20-six years ago, Nintendo released the Nintendo Entertainment System (more commonly known as the NES) in the United States. This was by far the company’s greatest test, as the American market had rejected video games, which resulted in the infamous 1983 crash.
Through clever marketing and perhaps a bit of luck, the publisher’s new console was an incredible success and laid the groundwork for decades of brilliantly designed pieces of hardware, software and characters that helped the company morph into an industry leader.
Today, Nintendo faces another challenge: convincing the world to buy its 3DS system amidst the rise of technologically superior smart phones and cheap apps. This, despite its plummeting stock price and shareholders “suggesting” the big N begin developing games for Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android platforms. In fact, the mere speculation of Nintendo entering this market causes its stock to rise.
Some hardcore fans, meanwhile, would hate to see Nintendo’s games on competing devices (for the record, Nintendo feels its products are in a separate category). To these diehard supporters, playing Super Mario Bros. on the iPhone would not only be blasphemous, but a decisive blow to the company’s image.
For all these reasons, Nintendo finds itself in the toughest spot since 1985. How does it please both its shareholders and the fans while maintaining high profits and its good standing?
It’s a tough predicament, but we feel the publisher should enter smart phone gaming now, instead of waiting to see if 3DS performs well this holiday season. If it waits and the handheld fails, overwhelming pressure from investors will force the company’s hand.
Thing is, Mario and Co. can make a huge splash on both the App Store and Android Marketplace without necessarily hurting the 3DS moving forward. If anything, doing this could increase 3DS sales over time. Here’s how.
Release free downloadable strategy guides
We stopped purchasing strategy guides years ago, largely because they’re too expensive and sit around the office.
Nintendo can solve these issues by releasing free downloadable strategy guides for upcoming and released 3DS games. These guides would offer tips, screenshots and videos for titles you can only find on the publisher’s platform. Just imaging having a detailed Mario Kart 7 or Pokemon guide on your phone. It would be the perfect compliment to the actual game.
The result? Guaranteed success. Smart phone users would feel more inclined to purchase the system and the game if Nintendo gives away the guide.
Release free 3DS demos
Same deal as the strategy guides, but with even more temptation. Bring one Mario Kart 7 track to iOS and Android, then cut off the user after he or she completes one to three laps, making it clear that the only way to continue playing is to buy a 3DS.
Release Virtual Console games on smart phones
Nintendo’s first forays into smart phone gaming will be gradual, and the company’s back catalogue is the perfect place to start. The publisher will make a killing re-releasing classic NES, SNES, N64 and portable games on iOS and Android for the same prices that Wii, DS and 3DS owners pay. That way, there’s no jealousy that iPhone users were able to download something like The Legend of Zelda at a reduced price.
With this in mind, Nintendo shouldn’t bring the full 3DS VC lineup to smart phones. Release a handful of games and remind iPhone/Android users that there’s a bigger library of titles on 3DS.
Bake 3DS discounts into cheap smart phone games
Everyone loves a bargain, especially when it comes to video games. Nintendo can capitalise on this by releasing smart phone apps that reward players with coupons for 3DS systems and software.
Let’s say, for example, that the publisher brings Dr. Mario to iOS, then tells players that when they reach a certain score, they’ll receive an email containing a printable coupon, good towards the purchase of a video game. Could be $5 off The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D, or $10 off the purchase of a 3DS. It would work.
Release the new Pokedex on iOS and Android
It should go without saying that the next Pokemon will be huge, with new areas to explore and monsters to catch. Would be cool if the game’s encyclopedia containing all of the Pokemon, the Pokedex, was available free of charge (or at the very least, $0.99) on smart phones.
Taking this a step further, Nintendo could probably enable a wireless sync between 3DS systems and iPhones, allowing players to unlock pieces of the Pokedex over time as they progress through the video game.
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