If you can’t beat em, join em. That’s what the age-old adage says. It’s also what has been on the minds of many (if not all) game industry analysts in regards to Nintendo spreading their reach and delivering their first-party goods to Apple’s iOS. Over the weekend a fake (and broken) app titled “Pokemon Yellow” somehow made its way through Apple’s alleged rigorous approval process. Not only did it sell well.. but within hours it was standing strongly at the number 2 spot in the entire App Store. The app has since been pulled but one cannot ignore how quick and strong of an impact it made.
So what’s the problem here? Well, it certainly isn’t about how an app with that title made it through certification without clarification from the appropriate channels (see: Nintendo). No, that’s Apple’s problem to deal with. The real story here is how quickly iOS users jumped at the chance to enjoy what they thought was a first party classic from Nintendo.
If there was any doubt that Nintendo would find success on iOS, I think that this fake app should quiet any and all naysayers. Sure the iPhone may be a more grown-up device but parents everywhere have been picking up iPads not just for themselves but to “digitally babysit” the little ones when they’re out and about.
Can you imagine what would happen in the App store if games like Pokemon, Mario Bros, or Donkey Kong were made available? And what if they fell in line with the average iOS prices? If that were to ever happen you might as well start calling Nintendo legal crack peddlers.
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to understand why Nintendo wouldn’t want to do it. Their philosophy is (and always has been) to create the hardware that runs their software. Keeping these special IPs exclusive to the their own platforms ensures that the revenue that does comes in, stays within their walls. Jumping into Apple’s iOS app store means forfeiting 30% to the house that Jobs built — but if all you needed to do is provide retina display remakes of decade old games, wouldn’t that be a sacrifice worth making? Even the 3DS ambassador games that were given away for free to early adopters of the handheld, would make millions if released for a buck a piece on iOS.
The 3DS is now quickly approaching it’s first birthday (launched in Japan on February 26th of 2011) and even before that product made it to market, analysts and shareholders alike were calling for Nintendo’s entry into Apple’s iOS money machine. Last fall, in an interview with Japanese news site Nikkei, Nintendo CEO Satoru Iwata (like he has always done) re-affirmed his stance against his company entering into the smartphone market.
This week’s news of the 3DS success in Japan brought, I’m sure, one giant “I told you so” from Nintendo, and further re-enforces the idea that their IPs need help from no one. The competition on the other hand is more than ready to start playing nice with the smartphone market. Sony, with their PlayStation Suite, has already made a play for Android marketshare. Why wouldn’t Nintendo, a company that shares many of the same philosophies as Apple, not jump headfirst into the iOS App Store, especially after seeing this?
One has to wonder if this weekend’s App Store blunder, at the very least, raised an eyebrow or two at the Nintendo headquarters.