Stateside: Nintendo doesn't need to go mobile, mobile needs to go Nintendo

There's every reason for indies to go 3DS

Stateside: Nintendo doesn't need to go mobile, mobile needs to go Nintendo
Chicago-based Carter Dotson is a senior writer at, which was acquired by publisher Steel Media in 2012.

It's a common refrain among Nintendo's critics that the Japanese giant "should go third-party." It has been for at least a decade now, if not longer.

This cacophony of calls has been added to recently by notable Apple commentator John Gruber who, speaking on his blog Daring Fireball, suggested that Nintendo get to work on iOS games in the wake of the firm's 2DS reveal – a device that, it's fair to say, has split opinion firmly down the middle.

But does Gruber – and everyone else, for that matter – have a point? Should Nintendo go mobile? In my view, that would be something of a foolish manoeuvre. No, Nintendo shouldn't go mobile. Mobile should go Nintendo.

Don't underestimate the 2DS

The 3DS is now strong enough that developers should want to be on it, and many of the calls for Nintendo to make the switch to mobile would die down if the handheld could count on a wider array of third party support.

That's something that the 2DS – though already derided by many – could help with.

Launching at $129 - alongside Pokemon X & Y, no less – its more kid friendly design and even the illusion of its larger size in this tablet-era could make it more compelling a purchase for the mainstream than many expect.

Nintendo also has a track record of standing up against more sleek and sexy hardware, just as it needs to now against the smartphone surge.

Remember, the monochrome Game Boy lasted for nine years against more colorful competition, largely because it had Nintendo games. The DS outlasted the sexier PSP, yet again because it had Nintendo games.

Nintendo sells systems because it's the outlet for Nintendo games. As such, even releasing the odd iOS title would pop that bubble of exclusivity, potentially irreparably harming that compelling element in the process.

The third way

The flip side to this is that, if you're not grabbed by Nintendo software, then currently you've no reason to pay out for the hardware either.

Third-party software in recent years – or the lack of it - has been a severe weakness for Nintendo, and this is why the Japanese giant needs to focus on getting more developers on board.

It's time to heal the rift in portable gaming that began five years ago when developers stumbled across a compelling market that was easy to access, otherwise known as the App Store. But, when consider that paid games are arguably on the declice on iOS – 95 percent of revenue coming from in-app purchases – the honeymoon for many developers is officially over.

Paid games can still make money, but doing so seems increasingly unlikely, with more and more consumers looking exclusively for free or extremely cheap content.

Mobile games aren't just competing with other games – they're also up against Twitter, Facebook, and anything else that could occupy a user's time.

Games for gamers

So, you could say Nintendo actually has a major advantage over Apple et al in the eyes of the developer – it operates a platform that boasts millions of users who are, in comparison, dedicated to 'traditional' games, and don't mind paying for them.

Believe it or not, there's even evidence to suggest that games sold on Nintendo's eShop are doing well, even benefiting from additional DLC sales.

The long and short of it is, Nintendo could, if it wanted to, provide plenty of compelling reasons for indies to sell their titles on the 3DS. What's needed is for those at the firm to start doing that.

It's pretty much time for Nintendo to ape Sony's strategy with the Vita entirely. Sont's support of indie developers - taking risks by getting their dev kits out to developers out of their own homes - has led to a content renaissance.

Perhaps sales aren't reflecting it yet - an estimated 5.63 million units sold so far - but the perception of software has increased greatly: thanks to the number of indie titles releasing on a weekly basis, the Vita has almost overnight, developed a promising library of indie content.

There's also evidence that the Vita can support indies: the creator of Retro City Rampage at one point reported that the Vita version outsold the PS3 version, with PSN in general being the biggest seller for the game, though later sales may have skewed these numbers.

The point is, Vita's indie push is beginning to make it a key platform for indies, but Sony will still require tentpoles to sell the system to the general market.

The tentpoles

Nintendo already has those tentpoles - its long-running and still popular franchises. It also has a system with six times the install base of the Vita and with the same retail availability.

Developers should want to be on this system despite its lesser hardware capabilities, and Nintendo should let them. The company needs to find its Shahid Kamal Ahmad, Sony's most prominent indie evangelist.

Dan Adelman of Nintendo is out there, but he could and should be even more prominent.

Nintendo supports self-publishing, but it's time to be proactive. Nintendo needs to reach out to indie developers that have titles that could fit on 3DS and get them on there. It might be a challenge to make some games work, but hey, plenty have done it. Even an open-access system like PlayStation Mobile would be a great step.

There's still so much opportunity for Nintendo to secure great content for its handhelds – opportunities that could expand the 3DS/2DS's player base and give indies a secure platform to work on.

Both sides need to make it happen, because mobile alone is becoming such a risky environment. Nintendo and developers could help mitigate that risk by staying away.

Stateside columnist

Freelance writer covering mobile and gaming for @toucharcade, @Gamezebo, and more!