One of DS’s most beloved franchises just hit iPhone. Can Nintendo recapture the casual gaming market? Should they even try?

Infendo

Scribblenauts Remix, a “best of” blend of DS’s two well-reviewed Scribblenauts releases (plus some new levels), just hit the App Store for $4.99. And it’s awesome–one of the strongest titles in the iOS library. This is no lazy port of the DS series, but a full-featured entry in the Scribblenauts line, looking sharper than ever and playing brilliantly.

So, why bring this up? Because this release hits close to home for Nintendo fans, and you couldn’t ask for a clearer example of the changing handheld game market, as a popular series previously only available on Nintendo hardware makes the leap to the Apple world, radically changing its price model in the process. The first two Scribblenauts games hit DS at a price point of $29.99. And they were worth it. The iPhone edition (which loses part 2’s joypad/button support but gains sharper graphics and faster loading), at five bucks, seems like the bargain of the year.

Scribblenauts can be enjoyed by just about any type of gamer, from the most casual commuter or grandparent to the most avid game-playing college student, and I do hope its audience continues to expand on its new platform. But this has me wondering again: What kind of handheld games will most buyers still be willing to shell out twenty to forty dollars for? Certainly not Scribblenauts. We won’t see much more in the way of cartridge releases for games like Brain Age and Big Brain Academy, games that helped push DS sales through the roof. I doubt more gamer-oriented titles such as Kirby Canvas Curse and Meteos—titles built around the kind of simple, repeated game mechanics that iOS titles excel at—could succeed at cartridge prices today.

More and more, it looks like the 3DS is inheriting a market in which its only hope of big sales lies in blockbuster titles that offer more spectacle, breadth, and variety than the iPhone can deliver at this point. I’m sure Super Mario 3D Land and Mariokart 7 will sell well and give a big boost to 3DS’s user base. There are more great titles in the works, but I think it’s becoming clearer now that it’s no longer a Touch-Generation DS world out there, and the future Nintendo cartridge library may completely lose the great smaller, lesser-known and risk-taking titles like Meteos, Big Bang Mini and Henry Hatsworth.

On a recent podcast, Derek stated he considers his 3DS to be more like a small console, not a true portable game player. I couldn’t agree more, and if the 3DS is to make a significant mark on the game world, I think that’s how Nintendo should treat it. 3DS should offer big, spectacular console-like experiences on its small 3D screen and carve out its own niche in the market. It’s a terrific little console for gaming in a comfortable chair or while relaxing in bed.

But it doesn’t follow me to work. My phone fills that role, and today Scribblenauts tagged along. I really didn’t see that one coming.