Should Nintendo get Mario an iPhone?

After several years of flying high with its Wii and DS gaming systems, Nintendo now finds itself struggling. The Wii is running out of steam and its replacement, the Wii U, won't be out until next year (and it remains to be seen if it will see the same kind of success the original Wii had). And of course, Nintendo just slashed the cost of its new 3D handheld, the 3DS, from $250 to $170 after the machine failed to resonate with gamers.

Investors are (unsurprisingly) not pleased, according to a post at Bloomberg, and they're calling for the company to follow that age old advice: If you can't beat 'em, join 'em.

The "'em" in this case is Apple. The argument goes that no one is buying the 3DS because everyone now plays handheld games on their iPhones, iPod Touches and iPads, and analysts and fund managers are calling for Nintendo to drop its policy of only creating games for its own handhelds and get some product on the App Store.

Thus far Nintendo seems to be holding firm, with President Satoru Iwata saying the policy won't change as long as he is in charge. Nintendo seems to think the price cut and some high-profile titles coming out this holiday season will be enough to re-energize the 3DS market and turn things around.

I'm a gamer, not an analyst, but it seems pretty clear that both sides of this discussion have merit. The 3DS has a very disappointing software library and more and better games should help (and gamers always love price cuts). Porting current generation handheld games to the Apple platform means leaving 3D behind; arguably the 3DS's biggest hook. Even if they could 'flatten' the games, doing so would be sending the message to gamers that they don't need a 3DS; they can play the same games on their iPhone. The same argument applies to new content created specifically for smartphones; I really do think it would be a mistake for Nintendo to show gamers that they can get fresh content on iOS (assuming Nintendo wants to stay in the hardware business).

But Nintendo has a huge backlog of games to draw on, and we've seen companies like Square Enix do very well bringing older titles to the iOS platform. Older gamers who're now carrying smart phones have nostalgic ties to the games they enjoyed when they were younger, and the instant gratification of tapping a button and having the game means (I suspect) a lot more copies of these games get sold than are actually played. But sales are just what Nintendo needs, eh?

Though I'm less sure of the argument, it's also possible this could work in the other direction. Smartphone users who play and enjoy an older game in a franchise on their iPhone might be more apt to want to play the latest iteration of the franchise on a shiny new 3DS.

As always when I write about the Nintendo 3DS, I have to wonder what the heads of Sony think of the situation, knowing they could be facing the same kind of crisis when their Playstation Vita ships sometime early next year.

So who among you has bought a 3DS? If not, will the new price move you to do so, or are you waiting for the library to fill out a bit? Or are you just content to game on your phone. If so, would you like to see Mario or Pokemon on your iOS device? And what about the Wii? Are you still buying Nintendo games for it? Are you interested in the Wii U?

Read more of Peter Smith's TechnoFile blog and follow the latest IT news at ITworld. Follow Peter on Twitter at @pasmith. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.

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