For years, people have been arguing for Nintendo to bring its popular games to smartphones and tablets, in the hopes of gaining access to classic Mario adventures without the need of a special console. And for years, Nintendo has resisted, instead sticking to its own proprietary hardware and rejecting the very concept of Nintendo characters on mobile devices. However, it looks like the time has finally come – we’ll finally be seeing Nintendo properties on a smartphone or a tablet.
The company has announced a business and capital alliance with mobile publisher DeNA, which will develop and manage game applications for smart devices based on Nintendo’s popular IP’s. The deal covers all of Nintendo’s characters, so we could be seeing Mario and possibly Pokémon as well.
“Leveraging the strength of Nintendo’s intellectual property (IP) and game development skills in combination with DeNA’s world-class expertise in mobile games, both companies will develop and operate new game apps based on Nintendo’s IP, including its iconic game characters, for smart devices,” said the company in a statement. “The alliance is intended to complement Nintendo’s dedicated video game systems business and extend Nintendo’s reach into the vast market of smart device users worldwide. Under the alliance, DeNA will also be able to strengthen its gaming business at a global scale by leveraging Nintendo’s IP. To ensure the quality of game experience that consumers expect from this alliance of Nintendo and DeNA, only new original games optimized for smart device functionality will be created, rather than porting games created specifically for the Wii U home console or the Nintendo 3DS portable system.”
That means consumers won’t be seeing ports of popular games like Super Mario Bros. 3 and Pikmin, but rather original experiences with existing Nintendo properties that take advantage of the mobile format – which more than certainly beats nothing, Nintendo fans.
In addition, the companies will offer an online membership service “that is accessible from smart devices, PC and Nintendo systems, such as the Nintendo 3DS portable system and the Wii U home console. The membership service, which is targeted to launch in the fall of 2015, will be built on DeNA’s extensive experience and capabilities in online membership services.” This could be the replacement to the Club Nintendo program that the publisher intends to shut down over the summer.
The news certainly provided good news for Nintendo’s stock, with an increase in stock that zoomed more than 27 percent on the news. Still, there are some who are looking at the deal with a bit of skepticism, as pointed out in this roundtable article from GamesIndustry International.
Still, hopes are high that the partnership will work out. Said GamesIndustry‘s James Brightman, “Like a child refusing to take its bitter medicine but realizing that it was necessary for its health later on, I’m hopeful that this move will ultimately pay off for Nintendo. The company knows that its expertise isn’t on mobile, so it’s wisely teamed with one of the leaders in Japan in DeNA. Whether DeNA knows how to make a “proper” Mario experience is up for debate, but Nintendo wouldn’t have made the deal if it didn’t trust DeNA to handle its properties with care.” The full article can be read here.
Despite this announcement, though, Nintendo insists that it continues to be a strong force when it comes to console gaming. During the same press announcement, it confirmed that it was working on a new video game system called the NX, which it will have more details for next year. In the meantime, the company will continue its push for Wii U and 3DS games, including forthcoming games like StarFox and Legend of Zelda.
Many important questions remain unanswered, such as whether or not these new games would be free-to-play or premium games, and when we might expect the first games from this agreement to appear. How Nintendo marketing efforts and this new network will connect the new games to other Nintendo properties is an open question as well. Like any such major agreement, the ultimate impact depends on how seriously both partners work on it. Certainly Nintendo’s iconic characters could command more attention, and more value, on mobile than any other video game characters — if the games are up to the quality standards that Nintendo is known for.
This is an important deal for both DeNA and Nintendo, but the ultimate impact won’t be clear for quite some time.