Thursday, December 23, 2010

Sony Will have Xperia Play, What about Nintendo?

Mario, Zelda, and the Pokemons have entertained us for years. Decades now. But with the mobile gaming landscape changing so far, what should Nintendo do? Should they remain in the hardware business? I think Nintendo has one more chance to get things right and that's the DSi.

But I think more and more, that's looking less likely to keep Nintendo in the game. Consider that fact that decaded gaming devices, consoles or handheld, live for 3-4 years at a time. In an era where the iPhone is updated annually and new Android devices released throughout a given year, Nintendo, or Sony's PSP for that matter, just cannot stay up with the trend.

It is increasingly looking like Sony will bite the bullet and merge PSP with its Xperia phone and call it Xperia Play. For Sony, there is a lot of risks but the rewards could be huge. How about Nintendo?

I see three options. I don't see Nintendo with the staying power to just push out dedicated mobile gaming devices.

  1. Get into the phone business.  Apple did it and I'm sure Nintendo can find a Japanese phone maker who would be happy to help Nintendo with a DSphone.  Is this likely?  No but stranger things have happened.  Perhaps Nokia would a willing partner.
  2. Get out of the hardware business completely.  Do what Sega did after Saturn expired.  Would you like to see Nintendo's starters and deep bench of libraries on the iPhone, Android, PC and Mac, Xbox 360, and PS3?  I see a lot of dollar signs there.  I don't see this happen unless Nintendo really cannot keep technically with the rest of the mobile market.  But it is certainly enticing and I would love to see it happen as a gamer.
  3. Create a platform and license it to developers and hardware makers.  For instance, HTC can license Nintendo's designs to put it on its own phone.  So could Motorola, LG, Samsung, or anyone else who wants to let its users catch Pokemons to battle.  
I think I like the third option the best.  Like Google, Nintendo can come up with a reference device.  It can run on Android, Windows, WebOS or some Linux variant.  Hardware makers can build off that.  Devices would be subject to Nintendo's approval.  Once all conditions are met, Nintendo-approved devices can be manufactured and sold.

In a way, Nintendo would still be in the hardware business as an overseer, allow others to take the risk, and continue to build excellent games for it.  

Is this viable?  I think so.  If you want to play Nintendo games, you still have to buy Nintendo-approved devices.  

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