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Nintendo Finally Moves into Mobile Gaming


In a move that’s surprising mostly because of how long it’s taken, Nintendo recently announced the imminent arrival of games designed specifically for smartphones. The veteran video game company has partnered with a mobile gaming specialist, and will release titles on both Android and iOS, with the first one expected later this year. 

It’s not yet clear whether Nintendo will fall in line with mobile gaming standards by offering ‘free-to-start’ options, a business model that has attracted criticism for getting players ‘addicted’ to compulsive games before requesting money to top up credits. It’s thought that Nintendo may want to avoid making the same mistake they made with Pokemon Shuffle, a game designed for their 3DS portable console that gives players a limited number of hearts (essentially credits) that are diminished with each game played. When the hearts run out, players can buy more. 

This model has proved tremendously successful for the makers of Candy Crush Saga and others, relying on the addictiveness of the gameplay to ensure monetization. Free-to-start has become the default practice for mobile game makers. But Nintendo has a hard-won reputation as a family-friendly brand, and will be wary of prompting accusations of ‘rip-off’ from their legions of loyal followers.

The question of whether to monetize mobile games this way is something Nintendo will have to mull over, but they undoubtedly have a number of striking advantages as they embark on this new area of business. For one thing, an official Mario game on the app store will practically sell itself. Other Nintendo titles, old and new, will be highly visible in what is a very crowded marketplace. This level of brand recognition is something most developers can only dream of.

Entering the mobile world will also allow Nintendo to tap hitherto-unexplored international markets (bafflingly, the company has never taken off in a number of major countries, including India). What it couldn’t achieve with consoles, it can achieve with mobile gaming. And if the mobile games take off, they will act like a form of reverse marketing in these countries, with the spin off game promoting the flagship from whence it came. If the launch of mobile games in a big market like India sparks interest in the Wii and DS consoles, that alone will have justified the entire endeavor.



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