Like the Tokugawa shogunate yielding after two centuries of cultural seclusion, Nintendo has finally agreed to start making mobile games (opens in new tab). To get a headstart in the well-established market, it's signed up with DeNA, best known for its Mobage platform. Here's what Nintendo fans should expect.
You don't need to worry about a dozen games with fun, familiar characters and cloned mechanics flooding the App Store. There will be no Super Smashy Bird. DeNA West CEO Shintaro Asako told VentureBeat (opens in new tab) that the companies must focus their attention if they're going to compete against (and maybe even dethrone) App Store heavyweights like Clash of Clans or Candy Crush Saga.
"We should pick the right game," Asako said. "We should actually create a smartphone-specific game that requires day-to-day social interaction. It’s not just porting a Wii U game out to smartphones. But actually properly design a smartphone game.”
You can take a couple of things away from that and the rest of the interview. One, that the partnership will probably first yield a well-made mobile game that draws from one of Nintendo's best-known franchises - Mario and Zelda being two obvious choices. And two, that it will still be a mobile game, with all of the same stuff that can put off players expecting a more traditional experience: systems that encourage short play sessions over weeks and months, perks for recruiting friends, and ample ways to boost your progress with microtransactions, among others.
Asako says DeNA's been pestering Nintendo about this deal ever since 2010, so by now it must have plenty of ideas. The latter group is meant to be the primary developer in the arrangement, but it's so tough to find purchase in the tremendously top-heavy mobile gaming market that Nintendo would be foolish to cast all of DeNA's wisdom aside, even if it is the one bringing Mario and Link to the table. Just look at Pokemon Shuffle, that weird little free-to-play Match-3 puzzler on 3DS. Nintendo's already trying mobile-like strategies, but it needs a little help to make them shine.
And to prove how serious DeNA is about this partnership, Asako said the firm isn't just "dreaming" about reaching 100 million daily active users. Since Clash of Clans studio Supercell reportedly (opens in new tab) pulled in just short of 30 million daily active users in February, that's very ambitious.
This new focus on the lucrative mobile market may worry fans who would rather Nintendo just keep trucking along on its own hardware, but don't fret too much - a new console, codenamed the NX (opens in new tab), is happening. As long as Nintendo comes up with the budget to launch it with, oh, I dunno, a new Metroid sidescroller, it's good for everybody.