It’s seems as though Mario is out of the Picross scene and Pokemon is in. But the switch certainly contains nuances that go beyond the release of a new free-to-start game, Pokemon Picross, that’s going to available in December. Picross is essentially an electronic version of the nonogram puzzles where you fill in squares according to the numbered clues to eventually solve the puzzle by creating a picture. If you want to try this out for yourself, there are free apps and sites where you can play for free. The free-to-start idea is going to attempt to draw players in with free content and once they’re hooked, get them to buy more levels. It will definitely work out well, because the game is addicting. My girlfriend lays and plays this game for hours while I’m writing, and will only take breaks when her eyes hurt. This will most likely be a profitable release for Nintendo for a few reasons.
Nintendo has recently released the expanded versions of Pokemon Ruby and Sapphire this year, and sold about ten million copies by May. The sales of Pokemon games over the years have been relatively consistent with every major release. By combining Pokemon with Picross, rather than the previously brand-less Picross DS or the early predecessor Mario Picross, Nintendo has the opportunity to exponentially increase profit through their eShop. Since the game will be digitally downloaded, the possibility of paid expansion packs are virtually endless and I think that this release is going to carry more weight than is expected by people uninterested in the puzzle game genre. Younger audiences now, and I’m talking ten and under, are familiar with app stores and know how to pick out games and download things. If they see a Pokemon game and have any idea what Pokemon is, they might download it. If they download it and like it they’ll get more levels and parents will most likely be supported because nonograms are pretty healthy for the brain’s focus and spatial reasoning skills.
The other side to this news is that this is another sign of Nintendo nudging the less profitable Mario franchise out of the limelight. Instead of expanding on the once popular nonograms for the Gameboy and SuperNintendo, which were Mario themed (as an archaeologist), they decided to let the Mario theme fade into history and went with Pokemon. Can’t blame them either, Mario sales have been depressingly subsiding according to sales trends. The younger audience doesn’t know Mario like the older audiences do, and both audiences won’t really care what theme the Picross game is, as it’s mostly about the puzzles themselves and the reward of beating a level. Regardless of the skin, I hope that they return with multiplayer mode from the standalone Picross DS from 2007 to keep kids competitive with their puzzles.