Nintendo's long-standing unwillingness to release its tentpole franchises like Mario and Zelda on iPhones and Android devices is nothing new. But now a veteran producer for the company, Kensuke Tanabe, has spoken out to offer some additional insight as to why Nintendo is holding fast to this mindset, even as it faces increased scrutiny from investors.
"With games like Mario and Donkey Kong, the control input is such an important part of that; I think if you're trying to replicate that feeling of control that you have traditional to those games, translating those to a smart device, that's a just a really, really difficult task," Tanabe told GameSpot through a translator during a recent interview. "Of course I'm not ignoring the fact that the marketplace is flooded with these devices and that there are a lot of games created specifically for them. Personally, as I mentioned earlier, I don't have a curiosity of or feeling of needing to create or wanting to create games for those devices. I want Nintendo games to be played on Nintendo hardware."
Some believe that Nintendo's decision to keep its major franchises off smartphones and tablets is a silly one, claiming that the company is turning its back on easy money. But Nintendo does not see it that way. President Satoru Iwata contends that whatever short-term benefit Nintendo might get from releasing its games for mobile devices is not worth the risk of harming its longstanding policy of offering its franchises exclusively on Nintendo devices.
"I want Nintendo games to be played on Nintendo hardware" - Tanabe
For Donkey Kong and Metroid developer Retro Studios CEO Michael Kelbaugh, thinking about platforms is secondary to what the company is really after: making great games.
"We make games, and more importantly, we make Nintendo games. That's where our emphasis is and that's what we want to do. Hardware to us is kind of secondary," Kelbaugh told GameSpot. "We put everything we have into making great games and we'll make those on whatever hardware Nintendo supports."
Kelbaugh said he doesn't give much thought to the ongoing debate about whether or not Nintendo should make iOS and Android games. He has a job to do, and that's to create compelling content for gamers. The business decisions are up to Nintendo, he said.
"What we're focused on is just making a great game. Wherever it ends up, that's not our decision, so I think we need to concentrate on making great content and let Nintendo decide what box they want to put it in, how they want to package it," Kelbaugh said. " Watching this whole debate going on right now...I don't give it a whole lot of thought just because I'm concentrating on making a fun, great game and hardware's always kind of a revolving target I guess."