Why Nin­tendo is mak­ing the right moves

The gam­ing icon nearly stole Ap­ple’s thun­der at the iPhone 7 event with Su­per Mario Run, ar­gues An­drew Hay­ward

Macworld - - Contents -

Did you catch Nin­tendo’s press con­fer­ence on at the iPhone 7 event? It was eas­ily the com­pany’s best show­ing in ages… and it wasn’t even at a Nin­tendo event. It was Ap­ple’s, of

course, and the much-an­tic­i­pated con­fer­ence also brought us the iPhone 7 and Ap­ple Watch Se­ries 2.

But Mario nearly stole the show, as the iconic plumber pro­tag­o­nist was shown in his very first mo­bile ad­ven­ture, Su­per Mario Run. Gam­ing’s most leg­endary cre­ative mind, Mario de­signer Shigeru Miyamoto, ap­peared on­stage and charmed with his de­mon­stra­tion, not to men­tion his moves mim­ick­ing the act of play­ing one-handed while eat­ing a ham­burger.

Soon there­after, Poké­mon GO ap­peared on­stage to de­but up­com­ing Ap­ple Watch sup­port for the block­buster free-to-play game, which has racked up more than 500 mil­lion down­loads world­wide in just two months. Poké­mon Go might have been de­vel­oped by Niantic and han­dled by Nin­tendo sub­sidiary The Poké­mon Com­pany, but Nin­tendo has ben­e­fit­ted im­mensely from its suc­cess – per­haps in rep­u­ta­tion even more than fi­nan­cially.

Su­per Mario Run will surely spring­board off of some of that pros­per­ity when it de­buts in De­cem­ber, but it doesn’t need any help. Not only is Mario the most recog­nis­able face in gam­ing, but from what was shown on­stage, Su­per Mario Run looks like a clever trans­la­tion of the clas­sic for­mula into some­thing bet­ter suited for mo­bile. Here’s how Nin­tendo has set Su­per Mario Run up for po­ten­tially in­cred­i­ble suc­cess.

1. Adapt­ing rather than port­ing

Let’s be hon­est: turn­ing the Su­per Mario se­ries into a side-scrolling run­ner was to­tally ex­pected move. Run­ners are just au­to­mated plat­form-ac­tion games, and Su­per Mario is both the orig­i­nal and

still ar­guably best ex­am­ple of that clas­sic gam­ing tem­plate. Su­per Mario Run isn’t in­no­va­tive, but that doesn’t mean it’s a bad idea at all.

Nin­tendo said from the start that its mo­bile games wouldn’t be di­rect ports of clas­sic games, which meant we wouldn’t have to weather iffy vir­tual but­tons for pre­ci­sion-based ex­pe­ri­ences. Ru­in­ing a clas­sic ex­pe­ri­ence would be a very bad idea. Refin­ing a clas­sic ap­proach into some­thing new and still fun makes a lot more sense.

And that’s what we’re see­ing with Su­per Mario Run. Au­tomat­ing Mario’s move­ment re­fo­cuses the game­play around jump­ing and in­ter­act­ing with the en­vi­ron­ments, and Nin­tendo has used that op­por­tu­nity to drop in things like di­rec­tion-chang­ing blocks and ceil­ing grips that you’ll hang from as you nav­i­gate over lava and other haz­ards. Ev­ery­thing else in be­tween is fa­mil­iar in look and in­ter­ac­tion, but now it’s all smartly stream­lined for touch.

You might have al­ready played some­thing like this. Ubisoft’s Ray­man Fi­esta Run (and the al­most-as-strong Jun­gle Run be­fore it) is one of the ab­so­lute best ex­am­ples of how to take a bril­liant con­sole game and make it just as strong of a mo­bile ex­pe­ri­ence. And just as the core Ray­man games learned their tricks from Mario, Nin­tendo seems to be tak­ing cues from that kind of ex­pe­ri­ence now in turn.

2. Mak­ing it pre­mium is cru­cial

Ac­tu­ally, the mo­bile Ray­man se­ries did have a re­cent mis­step: last year’s Ray­man Ad­ven­tures took the Fi­esta Run for­mula, cut off the price tag, and loaded it with a lot of freemium te­dium. The core game ex­pe­ri­ence suf­fered be­cause of the power-ups and pe­riph­eral an­noy­ances, and the re­sult­ing game just wasn’t as strong over­all.

Thank­fully, Nin­tendo seems to be avoid­ing that with Su­per Mario Run. The game will be a free down­load, which will help it land on many, many more de­vices than a paid app, but you’ll only get a taste of the full game for free. Un­lock­ing lev­els won’t re­quire watch­ing video ads or wait­ing on timers. In­stead, you’ll just pay once to get ac­cess

to the en­tire game. We don’t know the price yet, but even if it’s higher than the av­er­age mo­bile game, it’ll prob­a­bly be worth it.

That’s an ab­so­lutely es­sen­tial step – and a sur­pris­ing one, too. Part­ner­ing with mo­bile gi­ant DeNA for iOS and An­droid games seem­ingly en­sured that we’d see only free-to-play stuff, but the idea of mud­dling a clas­sic Mario ex­pe­ri­ence with in-app pur­chases, timers, and other freemium shenani­gans seems like sac­ri­lege. Putting a price

tag on the ex­pe­ri­ence was the only way to sat­isfy core Mario fans by keep­ing the con­sole feel of the game in­tact. And I imag­ine par­ents will be pretty happy to just pay once and be done, as well.

3. It’s good for both Nin­tendo and mo­bile gam­ing

Un­sur­pris­ingly, there have been plenty of hot takes on Su­per Mario Run over the last cou­ple days. For in­stance, En­gad­get writer Sean Buck­ley says Nin­tendo is “[los­ing] a bit of its iden­tity” with the game be­cause it’s not par­tic­u­larly in­no­va­tive. How­ever, nei­ther were the pre­vi­ous New Su­per Mario Bros games from which Su­per Mario Run bor­rows its vis­ual style.

On the other hand, John Dav­i­son writes over at Rolling Stone that Su­per Mario Run is “Nin­tendo’s ul­ti­mate Tro­jan horse” to get mo­bile play­ers into not only con­sole games, but maybe even con­sole hard­ware too – es­pe­cially with the NX loom­ing. He also notes that Poké­mon GO’s suc­cess spurred sales of Poké­mon con­sole games and mer­chan­dise, and sug­gests the same could hap­pen with Mario and Nin­tendo’s own plat­forms.

Even if Nin­tendo doesn’t ul­ti­mately at­tribute an uptick in con­sole game sales to Su­per Mario Run, putting a mas­sive icon like this on mo­bile is in­cred­i­bly smart for the com­pany, bring­ing a like­ly­large boost to its bot­tom line dur­ing a very quiet pe­riod for its Wii U. It also shows that Nin­tendo is se­ri­ous about di­ver­si­fy­ing, and that it won’t sim­ply bring strange so­cial apps and lesser-known fran­chises to mo­bile. Sure, we’ll have to wait for those promised An­i­mal Cross­ing and Fire Em­blem

games un­til Q1 next year, but in the mean­time, we get Su­per Mario on iPhone.

That’s great for the App Store, as well. It shows that a ma­jor con­sole fran­chise can be shown re­spect in the tran­si­tion to mo­bile, and that seem­ingly re­fined, qual­ity games de­serve to be paid for – yes, even on your phone. And if Su­per Mario Run cap­tures the essence of Nin­tendo’s bril­liant and beloved fran­chise and de­liver a must­play mo­bile ex­pe­ri­ence, then it’ll be a big win for ev­ery­one: Nin­tendo, Ap­ple, and play­ers alike.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.