendo wouldn’t be promoting themselves any, just giving more reason for casual gamers to keep their faces to their phones with crappy games they’re perfectly content with. And will Nintendo make more money from the casual market they can’t get to anymore? Maybe, but then it might convince casual gamers that DO play Nintendo consoles to go to the cheaper alternative, losing more profitable sales.

    And that’s where babies come from! 😀

  18. Thanks, Lord Lemmy! I always wondered about that baby issue…:)

    I understand your reasons for disagreeing with me. Point taken. Still…in my mind I keep coming back to Nintendogs. It’s a brilliant creation, and one that (I’d guess) 90% of Nintendo fans have no interest in. I’d wager a huge majority of this site’s readers have not bought Nintendogs + cats and never will buy it. And they won’t buy any further sequels.

    Should Nintendo just give up on this–one of the most ground-breaking franchises they’ve ever come up with–knowing that there’s a huge audience for great pet sims out there…on mobile phones? Should they launch a knew branch of their company called “Nintendomobile?”

    I still think it’s possible for an iPhone title to lure customers to a console for a deeper experience, but I’ll concede it’d be a very small percentage of total phone users. What if we view it as pure PR and image branding? Get more people used to seeing that “Nintendo” logo so that they’d be more inclined to check out the Wii U displays when they see that logo again in Target or Costco–Because they associate the Nintendo logo with quality software and good times. Like we all do here. 🙂 Or, as you and others have suggested, would such a project do more harm to Nintendo’s image than good?

    Maybe I’m barking (sorry) up the wrong tree, and poor Nintendogs is a lost cause for the company–A DS legend bound for obscurity. Or, maybe a Wii U version’s in the works that’ll just blow people’s minds while guarding their houses! 🙂

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