After the release of 2 recent Mario spin-off mobile games with Dr. Mario World and Mario Kart Tour showcasing the most aggressive monetization schemes seen yet for Nintendo's mobile division, I can't help but think back to a moment in time where Iwata said something very interesting:
"If we did this, Nintendo would cease to be Nintendo." - In regards to Nintendo entering the mobile market. If you need a refresher, here is an article from 2011, around the time of the Nintendo 3DS struggling and getting a price cut:
While I am aware that he eventually caved in near the mid 2010s and even jumpstarted some things like Miitomo, I feel like he was pushed into this position out of mounting pressure due to his failing health. Even Super Mario Run felt like an earnest attempt to at least try mobile the Nintendo way, a one-time purchase piece of software.
But all that has changed recently. Dr. Mario World and Mario Kart Tour now utilizes gacha mechanics and passes, with very aggressive RNG and monetization. This could be a response to Super Mario Run not tantalizing enough people, but the drastic shift in mobile strategy has left the integrity of these games in question. One could argue that their initial goal was to use mobile as a platform to entice prospective customers to their main console games, but if these mobile games are successful and do better numbers saleswise than the console games, I fail to see why any businessman or shareholder would not resist the temptation to double down on mobile instead.
Sure, they LOOK like Nintendo's usual quality level, with great fun new features (That, in my opinion, are much more desired to be implemented in future console entries), and the same level of polish and sheen, but is the gameplay at its core really that good, having been gimped with phone controls? Is it good enough to keep players engaged for more than a month? Furthermore, with the new microtransactions effectively walling huge swathes of content... Can we really say with certainty that these games really feel like "Nintendo"?
Another thing compounding this dilemma is what our lovely new president Shuntaro Furukawa bemused earlier this year in January. That he forsees a future in which Nintendo no longer makes consoles, and that he wishes to focus more on mobile. He even states that he desires a "continous stream of revenue" from this front. Well it would appear half of his wishes have come to fruition.
So I must ask all of you, was our former Nintendo president right? Was Satoru Iwata right about Nintendo ceasing to be Nintendo if they ever joined in on mobile game development? Perhaps I may be preaching to the choir, as I would expect this site to primarily consist of hardcore gamers who harbor disdain for mobile gaming, but I feel as if though this topic warrants serious consideration, as it poses many ramifications for the future trajectory of this company, given all that has happened thus far.