My initial reaction to seeing the news that Nintendo was branching into mobile games was admittedly one of dismay, as I was terrified that the announcement would be coupled with some kind of death knell for the 3DS and/or WiiU, or worse yet indicate some kind of Sega-like bowing out of the console market. Of course, I have this same panic attack basically every time Nintendo announces anything, and while I know that isn’t healthy, it’s kinda nice to always be proven wrong.
I then set about wondering what this might mean in the long run, as I was at work when I read the big news and clearly didn’t have a lot else to think about. While the announcement did specify there wouldn’t be any re-release of existing products, precluding my initial hope of some kind of cell-phone based Virtual Console setup, I started to remember the weird one-off Pokedex iOS application Nintendo released in 2012. And while it didn’t have much functionality outside of allowing you to look at Pokemon, that existed right around the time Nintendo was really starting to trumpet their love for second-screen gaming – and then it hit me.
I assume Nintendo will still want to keep their console titles at the forefront, and some kind of connectivity between their mobile games and their bigger stuff might just be the best way to go about it. Imagine, if you will, some kind of ecosystem where you could link your Club Nintendo account to your chosen cell phone platform and access things like in-game rewards and bonus items from playing their smaller mobile titles.
For example, maybe you’re able to unlock someone in Smash Bros by doing some small task enough times in a Smash Bros- or Mario-related app. Or finding some awesome bonus sword in the new WiiU Zelda because you played however many hours in the smaller Android Zelda title (and tell me that game wouldn’t probably be great, since Zelda‘s handheld history is generally awesome).
I’m spitballing here, but I feel like this isn’t far off from what Nintendo is trying to do with their Amiibos – fun little not-game diversions that occasionally impact your actual gameplay. The fact that games like Codename S.T.E.A.M. and Kirby and the Rainbow Curse have new features you can unlock by using specific Amiibos while still allowing you to enjoy the game to the fullest shows Nintendo isn’t too opposed to this sort of approach, and they’ve plainly demonstrated they wouldn’t allow extras like this to affect the core game itself.
Let’s pretend I’m even remotely close to the truth here and this all works out – imagine what the hinted-at NX console could do. “X” is generally a letter used in Japan to denote “cross”, as in “crossover” or “crossed with” – what if their console had built-in connectivity with iOS and Android to remove a step from the process? Just picture the day where you could link up your trusty Galaxy or Optimus to your Nintendo console to upload scores, transfer save files, trade items back and forth between an app or a console game, or even browse the eShop for stuff. And then, when it was time to go to school or work or whatever, your game can safely continue on your phone. Actually, I guess what I’m hoping for is some kind of smart phone-based Dreamcast VMU-style setup.
Hey, look, I could be way off. The NX could be some kind of hideous Laserdisc-based Virtual Boy retread; they might only make Tingle-themed mobile games, and I could watch my old pal Nintendo slowly strangle itself to death. But I kinda doubt it. For all the issues Nintendo has had adapting to new formats in the past – online gaming, CD-based games, etc – they’ve also proven incredibly savvy when the chips are down. As big of a WiiU defender as I am, I’m hard-pressed to say their chips are down right now, especially considering how successful many aspects of their business still are, but maybe branching out into a new business is just what they need. Even if it turns out to be nothing like what I’ve predicted here.
Wait, I changed my mind. I would love a Nintendo-branded Laserdisc virtual reality system.