How Nintendo Will be Releasing Games for Smartphones Now

Your favorite Nintendo characters will soon be available very close to home — in your own pocket or in the palm of your hand.

Nintendo Co., Ltd., headquartered in Japan, recently announced its intent to enter the smartphone gaming market via a partnership with Internet business company DeNA Co., Ltd., also based in Japan. The alliance will jointly develop games that feature Nintendo’s familiar — and wildly popular — gaming personalities.

The games haven’t hit the market yet but one can only assume that a new game vividly featuring Mario, Luigi, and the gang on phones like the Samsung Galaxy s6 looks great.

Why Smartphone Gaming?

Nintendo Entertainment System launched in 1983, but the company has been around as a maker of games and entertainment long before then. It started as a playing card company in 1933. But most aficionados today know the organization as the maker of iconic video games, including the Nintendo, Super Nintendo, Game Boy, Nintendo 64, and Nintendo DS — just to name a few.

Nintendo also owns the rights to legendary video game franchises, including Mario, Legend of Zelda, and Donkey Kong.

DeNA has been focused on mobile services since 2004 and has “accumulated world-class expertise in Internet services, including mobile games,” Nintendo said in its release.

It’s no surprise that Nintendo would want to focus on the mobile gaming market. Revenues reportedly increased to $25 billion in 2014.

But that’s not all — mobile game revenues are projected to overtake console games in 2015, according to Forbes. The western markets showed particularly large growth in 2014, and now North America is expected to see a 47 percent jump and western Europe is projected to see a 51 percent increase year after year. Japan is also seeing a substantial increase in iOS and Android game revenues, Forbes reported.

Put in the context of the ever-increasing popularity of gaming on a tablet or high-end smartphone, like the Samsung Galaxy S6, the combination of beloved characters plus new technology and reliable networks makes sound business and financial sense.

A Surprising Decision

But the decision was met with some surprise, after Nintendo seemed to be fighting entering the smartphone gaming market.

One concern of the company is mobile’s free app gaming culture, which prompts in-app purchases rather than charge for the game itself, which would eat into company profits.

Nintendo President, Satoru Iwata, told reporters at a news conference that he’s not totally against the free-to-play model, but that he wouldn’t be too happy with many in-game purchases.

“The company seems to have totally changed its mind-set, after having resisted against mobile game development, publicly complained about the low quality of content in mobile and played down its role in the game world overall,” said Serkan Toto, a Tokyo-based game consultant. “This is about the most drastic, bold shift in strategy Nintendo could have undertaken.”

Now the world is watching to see if the strategy will pay off.

What’s the Next Move?

The partnership between Nintendo and DeNA was inked in March 2015.

“Nintendo and DeNA intend to jointly operate new gaming applications featuring Nintendo IP, which they will develop specifically for smart devices,” Nintendo said. “Consequently, Nintendo expects to benefit from new business opportunities as more consumers encounter Nintendo IP, and DeNA expects to strengthen its core business of mobile gaming internationally through the use of Nintendo [Intellectual Property].”

The video game culture is already abuzz with an expectation that games will be released this year.

There will be new games developed on existing characters, rather than games adapted simply for mobile play. Nintendo hopes to reach hundreds of millions of new customers with the move. A new game distribution service will be available in the fall, Iwata told reporters in March.

But don’t count Nintendo out of the console game yet. The video game giant is also expected to release new hardware, dubbed with the codename NX. That gaming system is being hailed as “an entirely new concept.” More details will be released next year.

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