Nintendo's annual meeting of its general shareholders has come and gone. Nothing mind-blowing was revealed, but we got a verified release window for the NX (March 2017), and we also learned a bit more about Nintendo's plans for mobile game development.
Nintendo already has Miitomo, of course, and free-to-play (or free-to-start) Fire Emblem and Animal Crossing titles are due out at an undisclosed time. But Nintendo also appears to be beefing up its mobile development staff. Though Nintendo is currently partnered with DeNA for its mobile projects, these new hires will be based in Tokyo and Kyoto.
Mobile software isn't the only matter on Nintendo's mind, either. The company's general manager of entertainment planning and development, Shinya Takahashi, revealed there's been some talk and planning regarding mobile-based hardware as well.
"Physical controllers for smart device applications are available in the market and it is possible that we may also develop something new by ourselves," Takahashi told shareholders. He also hinted Nintendo is working to determine if it's possible to make an action-heavy mobile game based around touch screen controls. "I believe Nintendo's way of thinking is to look at whether action games are really not impossible (without a physical controller for smart device applications) to create and how we can make it happen to create such a game.
"I think we will make applications, and not just action games, in consideration of what best embodies 'Nintendo-like' applications, including applications for everyone from children to seniors."
Nintendo could benefit from designing and selling controllers for smart devices – potentially moreso than engineering its games around touch screen controls. The best touch screen control scheme in the world will never be enough to replace the satisfying sensation of pushing buttons, and it's a big reason why older game players in particular are hesitant to adopt mobile gaming.
There are already plenty of action games on mobile that control quite well via touch screens. Kero Blaster by Cave Story's Daisuke "Pixel" Amaya is tailored specifically for mobile, and its simple and responsive controls are as accurate as virtual buttons and d-pads will ever manage.
Nevertheless, not even Pixel's masterful compromise is good enough for a lot of people. That's not a crack against players who dislike touch screen controls. Their aversion is understandable, especially for anyone raised on games from the era of chunky red action buttons. Everyone has their preferred control scheme, and sometimes working around it is nearly impossible on a psychological level. For instance, I can't get used to keyboard / mouse controls no matter how many times I try.
So while Nintendo should definitely continue to look into tailoring its mobile fare for touch screens (even us weirdos who are used to the input medium appreciate responsiveness), it should also get serious about making controllers for smart device games. Yes, Bluetooth controllers are already available for tablets and phones, but an affordable and user-friendly controller promoted by Nintendo can potentially help bridge the gap for members of its fanbase who are hesitant to give mobile gaming a try specifically because of its control issues. It'd be like having an old friend guide us comfortably into a new realm.
Are you a Nintendo fan who dislikes virtual buttons and d-pads? Would a Nintendo-made smartphone / tablet controller make you likelier to give Nintendo's future mobile games a try?