GAMETECH: Plumbs-up for mobile Super Mario

RUNNING a business isn’t easy. Heck, running isn’t easy. Yet somehow Nintendo has combined both to great effect in its first ever mobile release. Super Mario Run hits the App Store today, with huge sales expected.

In October, Apple CEO Tim Cook said more than 20m people had asked to be notified when the game was ready to access, while 50m downloads are expected in the first month. It will be interesting to see if those numbers hold up, but either way this is a historic moment for Nintendo — and gaming in general.

Ten years ago, releasing a Mario game on platforms other than a Nintendo console would have been inconceivable.The Italian plumber is synonymous with their hardware and everything the company stands for. It would be like Roy Keane playing football for England. Yet today Mario graces the mobile screens of countless gamers across the world, and it’s undoubtedly the right decision.

When it comes to simple yet deeply satisfying gameplay, Nintendo remain the best designers in the world — and mobile is a market designed around such compelling simplicity. To leave that industry untapped would simply be bad business.

As it happens, the market would quite literally have been left untapped, because tapping is the only motion required to play Super Mario Run. The game looks and feels just like a classic side-scrolling Mario title, but has been repurposed as an ‘endless runner’, meaning Mario is always running and you simply tap to make him jump.

While that makes the controls simple, the challenges themselves run deeper. Collecting all the coins, beating the ‘ghosts’ of other players, and unlocking new characters add to the experience and supposedly make replay value very good.

Meanwhile, the first three levels are free and €10 will unlock the remaining 21. That’s decent value for a Mario game. The question now is whether Super Mario Run could turn Nintendo’s head towards the mobile market and away from the traditional console market. If Run sells even nearly as well as predicted, why wouldn’t they?

On the other hand, a pragmatic Nintendo will surely realise that the two can complement each other, with fans of the simplified mobile games graduating to the full-fledged console games as a way to get a fuller, more rewarding experience.

The mobile games could act as adverts of a kind for the brilliant design principles upon which Nintendo was built. Let’s hope that, like this latest iteration of Mario, that strategy is a runner.

PROJECT TO EMULATE

Meanwhile, with Nintendo looking forward and running towards a bright new future, one Minecraft player has turned to the past for his latest creation. YouTuber SethBling has used command blocks to create a working Atari 2600 emulator in a Minecraft world. He used around 2,000 command blocks, with dirt blocks as ‘zeroes’ and stone blocks as ‘ones’.

An emulator is a piece of software that simulates the hardware of another system, meaning in this case you could (technically) run Atari 2600 games in this Minecraft world as it emulates the original hardware.

SethBling attached Pac Man, Space Invaders, and Donkey Kong to the creation. He says there is no way to control the games yet and you can only watch them in ‘attract’ mode, but the feat is pretty cool nonetheless. While it’s great to see Mario running on mobiles, seeing an Atari run in Minecraft is almost as impressive.

CALL OF DUTY

Finally, has Call of Duty run its course? Privately released NPD sales data from last month shows Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare sales are down a whopping 50% from last year’s release. The exact figures were a 51% decline in the US and 48% in the UK, with Irish figures likely to tally with the latter. While the sales data didn’t include digital sales, publisher Activision would have let everyone know if those were beating expectations or making up the difference.

While the series will certainly live on (50% less sales is still better than most other games), Activision will need to change things up if Call of Duty is to reclaim its throne as gaming’s number one annual blockbuster. Maybe next year the numbers will run better.


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