Nintendo and the Mobile Gaming Flip-Flop


SI_GenericNintendoNintendo is widely known as the pure gaming company. It has been around for more than a decade now, and event though they faced stiff competition in the handheld gaming arena, they withstood the storm and are still going good, but not good enough. What Nintendo didn’t adopt was mobile gaming. At the time, they felt that smartphones were not advanced to play their games, but looks like that statement had spelt imminent doom for the company right then.

Looks like Nintendo has adopted the ‘Better Late than Never’ mantra and finally agreed to start making games for the Mobile market. They have only recently signed a deal with Japan mobile game giant DeNA, who will assist them in getting their major titles to the mobile world. When asked about the new deal , Nintendo had this to say – a “business and capital alliance to develop and operate new game apps for smart devices and build a new multi-device membership service for consumers worldwide.” Sounds like a blast!

This new partnership marks a new beginning for a company who repeatedly said it wouldn’t put its properties on mobile. Here’s a smattering of quotes from Nintendo CEO Satoru Iwata across the past several years on the subject.

  • In 2011 (as translated by Andriasang, originally from Nikkei): “This is absolutely not under consideration. If we did this, Nintendo would cease to be Nintendo. Having a hardware development team in-house is a major strength. It’s the duty of management to make use of those strengths. It’s probably the correct decision in the sense that the moment we started to release games on smartphones, we’d make profits. However, I believe my responsibility is not to short-term profits, but to Nintendo’s mid- and long-term competitive strength.”


  • Also in 2011, from Iwata’s speech at the 2011 Game Developers Conference (via “We make platforms designed to demonstrate the high value of high-quality video game software. But, there is a second, entirely different way to consider the value of software. The objective of smartphones and social networks, and the reason they were created, are not at all like ours. These platforms have no motivation to maintain the high value of video game software — for them, content is something created by someone else. Their goal is just to gather as much software as possible, because quantity is what makes the money flow — the value of video game software does not matter to them.”


  • In March 2013, from an investor Q&A: “Some say that they do not need dedicated gaming systems because they can play a number of games for free or for 85 yen each on smartphones. We believe that neither Nintendo nor dedicated gaming systems are worthy of existence unless our games give consumers unparalleled fun, which games for free or for 85 yen do not supply.”


  • In early 2014, Nintendo started showing signs of breaking from its hardline stance. As reported by The Wall Street Journal: “Mr. Iwata says Nintendo will ‘actively’ use smart devices to ‘make connections with customers.’ That is, they’ll use smart devices as a catalyst to encourage customers to use its Nintendo platforms. Short answer, he’s not going to release Nintendo’s titles on other platforms.”


  • Further breaking from its previous stance, Iwata said Nintendo was exploring mobile platforms without giving further details (via Bloomberg) in the same time frame: “Given the expansion of smart devices, we are naturally studying how smart devices can be used to grow the game-player business. It’s not as simple as enabling Mario to move on a smartphone.”


Of course, for those of us living in reality, smart devices have dominated mainstream culture for the past several years. The first iPhone launched in 2007. And the first iPhone was far from the first smartphone; it launched long after smartphone gaming established itself. Sure, there are 50 million 3DS handheld game consoles in the wild; there are well over half a billion iPhones out there.

As evidenced by the laundry list of editorials over the years, Nintendo is entering the smartphone game late. It’s just not admitting as much.


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