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Mario is officially coming to the iPhone. Nintendo’s Shigeru Miyamoto made a surprise appearance at today’s Apple conference to announce Super Mario Run, an iOS runner with graphics from New Super Mario Bros.
It’ll be free to download with a set purchase price, and Nintendo says it’s “coming soon” to the App Store. It’ll be out by this holiday, they say.
Super Mario Run presents an intriguing sort of balancing act for Nintendo, as the company ports its most popular character to mobile for the first time. The game has to be at once both familiar to those who have followed the mustachioed plumber as he’s jumped from platform to platform, while potentially introducing him to a generation that hasn’t necessarily been weaned on Nintendo consoles.
Even Nintendo seemed caught off-guard by how much Sun and Moon 3DS sales skyrocketed in the wake of Pokémon GO. Properly executed, Run could offer Mario a similar windfall amongst a new generation.
The other key challenge for Nintendo is developing for someone else’s hardware — something the company has never really had to do in its long history. In the case of Super Mario Run, that means both embracing the strengths and catering to the limitations of a device that wasn’t designed for gaming. Niantic’s Pokémon GO was inarguably a master stroke in terms of tailoring software to a hardware platform — using the phone’s camera and GPS to brilliant effect. Super Mario Run is not that. That’s not to say that it’s a failure, but it’s less an example of hardware/software harmony than it is an attempt to rejigger a finely tuned formula for a new format.
For Super Mario Run, that means the tried and true platformer filtered through a reimagined control scheme. It seems overly simple at first — so much so that there’s likely a steeper learning curve for Mario veterans who will have to unlearn a certain amount of what’s been hardwired into them over multiple decades. But the further one advances, the more the apparent the logic behind Nintendo’s choices becomes.