Re: Nintendo and iOS games

While there would be plenty to say on the technical (say, heterogenous multiprocessing in the iPhone 7) or tech-related (say, Apple’s transition away from the 3.5 mm audio jack) announcements from the latest Apple announcement event, I want to focus today on one that has been less talked about (relatively). Which is the commitment from Nintendo on smartphone games, materialized, and how, by Shigeru Miyamoto’s appearance on the event to present a Super Mario game for the iPhone.

Miyamoto-san’s appearance is not that big a deal, per se; or at least that is what my head says (he has appeared as a guest in non-Nintendo productions before), because, look, for someone like me who grew up on Apple hardware and the NES, seeing Miyamoto-san and Apple together in some official fashion is like some sort of childhood dream come true. Nintendo being willing to show what is arguably their most iconic character starring a game on Apple hardware is, however, a big deal whether you look at it from the viewpoint of your adult self or your 10-year-old self.

One thing I was particularly interested in was the angle, namely, how they would justify it being on a handset by taking advantage of something they couldn’t do on their own hardware (a discussion you may remember my old post, from when everyone in the Apple community seemed to have an opinion on what Nintendo should be doing); turns out, it’s one-handed operation and quick start, quick stop interactions. I never saw it coming, but makes every bit of sense: I triple dog dare you to play anything on any Nintendo handheld one-handed (well, maybe WarioWare Twisted, which you may remember from my earlier post), and while the DS (and later devices) goes to sleep when closed and can be resumed quickly, most of the time this is not really conductive to such gameplay; which is fine: this is one of the reasons I still play on my DS during my commute, because I have an uninterrupted 30-minute stretch in it where I’d rather play something “meaty”. However, I indeed never take it out while waiting for the bus.

And on that matter, while the aim is not to make a score sheet of what I got right or wrong back then, I have to admit that I was wrong that Apple would not be going to bend the rules for Nintendo: Apple introduced an interesting feature on the iOS App Store specifically for Super Mario Run. Indeed, even though the game is not out yet there is already a page for it on the iOS App Store, where instead of the “get” button you have a “notify” button. I have no doubt this is going to be extended to other developers in the future, but for now it’s exclusive to Super Mario Run.

I’ll also note that this kind of smaller-scale project fits well with Miyamoto-san’s role at Nintendo, where a few years ago he changed position to focus on more experimental projects rather than head the blockbuster game releases.

While previously Nintendo’s commitment to smartphone games was questioned even with the DeNa partnership, then Pokémon Go (which many considered as not being “real” Nintendo games, an assessment I do not share, but what do I know?), now with Shigeru Miyamoto’s appearance and Super Mario Run there is no doubt on Nintendo’s commitment, it will be hard for them to turn back on that. And who knows, maybe at some point Nintendo will make that WarioWare for iOS based on Apple nostalgia games I expected back then

Support “The Secret History of Mac Gaming”

I have always had an inkling that Mac gaming must have influenced gaming in general, if only because of the many user interface innovations the Macintosh pioneered in the marketplace: they are bound to have allowed game designers to innovate in turn, building upon the Mac interface itself. However, I have not come across many mentions of such an influence in practice, in no small part because of the long-standing disparagement and prejudice against Mac gaming in general, which resulted in this not being reported on and studied in the way it should have.

But Richard Moss will be doing just that with his book project, The Secret History of Mac Gaming. And he needs your help making it a reality; granted, it has funded by now, but it is not too late to bring your contribution and make it even better, I just did. Please help show how the Mac did matter in the history of gaming.

(via Michael Tsai)

Factory: The Industrial Devolution on iPhone: a cruel joke

The “version” of Factory: The Industrial Devolution that can currently be found on the iOS App Store (no link; version 1.0, from Samuel Evans), while it bears the same name and graphics from the classic, beloved Mac game, is actually nothing but a cruel joke played on those, like me, who would be ecstatic at the idea of playing a proper port of Factory on the iPhone, given how ideally suited to playing on a touchscreen the gameplay would be.

That iPhone app is a cruel joke as, besides being very user-unfriendly (“pause? what pause?”), having fundamentally game-altering gameplay changes, no sound, and a number of other limitations, its main characteristic is to simply crash at the end of the very first level (provided I manage to put at least one correctly made product in the truck), with no way to go further. Every time (which makes me remark that the App Store reviewer must have been asleep at the wheel, in more ways than one). On both the iPhone 5S and iPad 2, running iOS 7.1, which represent two extremes of currently available iOS devices, at least at the time this app was released (June 2014).

There are in fact hints that the engine of this app has nothing to do with that of the original game (for instance, look at the objects while they enter a routing module, occlusion is not the same1), maybe it could just be a quick and dirty post on the iOS App Store of this code, I can’t tell for sure; but at any rate this gives me sincere hope that Patrick Calahan, the author of Factory on the Mac, is not associated with this mockery of his game. Unfortunately, I do not know of any current way to contact him, so I am sending this out there in the hope that one of my readers does know, or will in turn forward this message that will be seen by someone who does know, so that Patrick Calahan can be properly notified of the existence of that thing.

In the meantime, avoid that app; it’s not worth the bandwidth necessary for its download.

The person responsible for that iPhone app is being notified, and I am ready to publish any response, at most as long as this post, that he cares to send my way.


  1. Of course I can run the original version to compare with, do you think I keep this machine running solely for MacPaint?

How Nintendo could release iOS games

So there have been a few exchanges lately in the Apple pundit sphere about whether Nintendo is in trouble with the 3DS and whether it had better start releasing games for the iPhone and iPad. I feel I would be out of my depth analyzing Nintendo’s woes (or lack thereof), but on specific points I feel like I can contribute.

First of all, my personal experience, for what it’s worth, mostly matches Lukas’: when my little sister got a Game Boy Color in 1998 or so, we all used it at home (including her), with only a few exceptions like road trips (where we would take a lot of things with us anyway). On the other hand, these days I use my Nintendo DS Lite during my daily commute, and it seems from various online and offline interactions that I am not alone; it is hard for me to tell whether Nintendo portable consoles are being displaced in that market: I do see a lot of people playing on their iPhones and Android devices in the commuter train, but would have (even part of) these people been playing on portable consoles instead were it not for smartphones? I have no idea. I would carry my briefcase during my commute anyway, but it is possible that others did take advantage of their smartphone to forego the portable console, and the briefcase/backpack/attaché-case along with it, for their commute, and therefore that for some the smartphone did in effect displace the portable console.

Now, on the matter of what Nintendo could do, I think that if they followed John’s recommendation and started releasing games for the iOS platform, success of such a strategy would have the odds stacked against it, at least if what they do is just release iOS games for the sake of releasing iOS games. Others went into some of the reasons why, but one factor I would like to add it that it would not sit well internally at Nintendo. Nintendo is a proud company. For starters, they have buried all of their predecessors and 80’s contemporaries, and by bury I mean that Nintendo (at least) drove them off the hardware business: Atari, Amstrad, Commodore, SNK (Neo Geo), and of course Sega, and this is but an incomplete list. And for those which did manage to keep releasing games, the results have been… I think I’ll go with “sub-par”. Now I think Nintendo would do better than these guys as a pure game developer, but it is easy to see why Nintendo employees would internally consider releasing games for iOS, even “a couple of $9.99 iPhone/iPad games to test the water”, to be losing face. Even if they were to present it to the outside as “giving a glass of ice water to someone in hell”.

As a result, if Nintendo were to work on releasing games for iOS, it would not have its best employees working on them, and it could even cause some of these to leave the company. Teams working on games for iOS would be considered turncoats by other parts of the company, with the possibility of turf wars and withheld cooperation from these other parts. What’s more, both technical and non-technical Nintendo employees working on these games would have to deal with Apple’s technical and policy rules of the iOS App Store, which are already frustrating to most iOS developers, so I let you imagine how much more they would be to people used to making the rules. Apple certainly is not going to bend the rules for Nintendo, regardless (or possibly because) of the “ice water” Nintendo would bring. In the end, that would cause some of these employees to question why they should be dealing with this stuff, and drive them to quit.

The comparison with iTunes for Windows is not apt at all. For one, by that point Windows was an incumbent; but more importantly, in general-purpose computing other network effects exist besides “more users attract more applications, and more applications attract more users”, so it was possible for Apple to convince its own people that it was worth it to stomach Windows development because it would help the iPod and even indirectly the Mac as well, and in the end it did. By contrast, with video gaming platforms there is very little of such secondary network effects, so for Nintendo employees to be working on games for iOS would be seen as playing for the other team. So I think it is too early for Nintendo to be seen releasing iOS games.

However, if Nintendo were to try releasing iOS games at this time anyway, one way they could do it which would dampen this factor (and maybe others) is by taking advantage of the iPhone to do things they could not do anyway with the 3DS. In particular, back in the day of the Game Boy and Game Boy Advance, Nintendo would sometimes release games featuring additional hardware in the cart, like Kirby Tilt’n’Tumble or Pokemon Pinball. But nowadays it is no longer possible, as the cartridge slot in the Nintendo DS and 3DS just does not reasonably allow anything to stick out like that. Lately I have been playing WarioWare Twisted, which packs a gyroscope and rumble (I mean, just look at that cart) and only ever uses the A button besides that, and thought it would be ideal for the iPhone, which features both. Now it turns out that the 3DS does have an internal gyroscope among other things, but as far as I can tell it does not have any rumble feature. So Nintendo could get a start on the iOS platform by releasing back catalog portable games that for one reason or another relied on a feature not present in the 3DS.

But releasing back catalog games does not a strategy make. So Nintendo could use this as a starting point to make new original games for iOS which they could not do on the 3DS. But probably not by relying on things like rumble or multitouch for these new games, as Nintendo might want to put them in their next handheld, and reserve games relying on these features to that console; instead, these games for iOS would rely on features less usual for games to use like the magnetometer and location services (to make augmented reality games for instance), as these features are not traditional gaming hardware features, and Nintendo could use them while keeping face and with less fear of squandering an opportunity of keeping such mechanisms exclusively for its next handheld.

And the (fictional) banner under which the team at Nintendo would do so, kind of like the Macintosh’s team pirate flag, could be WarioWare, Inc., the fictional company founded by the greedy character Wario and supposed to be behind the microgames in the WarioWare series of games. For a start because Nintendo has already played with Wario giving out a mock press conference or mock press release and fundraiser, then because the first back catalog game they would release this way would be WarioWare Twisted. But also because WarioWare games have always been quite… experimental, and this would merely be one more way to experiment, the new frontier for Nintendo. I am not even the first one to suggest the association.

And, well, okay, let’s admit it, it is also because I love the WarioWare microgames that remix old Nintendo games, and would love even more to see old Mac and Apple II games get the same treatment in a WarioWare for iOS: Oregon Trail (“cross!”), Zork (“get lamp!”), Ultima (“find the exit!”), Mystery House (“type!”), Alice (“capture!”), Lode Runner (“dig!”), Shufflepuck Café (“block!”), Beyond Dark Castle (“throw!”), Realmz (“cast!”), Ambrosia games and Escape Velocity in particular (“land!”), Glider (“escape!”), Marathon (“shoot!”), Factory (“dispatch!”), Jetpack (“dodge!”), or, heck, Visicalc (“calculate!”) or Hypercard (“flip!”)…