Gree's world-combat game Modern War recently announced a pretty brilliant new way to play their title: World Domination mode. Essentially, players of the MMORTS strategy game will compete for control over different real-life countries around the world, starting with Brazil. The great thing about this idea is that it does several things with one announcement, and these are great ideas for companies that might be looking at the core space or mobile space and scratching their heads.
First, this event sets players immediately into motion, forming alliances, making plans and wondering how they will take part. Second, it allows players to defend their home turf, resulting in a very dedicated player base, even if just for the event's sake. Third, it takes the game from a mobile core strategy game into the world of location-based gaming, the far edge of mobile entertainment.
Location-based games are still few and far between, but they bring the player into the digital world, or the digital world into the real one, by overlaying the game on real-life images or maps, or by making the real-life location of the player make a difference in gameplay. In the case of Modern War, the real-life location will not effect gameplay as players can seemingly join any faction they want, but the pride a player feels in defending his or her own country can easily be enough to suck the player into the game that much more. When a player is sucked into a world and dedicated to a title, they are more likely to spend money.
Nintendo has, for a long time, been a developer and publisher that has relied on existing IPs or a certain age group to drive sales. There have been famous disconnects between the company's higher-ups and the mobile revolution, until lately. Nintendo finally seems to have finally taken a cue from mobile culture and created what is essentially a tablet peripheral, albeit one that is notoriously weak and a bit confusing. It's as though Nintendo doesn't understand why tablets, social or mobile gaming has made headway so quickly. Ironically, the company is known for its more casual gameplay lineup, or at least for a more whimsical and kid-friendly attitude. Core gaming is a step above that, but it's still accessible for younger or more casual players. A lot of the time the difference is simply a matter of a piece of equipment or, in the case of Modern War, a case of tweaking existing gameplay to add on a whole new layer.
The world is constantly becoming more mobile, and Nintendo might want to consider getting a piece of the pie soon. How could they do that? They've yet to really take a hold of connected gaming, except for the occasional title that allows for multiplayer mode or shared game mode. What if they took a cue from a much smaller company and put a similar world-dominating mechanic in their next casual zombie game? Perhaps they could allow Mario Kart players to dominate different tracks from around the world and let winners display trophies on a virtual shelf? Without having to take the hardware back to the drawing board, they could switch many of their games from casual to core with a few optional design tweaks or gameplay modes.
The Wii U is a neat idea, if it had been released years before. Offering a weak tablet to a generation of gamers who have a much more powerful, cheaper and internet-friendly tablet or phone sitting beside them on the couch was not the brightest of moves. It was a noble attempt at reaching to the now tablet-obsessed market, but it did not go far enough. Could a Nintendo-branded tablet, one that actually is a tablet and that connects to the internet but maybe features a locked, Nintendo-branded store, have been a better idea? It's hard to say.
The successes of smaller companies like the publishers of Modern War have shown just how the mobile market can support developers of all sizes, a place that is ripe for the takeover by a giant like Nintendo. The hardware, of course, is where the buck stops for Nintendo but it's time they stopped holding on to an aging set of ideas and adapted. Or, as it was mentioned before, tweaked some of the current titles to become something that resembles a modern game that takes advantage of modern technologies. Instead, Nintendo releases a weak tablet-esque creation to weak sales and continues to hold onto the idea that core gaming, mobile tech and the entire Internet does not exist.
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Beau covers MMORPGs for Massively, enjoys blogging on his personal site and loves social and casual gaming. He has been exploring games since '99 and has no plans to stop. For Games.com News, he explores the world of hardcore Facebook and social games. You can join him on Facebook or follow him on Twitter.