Nintendo certainly stirred a lot of interest – and nostalgia – a month ago when they announced they had purchased mobile developer DeNA and would be expanding into the mobile gaming industry (the smartphone and tablet mobile gaming industry, that is) in the near future. Now that the dust has cleared, where do we stand?
Nintendo may have a new reason to be concerned about their infant mobile department: SEGA just removed Sonic 4: Episodes 1 and 2 from the App Store, and may be removing more later; an official blog post says certain (unnamed) games “no longer meet [SEGA] standards.”
Why should Nintendo worry about SEGA? Because without caution, Nintendo could follow in SEGA’s footsteps. Both are standards in the gaming world who pioneered mobile gaming in the truest sense of the word: Handheld devices that could go with the gamer were a remarkable invention, and cemented games in popular culture.
SEGA publishes its mobile games under three publisher accounts: SEGA, SEGA CORPORATION, and SEGA TOYS CO, LTD. Since they began publishing in July 2008, they’ve published 118 games, some paid, some free, some free with in-app purchases. Over time, they’ve removed 60 apps for various reasons, but most of their apps have done fairly well in the App Store.
Even though Nintendo is just adding mobile to its portfolio – and doing it by acquiring DeNA, rather than building their own in-house department – we believe it will ultimately succeed. Here’s why:
Pokémon, Legend of Zelda, Mario and Luigi – these franchises have been around for decades and aren’t going anywhere soon. Nintendo understands the value of its properties, and it has shown that it’s capable of continuing them on for a new generation.
While Nintendo has plenty of games that require hours of work, they also have more casual games like Animal Crossing and even Pokémon that can be played for a few minutes at a time. This fits in with the time that most mobile gamers want to spend in-app, and it means that Nintendo doesn’t necessarily have to reinvent the wheel – or modify an existing IP to fit a franchise (Flappy Pikmen or Starfox Candy Crush, anyone)?
Nintendo games are well-known for not losing their value as they age; games like The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D and Super Mario 3D World have very consistent pricing years after launch when games like Call of Duty and Saints Row quickly fade into the background, available for purchase, new or used, at a fraction of their original price. Nintendo games simply do not lose value.
We’re confident Nintendo can succeed in the mobile arena, despite the numerous pitfalls. They’re more in touch with their audience than SEGA, and have been able to make the jump to the next generation of gamers by constantly updating games like Mario Kart and Super Smash Bros. They’ll need to figure out a viable monetization strategy for mobile that won’t alienate their fan base – a group of consumers who are very willing to pay a premium for content. If they can link their new mobile content with existing games on Nintendo hardware, they could use mobile as a promotional tool (much like Sony did with their mobile game Run Sackboy! Run!, which launched prior to the larger launch of Little Big Planet 3).