For years, Nintendo had been faced with questions regarding whether or not they would eventually embrace mobile devices and start producing games for both smartphones and tablets. To some, that prompt was rooted on the envisioned future where game-dedicated handlheld platforms, a market Nintendo rules over with astounding efficiency, would succumb to the ever-growing power of multipurpose gadgets. To others, it was a matter of preying on a much wider market that was mostly devoid of truly great titles and whose limitations fit the straightforward nature of the company’s software like a glove.
Last month, after shying away from properly answering any of those queries by giving standard responses devoid of any meaning, Nintendo let the world know that – joined by DeNA, a Japanese giant on the mobile gaming front – it would now work on bringing its worldwide famous properties to those platforms.
Pinpointing the destination of Nintendo’s strategy is impossible, especially since it is a move that will likely be the first of a series of steps the company will take onto that field; a sequence of acts whose final outline will change according to external factors. Down the line, such partnership might give birth to a Nintendo-branded smartphone optimized to serve their games; it might lead to the Big N opening up a virtual shop of their own to provide titles to that gigantic audience; or it could be something that paves the way for Nintendo dropping their handheld line and attacking the tablet and smartphone front. It all depends on how the industry will act during the next years or decades.
Right now, though, their plan is relatively clear. With their current format, tablets and smartphones are in no way suited to house Nintendo’s biggest titles. Therefore, their proposal is not to port part of their library, but to create games around famous characters and worlds that will be constructed with the constraints of their target platforms in mind; hence creating a much more pleasant and suitable gaming experience to those who like to pass their time by playing on their smartphones either during a commute or inside a waiting room.
The exact format of those titles is yet to be revealed, but given DeNA tends to operate with the freemium pricing strategy, on which the game itself is free but players must dish out cash to buy extra features or goods, that seems to be the most likely horizon. Regardless of the specificities of the approach that will be taken, though, one thing is for sure: Nintendo is, naturally, bent on making money, so the mobile market will serve as yet another solid source of income, one where the money spent by each user is not as high as on the actual gaming market, but where the bigger user base, reduced development costs, and lower risks and demands make up for the tiny prices.
Things can get better than that, though. The dream scenario for the company and, consequently, for its fans, surfaces if those inexpensive titles with relatively high-quality serve as the gateway many people will take into the Nintendo universe. With those smartphone and tablet titles Nintendo can achieve something better than free advertising: the company will actually receive money from users who will pay to play games that may naturally lead them to urge for more and, henceforth, make them wish they owned a true Nintendo platform.
Like Disney, the Big N has built a set of characters whose family-friendly nature makes them instantly recognizable, and with the releasing of smaller-scope games that – literally – almost everyone on the planet will be able to play, their fantastic brand has the chance to spread like wildfire.
If those efforts are cooked up just right and if actual advertisement actions that tie up the smartphone and tablet games with their full-fledged counterparts are executed, this venture into the mobile world may end up not as the day when Nintendo’s proprietary platforms began to die, but as the day on which they started getting bigger than they have ever been.