Nintendo to experiment with mobile mini games, report says

We may not see the Super Mario for iOS everyone desperately wants, but Nintendo is beginning to test the mobile waters in a marketing move, and it could find something useful there.

Screenshot by Amanda Kooser/CNET

No, Nintendo classic Super Mario Bros. 3 is not coming to iOS. But some form of Mario just might land on your smartphone soon.

According to the Japanese business publication Nikkei, Nintendo is planning a foray into mobile, but not in the way many avid fans and Wii U detractors may be calling for. The company is reportedly planning free mini games for smartphones that will act as demos of full-priced console and 3DS games. The mini games will also come with the ability to purchase those full-priced games through one's smartphone, Nikkei reports.

This news happens to coincide with some rather volatile stock activity and a deluge of critical opinion regarding Nintendo's future and the steps it should take to secure itself. Some say Nintendo's hesitancy in going mobile, its failure to realize the potential of online gaming, and its inability to manage a cohesive and cross-platform digital marketplace represent a stubborn and old-fashioned business mentality combined with an out-of-touch sense of the modern gamer's wants and needs.

Others, like Wired's Chris Kohler, make the very compelling argument that Nintendo's position is far more complicated than that, and that porting games to the iPhone won't solve a problem that could potentially drive the Japanese gaming giant out of hardware entirely.

Whatever form Nintendo's mobile move takes, it's likely not a direct result of the stock dip or a response to the call of critics, as some have pointed out that Nintendo has long eyed platforms outside its finely constructed ecosystem as viable avenues to pull new players in.

In fact, Nintendo of America President Reggie Fils-Aime told Seattle King 5 News last year, "We're also doing a lot of experimentation of what I would call the little experiences you can have on your smartphone and tablet that will drive you back to your Nintendo hardware." He added, "It's largely going to be much more marketing activity-oriented, but we've done little things where there's some element of gameplay -- a movement, a shaking, something like that."

Details are still scarce, but Nintendo is expected to further outline these plans in an announcement Thursday. What is definitive at this point is that none of these mini games will operate like a free-to-play title, a mobile-first business model that some critics say Nintendo will have to adopt or die if it wants to make any kind of splash in the smartphone gaming space.

"According to The Nikkei, this content will be entirely free, and Nintendo is not planning to offer paid or freemium games on smartphones at the moment," Japan-based consultant and analyst Serkan Toto, who translated the Nikkei report, clarified on his personal site.

Update at 1:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 28: Nintendo has come out and denied that it is making mini games for third-party hardware. "...During such past announcements Mr. [Satoru] Iwata has also stated that Nintendo's intention is not to make Nintendo software available on smart devices and as such, we can confirm that there are no plans to offer mini-games on smartphone devices," the company said in a statement.

About the author

Nick Statt is a staff writer for CNET. He previously wrote for ReadWrite and was a news associate at the social magazine app Flipboard. He spends a questionable amount of his free time contemplating his relationship with video games while continuously exploring the convergence of tech, science and pop culture.

 

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