One of the first major surprises out of Apple's September 7 event was the appearance of game designer Shigeru Miyamoto, and the announcement of an all-new Mario game for iOS called Super Mario Run. In the game, players will help Mario navigate various worlds by tapping on the screen to help the plumber jump, dodge, and slide past obstacles and enemies until they reach the flag pole at the end of the stage.
During Apple's event, Miyamoto and senior product marketing manager for Nintendo, Bill Trinen, explained the mechanics of the game and its intent for quick burst, one-handed smartphone gaming. Now, in a recent interview with The Verge, Miyamoto divulged more information on the iPhone game, potentially hinting at what the company's outlook on mobile gaming could mean for the other two upcoming DeNA iOS games, Animal Crossing and Fire Emblem.
In its time with Super Mario Run, The Verge commented that the game underscores the company's strategy of introducing addicting, but modest experiences on mobile in order to win more players over with full-fledged console games. Super Mario Run ultimately started as an idea that "was too simple for a home console device," Miyamoto said, and that the company's "main focus" is still convincing players to migrate over to its first-party hardware.
Still, Miyamoto said he hopes people are "going to want to play a much more in-depth and a more challenging Mario experience … it’s going to increase the population of people interested in coming to our platforms, which is of course is our main focus."
It looks to be everything a Super Mario game should be, but also, what it shouldn’t be. Miyamoto’s game has been carefully designed so that it’s simple enough to attract a new audience of iPhone lovers, but not satisfying enough to supplant a console experience.
As suspected, the success of Pokémon Go has helped Nintendo push forward in the smartphone space, and helped dictate the experience of Super Mario Run. In the way that Pokémon Go is inherently tied into the GPS and camera functions of a smartphone, Super Mario Run was built around a similar, play-anywhere universality, leading to its "simple... one-handed gameplay" and "shorter play time."
Miyamoto cited the success of Pokémon Go as validation of this smartphone-centric approach. "Pokémon Go is obviously a game that uses your GPS and it’s synced into the camera and Google Maps, so it’s a piece of software that’s really geared towards that mobile play experience," Miyamoto said. "So, similarly with Mario, what we’re looking at is simple game play, one-handed gameplay; shorter play time, playing in shorter bursts; and then really bringing the joy of Mario to that much larger audience."
With its new iOS Mario game -- which will eventually make it to Android -- Nintendo is also admitting that most kids' first interaction with technology is no longer with one of the company's consoles, but the smartphone or tablet of a parent. This convinced Nintendo to finally put its most famous IPs on mobile devices, and helped them decide to make Super Mario Run a one-time-only paid game, so parents don't have to worry about their kids spending large amounts of money on in-game ephemera.
Miyamoto noted that there was a point in time when "[Nintendo’s] hardware system was really the first device that kids would interact with, and that’s starting to shift." The first device kids interact with now, he says? Their parent’s smartphone. This notion of the smartphone "being the first place this kids are encountering games, is what helped us to decide to bring this to smartphones," Miyamoto said.
The first Nintendo and DeNA partnership game was Miitomo, which launched earlier in the year, but failed to gain much traction due to its social-focused features that lacked much in the way of a main gameplay hook. Coming next, besides Super Mario Run, are Animal Crossing and Fire Emblem, but details on the games have been scarce. In the original announcement, Nintendo said that Fire Emblem will be "more accessible" in comparison to the console entries in the popular RPG series, and Animal Crossing "will be connected with the world of Animal Crossing for dedicated gaming systems."
With the new context of Miyamoto's interview for Super Mario Run, it's possible that the two other upcoming mobile games will continue Nintendo's focus on introducing a pared-down version of each franchise, so that players are encouraged to play the full-fledged titles on Nintendo's consoles. Animal Crossing and Fire Emblem are also said to support a free-to-play structure, so there still remains a chance that Nintendo will differentiate the two titles from its simplified mobile gaming strategy and present gameplay closer to the console titles.
Super Mario Run will launch in December, and Nintendo has said that Animal Crossing and Fire Emblem would debut sometime in the fall, but the company has yet to give more specific launch details for those games.
Read The Verge's full interview with Shigeru Miyamoto here.