Nintendo changes tune, confirms bringing its beloved videogame franchises to mobile

Nintendo Mario 001

Japanese gaming giant Nintendo confirmed Tuesday a broad partnership with fellow Japanese videogame maker DeNA that will see it create games for smartphones and tablets based on its classic characters, reports The Wall Street Journal.

The iconic company has also teased its next-generation gaming system code0named “NX.”

For a long, long time a staunch opposer to porting its prized Mario, Zelda and Pokémon videogame franchises to mobile, Nintendo has thankfully changed its rigid stance in response to lagging sales of its own console hardware and software and the mobile gaming industry becoming an estimated $25 billion market.

The company said there would be “no limitations” on the types of games that could be ported to mobile, including its high-value brands such as Mario, Pokémon, Metroid and Donkey Kong.

“The company said it would develop new games based on its characters, rather than adapting existing console games, in order to optimize the mobile experience,” reads the report.

Nintendo had been refusing to license its characters for mobile use for years, choosing to clung to the console strategy out of fear that mobile-friendly moves might undermine the value of its rich catalog of games for consoles.

But as games for smartphones, tablets and other mobile devices are now largely fueling much of the industry’s growth, Nintendo has “totally changed its mind-set”, as Serkan Toto, a Tokyo-based game consultant, put it.

“This is about the most drastic, bold shift in strategy Nintendo could have undertaken,” he added.

Nintendo characters

The Nintendo-DeNA deal entails the former buying a ten percent stake in DeNA, for 22 billion yen, which works out to approximately $182 million. In turn, DeNA will be acquiring a 1.24 percent stake in Nintendo for the same amount.

The two partners will launch a new game distribution portal this fall, which will be the only venue for mobile gamers to access Nintendo games. It’s unclear if Nintendo will release games on the App Store.

For what it’s worth, this global portal will be also accessible via Nintendo’s game consoles and reach hundreds of millions of new users.

It’s crucial to note that a press release from Nintendo’s new mobile partner DeNA did not specifically mention bringing its IP portfolio to iPhones and iPads. All it says is that the two companies will jointly developer and manage “gaming applications for smart devices,” in addition to “a new multi-device membership service for the global market.”


Nintendo President Satoru Iwata said at a news conference today that his company would take the lead on developing new games for it. DeNA will operate the technical side and the two firms will share revenue 50-50.

“By tapping into the smartphone we can increase the number of Nintendo fans,” he said. “No company in any industry can survive if they fail to adjust to changing market environments.”

That’s a notable U-turn from his belittling of mobile games as a low-quality, unprofitable industry. In reality, games on mobile generated an Newzoo-estimated $25 billion in revenue in 2014, up 42 percent from a year earlier, and are projected to replace consoles this year as the largest game segment.

As for the new gaming hardware, details are scarce and all we know at this point is that the NX will indeed involve fresh hardware and gameplay concepts. More news on this dedicated game platform will be shared “next year,” Satoru said.

Are you excited about this news or is Nintendo’s move a typical case of ‘too little, too late,’ do you think?

Source: The Wall Street Journal