When you check your phone in the morning, the Nintendo app is marked with a red dot.
After you check your text messages and Facebook notifications, you click the big red "N" and get to work.
Inside the app, your notifications let you know you have some extra lives for the Animal Crossing game you've been playing here and there, and invites you to fire it up. It's been a day since you've burned through your allotted lives, so you have a restock of Nook-shaped lives that are good to go. The game is just a simplistic image of scenery with different types of bugs that run and fly in and off the screen; you have to slide your finger to make your net swing across the screen. The net always has the same speed, so there's a timing to catching all the different sorts of bugs. Imagine "Animal Crossing" meets "Fruit Ninja". It pays out digital bells to use in the full Animal Crossing console game – not a lot, but enough to keep you playing.
Later that day your app lights up green. You check your smartphone / tablet and see a friend request from an unfamiliar name, but a familiar face.
"Nice Mii", you respond before accepting their friendship.
Later the evening when you get home, the blue light on your latest system (perhaps called the Nintendo DX) is shining brightly in your living room. You discard an ad for a Pokemon treasure app, as you recall never quite using the maps from the Zelda app you downloaded when it came out around the holidays. On the bright side, you do scroll down on the home screen to notice that a new Excitebike game is coming out soon. Before moving on, you click near the corner of that Excitebike wheel to toss it onto your wishlist. You switch menus to see who's online, but your new buddy from earlier that day has already beaten you to the punch:
"Wanna play Mario?" pops up in the corner of the screen.
Your new friend sends an in-game invitation to join their game already in progress, and after a loading screen you both begin heading left to right. Without a way to use voice chat (as Nintendo's clearly not a fan of the idea) you pull out your phone and start messaging them via the main Nintendo app. Your messages create small bubbles featuring their Mii speaking in word bubbles over in the corner of your big screen - like a faster, more integrated Miiverse messaging system. You make it all the way to the castle, and all is well in level 3-4.
Their Mii blips, "Play again l8r?"
That night before bed, you decide to plug in your portable and charge it, since you always seem to forget it at home. This time, you figure the new Excitebike might be worth the effort. As always, you plug in your phone to recharge overnight, turning off the lights to get ready for the next morning.
Both for better and for worse, Nintendo of the near and distant future wants us to download a Nintendo app (plus smart device games), own a 3DS, Wii U, and eventually its next gen equivalents. To what extent Nintendo has in mind, nobody yet knows. All we have is our imaginations.
For hardcore Nintendo fans, some version of the above story may not be that terrible of an expression of the mobile marketplace. In fact, it actually ignites the imagination to figure out how cool this new vision could be.
Unaccounted for in the above scenario is the hypothetical unity of Nintendo's handheld line with its console line. What does stand to occur - at the bare minimum - is that the two product lines will purportedly be more interconnected than ever before. Having gone from Pokemon trading cables all the way to wireless notifications, what is on the horizon is poised to synergize Nintendo in both form and function.
One might say that since Nintendo couldn't beat the mobile market, but is ready to build its own Theme Park with a sign that reads, "Consoles: Next exit."
The Nintendo of 2017 (Or 2018? 2016?) will be no different in terms of philosophy, we'd suggest, but it's now seriously invested in following the call of the market in perhaps the most direct way the company has ever done so. The low sales of the Wii U and the declining market for the 3DS lines will likely be all the proof the company needs.
As with all big potential ideas, things could go south in a hurry; few would welcome the degeneracy of pay-to-play as a standard. What might start as, say, a few bells for Animal Crossing could one day inform the entire in-game economy of all future Crossing titles. Needed items, unassisted difficulty spikes, or individually priced DLC items could be waiting for us in, let's say, "Nook's Download Shack". The amiibo cards - it seems - could be only the first step to buying your games piece by piece.
Alternatively, the lure of Nintendo following the beaten path lies in the simple fact that there simply are many more smartphones in the world than there are Nintendo systems. Animal Crossing towns needn't be so lonely, Mario Parties needn't be so confined, and Metroid games need a marketplace to just exist in the first place. With a digital, high traffic connection between your portable, your home console and most importantly your phone and / or tablet, the market for all this is far more likely. The DeNA merger could theoretically be the perfect compromise between Nintendo's watchdog conservatism and the way gamers and many potential gamers communicate and entertain themselves.
Extremes in these areas seem least likely. An Xbox Live-esque utopia of Nintendo Smash Bros leaderboards and virtual console mega-malls would be a total break from Nintendo's history of business. And despite the fact that people already spend $5 to store their excess Pokemon, overwrought microtransactions do not currently suit the company's game making philosophies - though its experiments show it's not beyond trying less wholesome models.
What the DeNA merger and recent releases have undoubtedly conveyed is that Nintendo may have finally been forced out of its comfort zone, into writing a blueprint it would not normally write. And with it comes the bridge that leads everyone in and out of the Mushroom Kingdom, both for better and for worse.
Main image credit: T3