It’s been a long time coming, but the day has finally arrived. Pokémon Shuffle Mobile is now available for iOS and Android, marking Nintendo’s first foray into smartphone gaming after announcing a partnership with veteran mobile developer DeNA earlier this year.
The app is a port of the 3DS download title Pokémon Shuffle. With its free-to-play model bolstered by microtransactions and addictive match-three puzzle gameplay, it seemed tailor-made for the mobile gaming market. The biggest change from the 3DS version is that Pokémon Shuffle Mobile requires an active data connection in order to play, which means you’re sunk if you’re somewhere without Wi-Fi or good reception.
Nintendo’s critics have often targeted the company in recent years for continuing to push dedicated handheld gaming consoles despite the overall decline in consumer interest alongside the meteoric rise of smartphone gaming. Perhaps in response to such complaints, or perhaps just because the prospect made good business sense, Nintendo announced that it would be releasing five brand new mobile games over the next several years, with the first due out by the end of 2015.
While it’s definitely a far cry from being able to enjoy a Mario or Zelda adventure on your iPhone, the release of Pokémon Shuffle Mobile signifies a bold first step into uncharted territory for one of the oldest companies in the video game business. For as reluctant as Nintendo has been to embrace current gaming trends, the idea of Nintendo games on smartphones is a concept that remains pregnant with possibilities.
This is one small step for a game, one giant leap for a gaming company.