Wednesday, March 18, 2015

It's 2015, And Nintendo Has Decided To Make Smartphone Games

We all have that friend. The one who says Harry Potter is overrated, the one who won’t watch The Hunger Games, the one who refuses to see Firefly because everyone else just will not stop talking about it. Then, when the furor dies down a few years later, they finally make their way around to whichever piece of pop culture all of their friends have insisted they just need to watch one of these days and go “Huh! Maybe that was a good idea after all!”

It’s not a perfect metaphor, but Nintendo appears to be finally coming around to the idea of smartphone gaming , not long after their most recent assertion that, as Nintendo president Satoru Iwata once stated in 2011, creating games for iOS was “absolutely not under consideration”. In 2013, he had similar things to say regarding the matter. So is Nintendo making a 180° turn now? …Sort of. Hit the jump to learn how.

In the wake of the closing of Club Nintendo, among other actions, Nintendo has now announced that not only will they be partnering with notable mobile game developer DeNA, but that they will be buying a 10% share in the company for ¥22 billion. (Link leads to DeNA’s press release.) DeNA will receive the same ¥22 billion share in Nintendo, suggesting that Nintendo wants at least a little bit of clout in their financial partnership with the company using their IP.

The implication is that the games will feature original Nintendo IP, but that they will be all-new, original games, not ports of existing games to the iOS or Android platforms; simultaneously, Nintendo also announced that its next-generation console is under development and code-named NX, so the company’s hardware development is unsurprisingly still healthy.

Now, DeNA is an existing mobile game maker, also known for their sub-brand Mobage, but just about all of their games are some form of free-to-play, as Kotaku points out here. It’s a model that can work as a major stream of revenue if any effort at all is put into making a game based on existing IP that fans will sink time and money into — but there are some hints, based on DeNA’s previous work, that the games Nintendo plans to send to mobile may not be of quite the genres or forms that longtime Nintendo fans are used to.

Still, with Nintendo now having a major stake in DeNA as a company, perhaps some artistic direction will be involved, as well. And who knows? Even if it’s popular right out of the gate, maybe we won’t be willing to try it right away out of the memories of Nintendo games past.

(We reserve the right to jump in a few years later and say, “Maybe that was a good idea after all!”).

Ben Fried-Lee is a writer, blogger, sports fan, and retail employee living in San Francisco. If one of these DeNA games makes you throw and break your iPhone, you’ll probably be visiting him at work.

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