Talking tech since 2003

Aside from the recent success of the 3DS — which required a price cut and a string of solid releases — Nintendo hasn’t been able to celebrate much. Its latest home console, the Wii U, has struggled mightily since its launch in November 2012. That console had one year head start on the latest offerings from Sony and Microsoft, and in the two months since their release, both have already outsold Nintendo’s projected Wii U numbers for the entire fiscal year.

That’s rough, no question. But some of the reports I’m seeing today seem to suggest that Nintendo will target mobile in order to right the ship.

Wii ULet me get this straight: Nintendo is doing relatively well with its handheld console, the 3DS, despite the existence of smartphones and tablets. Its home console is failing. So Nintendo will solve this problem by developing mobile apps?

That sounds ridiculous.

Nintendo’s apps wouldn’t be full games or even freemium offerings. They’d actually be “mini-game” demos, designed by Nintendo to offer players a small taste of the console experience. The hope being, of course, that gamers will get hooked and plunk down the $300 for a Wii U and some software.

But unless Nintendo plans on releasing some touch-only games for the Wii U, this experiment will likely miss the mark.

I can count on one hand the number of good games that have been successfully brought over from a console to a mobile platform like iOS and Android. Most mobile games that try to emulate the console experience, right down to virtual buttons and joysticks, often come up woefully short.

So how will Nintendo, whose gamepad controller also includes joysticks and buttons, translate the experience of a Wii U game to a device like an iPhone or an iPad? To offer mobile gamers the best taste possible, Nintendo would have to optimize its “demo apps” for the platform. But by doing that, the company defeats the purpose of the app the first place, because playing on that device will be nothing like playing on a Wii U.

I’m pretty confident that this isn’t the right path for Nintendo to be taking. Based on recent history, though, would you be surprised if it happened? I wouldn’t be.


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