Let's not thwack around the undergrowth here, Nintendo has done alright when it comes to mobile games. Super Mario Run is probably one of the best auto-runners on the App Store, and you can see why by clicking here for our review. And Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp and Fire Emblem Heroes are both solid experiences.
Now re-read that first paragraph. I just described two Nintendo games as “solid experiences”. That's not something that usually happens with the big N's output. Sure it might not throw out games left right and centre, but the ones that do come out are almost always top of their class.
So to say that two thirds of the Nintendo games that have come out for iOS so far are just alright represents something of a problem. It's nice having Animal Crossing and Fire Emblem on your phone, but once that novelty value has worn off, is there really anything over than brand recognition to keep them lodged on your homescreen? I'm not so sure.
Animal Crossing was always going to be a no-brainer when it came to mobile. It's the sort of game that mobile players have been poking at for years. Which is why we gave it 3.5 stars in our review. But it's no Mario Kart. It's no Zelda. Hell, it's not really even a Star Fox.
The stall that Nintendo set out with Super Mario Run was high-quality, content-filled, premium experiences. It felt like you were playing a Nintendo game on mobile, and that's what made it quite so special. Again, Fire Emblem is fun, we gave it 4/5 in our review, but it's more of a distraction than anything else.
At their worst, Animal Crossing and Fire Emblem feel a little bit like re-skins. They've got the Nintendo trappings, they're packed to the gills with familiar faces and references, but that glorious Nintendo spark just isn't there.
So what can the Japanese company do to turn things around? Well, if 2018 isn't going to go the same way as 2017, it's going to have to release a game with a little more bite. AC and FE are time-killers, they're not games that make you sit up and scream holy mother of Todd, this is the best thing I've ever seen.
Games like Oceanhorn have shown that Zelda-likes work really well on mobile. There are plenty of space shooters and kart racers on the App Store too. Now wreath them in some Nintendo magic. Polish them up to that sheen that we've all come to expect. Hello there something a little bit special.
Nintendo hasn't had a bad start to its mobile gaming career by anyone else's standards. But by its own benchmark, it's fallen pretty short. And there's only so many times it can release an “alright” game before people start to wander off to other experiences.