Nintendo announced Super Mario Run, a brand new Mario game coming exclusively to the App Store, at the beginning of Apple’s yearly iPhone conference. The appearance was a massive surprise, as the showcases have long been characteristic of Apple’s style – clean, professional and focused on the revolutionary. And there was Shigeru Miyamoto, the face of Nintendo’s delightful brand of friendly fun, to announce that gaming’s biggest star was finally making his way into the hands of millions of gamers.
The appearance was as anti-Apple as it was anti-Nintendo. These conferences have never been about games. Apple has made their own version of spectacle out of announcing the newest features of its iconic devices. Improved cameras, processors, physical dimensions and new features destined to become conversational buzzwords are the typical topics of discussion. On the flip side, Nintendo has long been about playing their own game and owning their message for themselves. Fun and quirkiness define their image, and they have never been one to play well with others, as much as they love to encourage gamers to.
Well, say hello to your newest entertainment power couple.
Apple and Nintendo are a match made in heaven. Nintendo needs Apple’s coolness, prowess and professional fortitude just as much as Apple needs Nintendo’s wacky and jovial mastery of interactive media. Games have long been a part of the mobile experience, but Apple has rarely ever put its weight behind a gaming product. This move shows that they are serious about making their devices the pinnacle of mobile gaming. The most copied game on the app store is finally coming in a fully realized package that won’t nickel and dime its consumers. Pokémon Go proved the the power of Nintendo’s properties and seemingly opened Apple’s eyes to the potential profit that a partnership could provide. What is bigger than Pokémon? Mario, and that is exactly what Nintendo is bringing next.
As much as this move means for the iPhone, it has even greater ramifications for Nintendo. Games like Fire Emblem and Animal Crossing are popular among their respective fan bases, but Mario has an infinite appeal. Bringing him to mobile is the company exclaiming to the world how serious it is about the platform. No longer will Mario be the ultimate selling point for their own handheld initiatives; now we can experience gameplay perfection in the simplest way possible. With this announcement, both with the venue and the content, Nintendo is effectively announcing that mobile will now be a major pillar of their development platform. The question is, will it be the third pillar, or the second?
This full force move behind mobile tells us a lot about what Nintendo is planning with the NX. I believe that it confirms that the console will be a hybrid, the all-in-one console that has long been rumored, with the mobile market serving as the company’s traditional handheld arm. In addition, I think that it sheds light on what exactly the mission of the new Nintendo ecosystem will be. Because most people have a smartphone, thus making in their primary gaming device, the company is putting its games on the massive platform with the goal of upgrading them to their hybrid machine. They are not competing for the same audience that PlayStation 4 or Xbox One are, rather they are looking to create console gamers out of mobile ones. It is a strategy that has not been tried before, but I believe can potentially be a massive success. Our first indication will be Pokémon Sun and Moon, out this November for the 3DS, and whether or not we see a spike in sales due to the outrageous popularity of Pokémon Go. If we see any kind of positive correlation, it bodes well for Nintendo’s future strategy and prosperity.
The other positive conclusion that comes with the Super Mario Run announcement is that Nintendo is finally giving gamers what they want. For years people have been clamoring for Nintendo to enter the mobile space and grace the platform with games that only they are capable of delivering. This is exactly what Super Mario Run is. Rather than being a watered down endless runner, the game looks to be as close an approximation to classic Mario that the platform will allow. The gameplay looks fluid, precise and fun, with new mechanics such as the vaulting feature making it a fresh experience. If this is how they are treating Mario, the Animal Crossing and Fire Emblem games can be expected to be equally true to the core franchises. On a day where PlayStation gave us a minor upgrade with 4K support and Apple cut its headphone jack, Nintendo, of all companies, gave us something that we were truly craving.
In a season that is shrouded in mysteries about what Nintendo is planning for it’s next evolution, the Apple event gave us something to be excited for and and a clearer picture of what we can expect from the Big N. And with the news that PlayStation 4 Pro is more of a hardcore niche item than a true console upgrade, the NX is in a perfect position to have relative power parity and a refreshing new take on the living room experience. All that is left for us to do is wait for the anticipated announcement. One thing is for sure, if Super Mario Run is any indication, we will have plentiful surprises to look forward to.
Brett Williams is an Associate Editor for MONG who is pretty impressed with his personal Super Mario prowess. You can follow his nonexistent ramblings on twitter.