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Mario on your smartphone won't be what you think
March 18th, 2015
07:43 AM ET

Mario on your smartphone won't be what you think

Nintendo finally gave in.

On Monday Nintendo announced a tie-up with Japanese mobile gaming firm DeNA that will place Nintendo characters in all-new games for smartphones.

That distinction is key: Nintendo is not bringing its older, existing games to mobile devices. It is creating all-new games specifically for those devices.

It means you still won't be able to play the original Super Mario Bros. on your smartphone.

You know what? That's a good thing.

Mobile games and console games aren't the same. What works for one doesn't necessarily work for the other.

It's a little like the difference between TV and movies. On a certain level, the two are extremely similar. They both involve actors performing a story on camera. But you'd never confuse the two; they are two separate forms of media, with different styles. There is a clear distinction between what works as a film and what works on TV.

The same is true of video games. Console games tend to be played for longer stretches; mobile games typically fill short periods of time when you're waiting for someone, and must be able to handle a quick interruption when a call comes in. Console games are built around their controllers, allowing a precise and more complex level of interaction; but touchscreens on smartphones and tablets are more intuitive and more flexible.

If you've ever tried Sonic the Hedgehog or Grand Theft Auto 3 on the iPhone, you'll know that using a touchscreen to emulate a console controller isn't ideal. It's possible, but it doesn't really work.

That doesn't mean mobile games are simpler than console games. You can build smart, deep games for mobile devices - just look at 80 Days, to name one of many examples. But 80 Days works because it was built specifically for phones and tablets. The experience was crafted around the hardware and the needs of a mobile gamer.

That's what Nintendo says it's trying to do here. It will use its experience in making games and its legendary stable of characters to create games especially for mobile, with help from DeNA.

You'll be able to play a Mario game on your phone, but it won't be the ones you remember from your childhood. And that's great.

Shareholders are certainly excited: Nintendo's stock soared 21% in Tokyo on Wednesday.

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