Nintendo courts smartphone apps, stays away from smartphones

The headline today in the Japan Times is an attention-grabber: “Nintendo taps smartphone apps for console boost.”

wiiuFinally, Mario and Zelda on your iPhone or Galaxy S3? Well, no. The story is about Nintendo’s attempt to convince app developers to port their smartphone (and tablet) apps and games to Nintendo consoles including the new Wii U.

This actually isn’t new. Nintendo has been talking for more than a month about plans to open the Wii U to web and app developers, allowing them to bring their titles to the console using the Unity cross-platform engine and other tools. The company announced its “Nintendo Web Framework” at the Game Developers Conference in March.

“The number of developers who can use versatile web technologies such as HTML5 and JavaScript is probably more than 100 times larger than that of the current software developers for dedicated gaming machines,” said Nintendo President Satoru Iwata in a recent Q&A with analysts. “We would like them to create software for our console.”

In other words, Nintendo wants to benefit from the momentum of smartphones, tablets and the web, without actually offering its own video game franchises on those platforms.

Here’s hoping this will change. Yes, this would be a huge strategy shift for Nintendo, with significant implications for its traditional console and handheld businesses, but as long as they’re acknowledging the power of smartphones and tablets, it would be fascinating to see what happened if they took the next step, even just as an experiment.

PreviouslyOriginal Nintendo Wii outsells new Wii U in latest quarter