For years now the gaming community has been scratching its collective head at Nintendo’s financial woes. Perhaps no other company in the entire industry has an intellectual property catalog as valuable and storied as that of Mario and friends. Fans have been asking for smartphone and tablet versions of games such as Pokemon and Zelda for years now. Not even new games per se; ports alone would do. Instead of acclimating to mobile devices, Nintendo has been seen as stubborn and arrogant in its belief that the only way to properly experience its products is on its game consoles, although there had been slight changes in recent times.
Today, Nintendo has arguably shocked the world by announcing it is partnering with social media game king DeNA to produce smartphone and tablet-based games using Nintendo’s intellectual property. The products are to be new (i.e. no ports at the moment) and will be part of a new endeavor to be launched this fall, that focuses on cross-platform compatibility: the PC, smartphone, tablet, and Nintendo’s own hardware are all specified in the company’s press release. In the media event, it was also revealed that the follow-up to the Wii U is going to be called the NX and may be announced next year.
While this news is seemingly good for both Nintendo’s finances and gamers around the world, we can’t help but question the decision to partner with a company that is oft likened to a Japanese version of King (Candy Crush) or Zynga (Farmville), and whose “gambling-esque” business model resulted in a major change to Japanese consumer protection laws back in 2012. (It should be clarified that gambling is illegal in Japan, however there are various “activities” such as pachinko which fall into a grey zone). Will Nintendo co-develop these games as it did with Capcom back in the days of the Gameboy Color (see Zelda Oracle of Ages and Oracle of Seasons)? Wlll DeNA be handling all of the work with Nintendo simply offering its IP?
The question needs to be asked: why can’t Nintendo simply develop these products itself? Is this partnership designed to ensure its various software development teams remain focused on 1st party hardware (like the 3DS) and thus all responsibility of these new mobile apps will be that of DeNA? Regardless of what the case may be, there are at least some reservations about just how the IP will be used: does anyone actually want a Rage of Bahamut-type Mario product?
So now that the news is out, what’s your take on the issue? Are you excited at the possibilities? Worried about the implications?
For those interested, the official press releases (in English) can be found here: