Opinion Brief

Will smartphone apps kill Nintendo?

A gaming visionary warns that mobile amusements like Angry Birds might destroy video games as we know them

As Steve Jobs was unveiling Apple's new iPad this week, Nintendo chief Satoru Iwata warned at the Game Developers Conference down the street that smartphone games — the kind that have become so popular on Apple products — pose a grave threat to consoles like the Nintendo Wii and Sony Playstation. Iwata's company spends millions of dollars on elaborately constructed games, whereas a small team of app developers can easily manufacture low-cost competitors ("Angry Birds," for example). This "threatens the employment for those of us who make games for a living," said Iwata. Is the future really dark for traditional gaming? (See Iwata's comments)

No, this is about Nintendo's beef with Apple: "Leaders in the gaming industry reacted negatively" to Iwata's remarks, says Tricia Duryee at All Things Digital, because they believe he was merely highlighting Nintendo's own weaknesses. Apple sees mobile devices as "the future of gaming," while Iwata sounds "oblivious." As one analyst put it, this only means "Nintendo is doomed."
"No one is buying Nintendo's cautionary tale about mobile and social"

And Iwata is just plain wrong: Game developers are very busy making plenty of smartphone apps, says Kristy Korcz at Geek Sugar, and making plenty of money doing it. And Iwata's wrong if thinks this is eroding the quality of video games are lousy — many are "totally entertaining, engaging, and smart." If Iwata wants to keep Apple from destroying Nintendo, he needs to get over himself and focus on cranking out "more amazing games."
"Smartphone games are worthless: I disagree"

Wait, Iwata may have a point: "It's easy to slam Nintendo here as a stodgy" dinosaur in a changing industry, says Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry at Business Insider. But the company's "contrarianism" has paid off before. For instance, while Microsoft and Sony were focusing on building consoles with "raw power," Nintendo bet on the Wii, which "opened up a whole new market for console gaming." Given its history of counterintuitive innovation, "it's worth listening to what Nintendo has to say."
"Nintendo CEO slams smartphone games"

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