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First Click: Nintendo’s shocking move to smartphones

March 17th, 2015

First-party Nintendo games have always been characterized by their relationship to Nintendo's hardware. Super Mario 64 made the Nintendo 64's analog stick a vital part of all future console development by giving its plumbing star a third plane to play in. Wii Sports wormed its way into millions of living rooms by making video game tennis as easy as waving your hand. Brain Training and Professor Layton used the DS's second screen to write notes and solve puzzles, casting the console as both child's toy and essential utility.

Nintendo dreams up hardware innovations and then, while third parties fumble with the tech like monkeys round a monolith, teaches people how to use it with in-house software. How does that work when Nintendo is trying to squeeze its games onto somebody else's system? This is the company that included a gigantic turquoise A button on its GameCube controller simply because it was so satisfying to slap — how will that uncanny understanding of tactility and physicality port itself to our millions of pocketbound black rectangles?

Mario remains placed on a platforming pedestal because he's perfect in the hand. Tiny jabs on the D-Pad correspond to precise movements in the Mushroom Kingdom. How do we do those motions with two finger swipes? Will Nintendo adapt? More worryingly, what if they adapt too well? Last February a Nintendo investor infamously floated the idea of paying 99 cents to give Mario a higher jump, the kind of free-to-play transaction favored and perfected by Nintendo's new partner DeNA.

In a dark future, instead of Mario collecting coins from blocks, it's his players collecting them from parental wallets.

— Rich McCormick

Five stories to start your day

  1. Nintendo is making smartphone games

    ❝Nintendo has long resisted the call of mobile gaming, but today it entered the space in a big way. The company has announced that it will team up with DeNA, a major Japanese mobile gaming company, to make smartphone games featuring Nintendo characters. The two companies "intend to jointly operate new gaming applications featuring Nintendo IP, which they will develop specifically for smart devices," according to a Nintendo statement.❞

    Nintendo's tossing out the bathwater...

  2. Nintendo isn't giving up on consoles

    ❝Iwata says that Nintendo is currently developing "a dedicated game platform with a brand-new concept," which goes under the internal codename of "NX." He's leaving the details of what that concept involves deliberately ambiguous, but promises that Nintendo will divulge more on the subject next year.❞

    ... but keeping its baby consoles.

  3. 24-year-old NFL player retires over concussion risks

    ❝One of the NFL's most promising young players has announced that he is quitting professional football today, blaming the risk of concussion and serious brain injury on his decision to walk away from the sport. Chris Borland, linebacker for the San Francisco 49ers, told ESPN that he was retiring because he wanted to do what was best for his health, and didn't think football was "worth the risk."❞

    Borland's walking away from a four-year contract worth about $3 million. He plans to return to school.

  4. Apple plans TV service with around 25 channels

    ❝The company is reportedly preparing to offer a service with around 25 channels from broadcasters like ABC, CBS, and Fox and launch it this September across all iOS devices and the Apple TV. The bundle could include the likes of ESPN and FX, and Apple is said to be pushing for a large on-demand library, but it will likely leave out a lot of smaller networks.❞

    Don't expect it to launch with NBC. Apple felt Comcast was "stringing it along" while building its own X1 set-top box. Comcast owns NBCUniversal.

  5. The Simpsons honors show co-creator Sam Simon after his death

    The Simpsons has honored Sam Simon, the series' co-creator, writer, and producer, after he died of colon cancer on March 9th. Sunday night's episode of the show ended with a short clip of Simon describing the purity of creativity, and closed on the words "Thank you, Sam."❞

    Thank you, Sam.

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