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Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Nintendo's Official Mobile Entrance

By LUDWIG VON KOOPA - With great fanfare comes great terror.

It is very important for you to be educated on the facts, so go read up on the News Release transcript of Nintendo's Nintendo Co., Ltd.-DeNA Co., Ltd. Business and Capital Alliance Announcement. If you first heard today's news from any source other than this primary source, chances are you have been deceived or lied to on some aspect of it. KoopaTV stands for the truth, so we want to get that of the way. For a summary, see the press release from DeNA.

So here is what happened, as you just read from that transcript: Nintendo and DeNA, a mobile platform solutions company, are in an alliance to deliver Nintendo IPs to mobile devices. DeNA also will help with some sort of unified membership account system set to launch by the end of 2015.

There is also this codenamed "NX" thing but there is
nothing to discuss about it at this present time.

We don't know any details about that either, but it is interesting to note what devices are included there, including PC. Does that mean you can access this service (which sounds like a Club Nintendo successor) from a mobile-friendly website? ...Because big deal if that's the case. You can access KoopaTV from a Tablet, Smartphone, PC, Nintendo 3DS, and Wii U! (Not that it's recommended for the first two and the fourth one.)

Okay, the real point of discussion is obviously:

What the hell is Nintendo doing?!
Agreed? Good. Nintendo, after saying so many times they are not going to make games for mobile devices, announces that they are making games for mobile devices. And they ARE helping the development here; it's not just DeNA. That said, both companies have a lot of game development they are already doing independently. For a list of DeNA's games (not necessarily developed by them but published as part of their Mobage platform), look here. These games include games from names you already know, like releases from Square Enix's Final Fantasy series. Of course, just like Square Enix, Nintendo will continue still making games on consoles.

Will we finally see "Donkey Kong Trooper Challenge" see the light of day, even if it's mobile-only?

The companies say the games will not be ports but will be built for mobile devices from the ground-up. Which means that Nintendo will have less manpower to devote to their traditional offerings.

DeNA and Nintendo also noted that no IP is safe from being mobilised. Does this mean that Nintendo will release new iterations of existing franchises on smartphones and consider that satisfactory? So since F-Zero fans have been begging for a new game in the series for over a decade, will Shigeru Miyamoto finally find the "new direction" he has been waiting for all this time in the mobile space? Forget HD high-speed racing on the Wii U — you get "A-Hundred" on the smart device! No F grade or zero scores now! Smartphones make this an intelligent experience, and then fans will have to wait another decade for another release in the franchise. And they'll be lucky if it's not on a smartphone. Well, we don't know for sure.

Best case scenario is that the mobile applications will just be tag-along things to games that come out on Wii U or 3DS or whatever. ...But based on the fanfare, that seems doubtful. Game Freak has been doing that sort of thing for a while and they didn't have this huge conference about it.

...Oh, and Nintendo themselves flat-out denied they would do that sort of thing in 2011. (And Iwata has been meeting with his DeNA counterpart since 2010, and high-level people from both companies have been meeting too! ...Probably including Shigeru Miyamoto.)

Yes, shortly after and in reference to Game Freak putting Pokémon applications on mobile devices, a Nintendo spokesperson stated,
"[Nintendo's strategy to develop software only for its own hardware] hasn’t changed and won’t change."
This would not be the first time a Nintendo employee has lied, of course. For example, look at Shigeru Miyamoto's statements on 3DS revisions!

If Nintendo was truly just going to use Game Freak's strategy, then would they not use Game Freak as a case study? Nintendo's stock rose when Game Freak had its mobile releases for Pokémon. To assure people, why did Nintendo not say, "We already saw positive results when Game Freak did this with Nintendo IP before with Pokémon applications on smartphones." (Of course, it's unclear if the mobile apps actually helped Pokémon games sell on the DS or 3DS.)

...Why? Probably because that's not the route they're going for. Indeed, the press release specifies "games" and "game experiences" and "original games" and "premium gameplay". Those mobile things Game Freak did aren't really... games. Maybe they'll make a Piklopedia from Pikmin 2 for Pikmin 3's creatures on a smart device as the Pikmin offering, but that type of non-game thing could be pretty hard to do for some other IPs. And, to repeat, they're all on the table. None are safe.

DeNA and Nintendo clearly state that becoming a big hit in the mobile space is difficult, but there is a key differentiating factor that will allow them to become hits.

We assume compelling usage of the IP is also needed.

Iwata gave a benchmark goal, actually, for what he expects from the alliance.
"Many content providers who are succeeding on smart devices are depending on single hit titles. One of my goals here is, now that we are challenging ourselves with this endeavor by making use of Nintendo IP, to produce multiple hit titles at an early stage after we start releasing our software on smart devices."
You do not obtain "multiple hit titles at an early stage" by releasing free guidebooks to your games like what Game Freak did. You don't have a title be a hit by having some totally shallow experience. You have a title be a hit by putting effort into making it addictive and compelling, which takes game designer talent.
"The fact is, however, it is a highly competitive market and only a handful of content providers have been able to show enduring results. If Nintendo cannot make it to that handful of winners, it does not make sense for us to be engaged in the software business on smart devices."
Nintendo is in it to win it, and that requires the talent that Nintendo could be using for their core business of consoles and handhelds.

Oh, and if you don't like free-to-play and don't want the future of Nintendo to be like what Sony's future is becoming? Tough luck, since DeNA's games are free-to-play with heavy in-app purchases. Nintendo recognises that content is devalued (made free) on smartphones, but thinks they have the answer to that through this alliance. Iwata talked about synergies with DeNA's competencies. If DeNA's competencies are free-to-play and Nintendo's games won't do that, then they aren't really using DeNA's competencies and expertise after all!

Even if Nintendo becomes the king of smartphones in the future, Ludwig will sit completely opposed to mobile gaming throughout time.

Ludwig boycotted Ace Attorney's presence on the Apple store, so he really, really hates this idea.
The F-Zero series really is screwed, with Miyamoto making ridiculous excuses every time he's asked about it.
Now Mario Kart 8 DLC is trying to sabotage F-Zero...
Nintendo doesn't need DeNA to try to move people from the 3DS to mobile.
Finally: A bit more details in Nintendo's policy briefing. More on the account system and their first mobile game.
There is finally stuff to discuss with the NX, such as its true identity.
The DeNA relationship is taking a new form seven years later.

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