Good thing Nintendo's mobile games are mobile games, so I don't have to play them
We all had that nightmare, years ago.  A fevered, flop-sweat vision of a future we dared not believe could come to pass.

"Nintendo making mobile games."

Jesus!  I still shudder.  The benefits of Nintendo sticking to their own hardware have been well argued, and at the very LEAST we enthusiast game-doers place value on buttons.  The notion of Nintendo going multi-platform in the very worst way was not a pleasant one.

But fret not!  They didn't put Nintendo games on phones.  They made mobile games with Nintendo characters in them.  Microtransactions!  Subscriptions!  Gacha!  Twelve pages of notices when you sign in!  Simplistic mechanics that repeat ad-nauseum!  It looked a little dicey for a sec there with Mario Run, but "luckily" the rest of Nintendo's mobile forays are rife with the worst trappings the platform has to offer.

They can be a little fun from time to time.  I've been playing Mario Kart Tour the last day or two—I'll probably run up against some of the Premium Currency walls soon, but they built a game here whose novelty runs out way before that matters, so phew!  It's easy enough to get a miniscule Taste of Nintendo from these games before any of those trademarked mobile gotchas kick in, and thankfully they're there to ensure we don't really have to care about these titles at all.

Ultimately there's just enough Mario Kart in Mario Kart Tour to remind me that hey, I like Mario Kart, and no more.  Arguably this was their strategy from the start—Nintendo has talked at length about the plan to use mobile as a brand-awareness platform, one that will hopefully whet the appetites of less Nintendo-savvy gamers and entice them to seek out their "real" games for the next logical step.  And indeed, pretty much every franchise Nintendo has piloted on mobile has had a fully-fledged entry on the Switch (or at least one looming on the horizon).  As they might say in the marketing world, the mobile games are the Call to Action, and the Switch titles the ultimate Conversion metric.

I guess there are people that actually... play these mobile games, though.  I can appreciate at least the low-barrier-to-entry allure here, it's right there on your phone next to Twitter, just tap it and dink around.  I'll admit to opening Animal Crossing Pocket Camp from time to time and catching a fish or two to watch a bar fill up before ultimately realizing there's nothing else there worth doing.  These tiny almost-game slices might be enough for the non-gamer folks—those unlikely to Convert even if a "real" option presents itself.  Scroll through Instagram, catch a couple fish, send an email, knock out a one-thumb kart race.  It sounds like an insult to call gaming "disposable" but that's basically what it is in this case, an easy way to spend a few seconds while you wait for the train without having to pull the Switch out of your bag.

But all those mobile trappings sure keep me from spending any real time with the game on my couch.  I could probably write an entire piece about predatory monetization and time limits and really go in on the problems with these kinds of games but I prefer to glass-half-full it for my own mental health and thank Nintendo for their decision to lean into the worst characteristics of mobile gaming in order to keep me from needing to care about the platform in any personally-relevant way.

If you've spent money on any of these games, though, pretend I wrote the other one.  Nintendo's only path to shareholder-satisfaction in the mobile market has been to Play Ball and sacrifice their console ideals at the twin altars of premium currency and gacha banners.  If you've paid out in pursuit of One More Pull of that slot machine you probably need an intervention.  The only real way to win in this ecosystem is not to play at all.

  1. Nintendo sometimes makes a big deal about milestones—Mario's 30th, Zelda's 25th, and the "Year of Luigi" are all recent examples that come to mind—but one thing you won't usually hear them mention is how long it's been since something went away. Luckily, my encyclopedic knowledge of pointless factoids stands at the ready! You see, today, February 19, 2019, marks the 25th anniversary of the very last games that Nintendo ever released for the Famicom, the system that enjoyed new releases for nearly 11 years and put them on the map as a home video game publisher. The two final Nintendo-published...
    read more
  2. So hey did y'all see this Link's Awakening or what. Man pretty rad huh.  I love that we've finally hit a point where 2D remakes like this aren't trapped on the 3DS, and can really benefit from the processing power of modern console hardware.  Behold!  Nintendo's flagship box cranking out this... rinky-dink lookin thing? I mean let's be real, this is gorgeous, so bright and smooth with this slick tilt-shift blur going on.  But it's also not really what you might expect from a modern remake of a beloved classic, with its almost plastic-looking characters and a Link who looks like he popped out...
    read more
  3. My kid's favorite word right now is "ow" and it's what she says instead of "meow" which the cat says, cause she can't say meow. She says it whenever she sees any animal, I guess, but I haven't been paying super close attention or anything because I'm trying to get the fucking nukes in Civilization VI, which is a game you can play now on the system that goes away from the TV so you can play it while ignoring your kids but at least you’re both in the same room. Civilization VI, which should have been named CiVIlization if a capital i didn't look so close to a lower case L, is a game that I played...
    read more
view all posts