iMario revisited?

Last month, we told you that the internet had got into a brief tizzy after it was announced there would be a new Pokemon game for iPhone. Was iMario on the way? Sadly for iPhone gamers, Nintendo was quick to clarify: Pokemon yes, everything else no, because Pokemon games are made by a separate company.

And that was supposed to be that. But then Nintendo admitted that its new 3DS portable console was selling really, really badly, and cut its price by a third, rendering it essentially unprofitable. Now, its shareholders are, to use a business journalism term, freaking out. And its our-games-on-our-hardware-only policy is, as they say in snooty American newspapers, 'coming under scrutiny'. Which is to say, people think it's dumb.

Bloomberg reports that investors are pressuring Nintendo to release something in the smartphone software area. 'Smartphones are the new battlefield for the gaming industry,' says one. 'Nintendo should try to either buy its way into this platform or develop something totally new.'

Is this a good idea? Well, on the one hand, Nintendo is - along with Apple - about the only tech company left that controls its whole 'ecosystem' of hardware, software and third-party software distribution. That's a profitable situation if you can keep it. But on the other, we're in totally uncharted territory, as for the first time Nintendo's portable consoles - the thing which have traditionally made them most of their money - have competition from a popular all-round entertainment device. Or rather, several: Android phones, the iPhone, the iPad and - most problematically for Nintendo - the iPod Touch.

Our guess? They won't do it now, but they'll be forced to in a few years. As Sega gave up making consoles and made games for Nintendo, Nintendo will eventually give up making consoles and make games for Apple. But they won't do it until the last possible moment, we promise you that.

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