There's one simple reason Nintendo is bringing Super Mario to the iPhone first

Nintendo’s next big Mario game isn’t heading to Nintendo’s consoles. Instead, it’s heading to Apple’s iPhone exclusively.

The game is called “Super Mario Run.” It’s a take on the “runner” genre of mobile games, where a character (Mario in this case) continuously moves in one direction. Your job is to tap on the screen to make the character jump. Simple, fun, and easy to play with one hand.

“Super Mario Run” arrives this December, and it’s only coming to Apple’s iPhone and iPad to start (it’s heading to Android at some point).

Super mario runNintendoIn ‘Super Mario Run,’ you control Mario by tapping on the screen. The goal is to reach the flagpole at the end of each course, collecting as many coins as you can along the way.

The man behind it — the Walt Disney of video games himself, Nintendo creative director Shigeru Miyamoto — says there’s a simple reason why the game is heading exclusively to Apple’s devices:

“With the Apple devices, their hardware design is such that there’s not much you have to do from a compatibility standpoint across multiple different devices. It’s very streamlined. And I think just from a philosophical standpoint, there are elements of their design that are similar to ours. So that’s why we’re bringing it to iPhone first.”

Miyamoto told as much to Time in an interview on Wednesday, immediately following the announcement of the iPhone 7.

It can’t be overstated how unusual it is for Nintendo to bring its main mascot to hardware made by a company that isn’t Nintendo. This is not something that happens.

The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (UE4)YouTubeA fan re-made The Temple of Time from ‘The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time’ in a modern game engine.

Nintendo has fiercely guarded its properties for as long as those properties have existed. A few notable exceptions can be found in the “Super Mario Bros.” movie, “Hotel Mario,” and a few other odds and ends, but Nintendo tends not to act casual about its properties.

As Miyamoto explained to Time Magazine, this mentality comes from an era “when our hardware systems were the number one gaming platforms in the world.” Kids would grow up with Nintendo consoles, thus endearing them to characters like Mario from an early age.

But kids today are growing up with smartphones and tablets.

Baby smartphoneistockThey start younger and younger every year.

Nintendo was notoriously slow to acknowledge this trend.

The Japanese game company has made plain over and over that a move to mobile could mean the devaluing of its extremely valuable intellectual properties: Super Mario, The Legend of Zelda, Donkey Kong, and other gaming classics. Nintendo is basically the Disney of video games.

“In the digital world, content has the tendency to lose value, and especially on smart devices, we recognise that it is challenging to maintain the value of our content,” late Nintendo president Satoru Iwata told Time Magazine in 2015. “It is because of this recognition that we have maintained our careful stance.”

That was a softening of the company’s previous stance.

Nintendo isn’t “late” to the mobile game market as much as it has tried to ignore the world of mobile gaming for the past decade. Which is why Nintendo’s move to mobile is so huge. It’s no surprise that Nintendo’s stock shop up by nearly 30% in wake of the announcement.

That Apple got Super Mario — the Mickey Mouse of gaming — to the iPhone first is a coup of gigantic proportions. But it also makes a lot of sense. “Super Mario Run” arrives this December on both iPhone and iPad. It’s headed to Android at some point after that.


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