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Super Mario Run is a Bigger Deal Than You Think

I tuned into this year's Apple Event expecting to be bored by an iPhone 7 that leaked forever ago, but I was both shocked and delighted within the first 10 minutes — and not just because of that wonderful Carpool Karaoke skit.

No, I was far more blown away that Shigeru Miyamoto, the creator of Nintendo's most legendary franchises, was on Apple's stage, introducing a new Mario game for iOS. It's a moment that I never thought I'd see in my 20-plus years of gaming, and one that tells us a lot about the Big N's future.

On the surface, Nintendo's announcement of Super Mario Run doesn't seem like a huge deal. A Mario-themed side-scrolling runner is just too much of a no-brainer for Nintendo. It's like hitting one of those endless coin blocks that constantly churns out money.

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But when I found out that Super Mario Run would be a paid game with no in-app purchases, I raised a pleasantly surprised eyebrow. I had some serious concerns that Nintendo's mobile offerings would devolve into nickel-and-diming pieces of free-to-play garbage, but now, I'm starting to get the sense that the company wants its mobile titles to exude the same degree of polish and value that its beloved console games are known for.

Nintendo is starting to look comfortable as a third-party developer.

Of course, we'll have to wait and see how good Super Mario Run is when it hits in December. But Nintendo could have easily released this game for free in an attempt to constantly gouge you for extra coins and lives, and it didn't. And now that the biggest name in games is forgoing the free-to-play format, it might only be a matter of time before other mobile devs follow suit. 

Still, the even bigger news is that Nintendo is starting to look comfortable as a third-party developer. Seeing Nintendo introduce new software for another company's device was both surreal and exciting, even if it was just a simple iOS app. If Nintendo is working with Apple now, what's stopping the company from making games for PlayStation or Xbox a few years down the line?

Sure, the Nintendo NX is on the horizon, and it doesn't look like Nintendo has any plans to drop out of the console game anytime soon. But if the NX performs as poorly as the ill-fated Wii U, it might be time to give Mario and company a new home.

And even if it takes off, the NX is shaping up to be a wacky handheld/home console hybrid that might call for very specific kinds of games, at least according to rumors. That means that there may be room for the Big N to bring its beloved franchises to a variety of platforms — even the ones it doesn't make.