I love smartphones. From the very first moment I scooped up my T-Mobile G1 (AKA: the HTC Dream) way back in 2008, I knew this piece of technology would change my life forever. Over the years I've changed smartphones more often than I have my socks (that's not actually an exaggeration, which is why my wife and kids find it so hard to occupy the same room as me) and the allure of a shiny new phone (which does exactly the same things as the last one, but ever so slightly faster) never ceases to get my pulse racing. In short, I'm an unashamed slave to smartphone technology.
Given my gaming background you'd logically assume that over years I'd have fully embraced the entertainment potential of the smartphone, too; granted, the lack of physical buttons is an issue when it comes to traditional games, but the likes of Angry Birds, Threes and Canabalt have arguably overcome this to present addictive and compelling gameplay experiences which as rightly snared millions of players. But not me.
I've found that gaming always tends to be forgotten on my smartphone; I typically have very few – if any – games installed on my device, with apps such as Twitter, Instagram and WhatsApp being the first things I download when taking stock of a new handset (the exception to this rule being my beloved Sony Ericsson Xperia Play, which quickly became packed with emulators for a whole host of retro systems – that doesn't really count as smartphone gaming, though). I prefer to game on dedicated hardware, and right now that naturally means Switch. The console's delightful portability – combined with its amazing library of AAA games – presents a pretty intriguing gameplay proposition; the idea of playing a smartphone title designed to do little more than cynically empty my wallet via in-app purchases doesn't exactly thrill me in comparison.
Despite this, I've found myself increasingly turning to my phone for my gaming fix, and it's all thanks to Nintendo. The company's decision to move into the realm of smartphone games with partner DeNA was met with skepticism when it was first announced, and its debut – the non-game Miitomo – did little to change that. However, Super Mario Run and Fire Emblem Heroes have delivered polished experiences which, while still subject to traditional smartphone tropes such as in-app purchases and cool-down timers, have enough of that all-important Nintendo magic to be addictive, compelling and entertaining. Add to this the Niantic-developed Pokémon GO – a game that I have booted up every single day since it launched last year – and it's impossible for me to ignore the fact that Nintendo, of all companies, has turned me into a dedicated smartphone gamer.
I was perhaps a little in denial of this fact until recently, when I downloaded Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp to my phone. I've never been what I'd call a massive fan of the series, despite thoroughly enjoying past entries on the GameCube, DS and 3DS. I could clearly see the appeal of the game, its daily tasks and its massive selection of talking animals. However, having it on my phone takes things to a whole other level; I'm addicted in a way I'd never before believed was possible, certainly not in the smartphone arena.
Every spare second I have each day is now devoted to running errands, chatting with campmates, trading goods with other players and – most importantly – paying off that accursed loan so I can pimp out my camper van. The cycle of work and reward is perfectly pitched, and while cool-down timers are used quite excessively, it's not an issue when you can put your phone down for a couple of hours safe in the knowledge that when you next pick it up, there will be more tasks to complete, friends to hand gifts to and items to craft.
Nintendo's smartphone output may make some of the same mistakes that other mobile games are guilty of – in-app purchases are, sadly, a core part of the experience in the free-to-play market (and are becoming part of paid games too, as those who have been following the Star Wars: Battlefront II debacle will attest) – but I've so far managed to play all of the company's smartphone games without spending a penny. That might make me Nintendo's worst smartphone gaming customer – the company is in this to make cash, after all – but given that I've previously kept mobile games at arm's length, the Japanese veteran has clearly done something right.
What's your milage been with Nintendo's smartphone games? Let us know with a comment.