Nintendo Set To Deliver First Mobile Title This Year, Five Mobile Games By 2017

In Nintendo’s financial results briefing for the fiscal year that came to an end in March 2015, company president and CEO Satoru Iwata revealed more details about Nintendo’s venture into the mobile gaming market. The news came as a positive outlook, after announcing Nintendo’s first annual profit since the fiscal year that ended in March 2011. Gamers eager to see their favorite Nintendo characters on their smart devices will not be waiting long. Iwata announced the first game is scheduled to come out this year.

“We will start the service for the first game application by the end of this calendar year. Internally at Nintendo, we have executed several organizational and personnel changes in order to properly operate the smart device business, and we will make further changes before the first release.”

According to GameSpot, among the personnel changes is Mario Kart producer Hideki Konno moving to a lead position of the mobile app development team.

Mario Kart 8 on Wii U - Image courtesy Nintendo

How many more games can consumers expect from The Big N? Iwata promises a total of five mobile games to be launched by March 2017. Anticipating backlash for perhaps moving too slowly and cautiously into the mobile gaming space, Iwata offers this rationale.

“You may think it is a small number, but when we aim to make each title a hit, and because we want to thoroughly operate every one of them for a significant amount of time after their releases, this is not a small number at all and should demonstrate our serious commitment to the smart device business.”

The quality over quantity approach is likely a wise move for a company like Nintendo, whose IP catalog of beloved worlds and characters have a reputation for appearing in (mostly) quality games with enjoyable gameplay mechanics. Their existing fanbase is perhaps less fickle than, say, casual gamers, who hop from Zynga’s Farmville to King’s Candy Crush Saga to Machine Zone’s Game of War without a second thought because of ads, friends, or social trends. Garnering the initial attention of casual gamers on mobile devices may come easy, but keeping it requires a solid mobile gaming experience. Iwata also addressed this point during the briefing.

“As we confirmed on March 17, all of our IP can be considered for a smart device game. On the other hand, since the game business on smart devices is already severely competitive, even with highly popular IP, the odds of success are quite low if consumers cannot appreciate the quality of a game.”

Putting concerns to rest, Iwata hammered the point home that the integrity of Nintendo’s business and IP are not being taken lightly with the decision to venture into the mobile market.

“If we did not aim to achieve a significant result, it would be meaningless for us to do it at all. Accordingly, we are going to carefully select appropriate IP and titles for our smart device deployment.”

Even with a quality over quantity mantra for Nintendo’s mobile gaming efforts, for the long-time console gamer, the idea of Nintendo entering the mobile market may still sound like sacrilege. For those skeptical campers, Iwata also brought up the development of the NX system previously unveiled alongside the DeNA partnership. Although no major announcements or details regarding the new system have been made during the financial briefing, the new console is confirmed to connect with Nintendo’s new “integrated membership service,” along with the Wii U, Nintendo 3DS, smart devices and PCs.

“With this new service, our members will be able to visit Nintendo’s website and log in with one ID, and they will receive various services including the ones based on their past purchases and gameplay records as well as services that will be an improved version of the current loyalty program. With this new membership, we are planning to deploy services that will make playing Nintendo games with their game pals more fun regardless of which platform they are accessing.”

From the description, it sounds like Nintendo could be in the process of creating something very similar to PlayStation Plus or Xbox Live. By offering free game downloads each month and other incentives, both Sony and Microsoft have managed to grow decent subscriber numbers. How Nintendo plans to get console gamers excited with their own membership service remains to be seen. Time will tell. For now, Nintendo has a plan, and gamers will get to enjoy the first mobile game from that plan sometime this year.

[Images courtesy Nintendo, Samsung]