Nintendo to use smartphones and tablets for game demos? Genius! (Updated)

****UPDATE**** Nintendo has just denied the report is true (as reported again by CVG News), stating: "...we can confirm that there are no plans to offer minigames on smartphone devices." A real shame, as it sounds to us like a brilliant idea. Read on to hear why, but sadly do so knowing that Nintendo is sticking stubbornly to its own two guns.***UPDATE ENDS****

'Nintendo games will not be released on smartphones'. That’s been the clear message from Nintendo. And the latest rumour to come out of Japan (as reported by CVG News) doesn’t change that. Instead it offers an amazing solution to Nintendo’s problem with the smartphone market: It can use it for game demos.

Just think about that for a moment. How many people do you know who have a mobile phone? Or, to put it in more answerable terms, how many don’t? OK, now compare that to the number of people you know who actually own a 3DS or a Wii U. There’s a massive, untapped market for Nintendo. Imagine if the two could cross over without diminishing the unique selling points of Nintendo’s core systems. That's what this would do.

I can completely understand Iwata’s obstinate stance on smartphones as a distribution solution for Nintendo games. For starters, Nintendo traditionally likes to make money from hardware sales, which it would not do if its games were on mobile devices. Secondly, games on smartphones would not have a persistent hardware spec to ensure that famous seal of quality can be stamped on every download. What if Mario jitters around on an android tablet? What if Yoshi glitches out and dumps you back to the iOS home screen at the start of the second level? It would be against everything that Nintendo has come to stand for with its traditionally bullet-proof software.

So the idea of using smartphones as a distribution system for free minigame versions of Nintendo titles is a stroke of genius. The kind of idea that makes you sit up and think ‘My God, man! Why didn’t I think of that?!’

Imagine it: A free-to-play fishing tournament in Animal Crossing where you can meet a selection of village residents, perhaps go inside one house and sample the day/night transition. For free.

Or how about three levels of Pilotwings Resort where you can sample the glider, plane and rocket pack, perhaps with 60 seconds of time to explore Wuhu Island in free flight? For free.

Maybe you could even play the first hour of Pokemon X/Y, choosing your starter and catching the first three or four Pokemon. I’m sure Nintendo could even arrange for these Pokemon to be imported into the 3DS game, when you buy the real thing. The possibilities are endless--and all of them are exciting. All of them. And all for free.

I keep saying free because free is the only way I can see this working. Paid content suggests your purchase is the (or in this instance ‘a’) finished article, yet Nintendo obviously doesn’t want its actual products to appear on smartphones. Understandably, it wants its beloved characters and worlds to be exclusive to its own consoles.

Free demos are the perfect solution. Disclaimers can explain that the quality of the content may not be representative of the actual product. Also, if you want to view the images in 3D, you’ll need a 3DS because you can’t simulate the effect on an iPhone. I for one would be lenient if a demo I liked the look of crashed, glitched or ran poorly if it was a free smartphone app, because the genuine article would run beautifully on the Nintendo machine. Obviously Nintendo would want every download to be solid so I'm sure it wouldn't be that bad, but these would basically be playable adverts.

The only real obstacle in all this is how the games would control. Touchscreen controls aren't ideal, but then there are solutions, like Moga's excellent iOS controller that I've tried and loved, plus it's just another reason to go ahead and buy a 3DS or a Wii U. In fact, a Wii U comes with a tablet (plus buttons) so the majority of its functionality could be replicated on an iPad or similar. I can't see any major reason why this couldn't be a completely successful venture.

So I for one completely embrace the idea. It remains to be seen whether Nintendo is really considering such a bold move. After all, it still goes against everything Iwata really wants to do--anyone can see that. But when everyone with even the slightest interest in the company is demanding to see change, modernisation and even the slightest semblance of awareness of what’s happening in the rest of the industry, I think there’s plenty of fire making this smoke. I say we fan the flames. The resulting inferno could be exactly what Nintendo needs.

We should find out if it's actually happening this Thursday (Jan 30) when Nintendo meets with its investors. Very excite.

Justin Towell

Justin was a GamesRadar staffer for 10 years but is now a freelancer, musician and videographer. He's big on retro, Sega and racing games (especially retro Sega racing games) and currently also writes for Play Magazine,, PC Gamer and TopTenReviews, as well as running his own YouTube channel. Having learned to love all platforms equally after Sega left the hardware industry (sniff), his favourite games include Christmas NiGHTS into Dreams, Zelda BotW, Sea of Thieves, Sega Rally Championship and Treasure Island Dizzy.