Mobile Mavens

Are Fire Emblem and Animal Crossing good choices for Nintendo's first mobile games?

Are Fire Emblem and Animal Crossing good choices for Nintendo's first mobile games?

Nintendo was at the heart of one of the biggest mobile gaming stories of 2015, when it announced it had partnered with DeNA and would be moving into mobile game development.

However, its recent announcement that the first two franchises it brings to mobile will be Fire Emblem and Animal Crossing is arguably even more significant, as it allows us to shape a much fuller picture of how Nintendo is positioning itself as a mobile developer.

As such, we asked our Mobile Mavens:

  • What do you think of Nintendo's decision to bring Animal Crossing and Fire Emblem to mobile?
  • Which are you most looking forward to, and which do you think will be the most financially successful?
  •  
Wilhelm Österberg Head of Studio Black Anvil Games

Fire Emblem and Animal Crossing are obviously great games, but I haven't been able to find any info on if Nintendo is going F2P or paid with them.

If they go paid, how will they make any relevant revenue, since no one else (except Minecraft) has?

If they go F2P, how would they successfully bend and mutate these well-crafted games into working and monetising F2P experiences?

With what little information that's available at this point, I'm pretty pessimistic about both approaches for these particular games.

For the F2P option EA's terrible fate with Dungeon Keeper does feel like a relevant reference, although there's little reason to believe Nintendo would end up as badly as EA did there.

John Ozimek Co-founder Big Ideas Machine

John is co-founder of PR and marketing company Big Ideas Machine. Also an all-round nice guy...

Wilhelm is right; the question of whether they will be F2P or not will have a huge bearing on the gameplay experience. Having said that, these are two absolutely stellar IPs that have the potential to be brilliant on mobile.

The question of whether they will be F2P or not will have a huge bearing on the gameplay experience.
John Ozimek

After being quite sceptical about Nintendo's move onto mobile so late - and assuming that they would shield their most valuable IP - they do appear to be willing to take a risk and be brave.

I still have Animal Crossing for my Gamecube and original DS; I've not logged in for years because I know Tom Nook will be very rude about all the weeds that have grown.

My personal preference would be for Nintendo to launch these as premium titles, but perhaps that's more because of my own affinity with the games, and as Wilhelm says, a fear of the Dungeon Keeper effect.

Maybe Nintendo can weave a F2P mechanic in that genuinely enhances the experience, without taking the cheap way out and charging for items and adding cool-down timers.

Without knowing more - and seeing the games working - it's very hard to make any judgement call.

Dan Gray Head of Studio ustwo

I believe it's possible for them to make a large amount of money for their premium releases, as they're huge IPs.

But I do think the comments so far are focussing too much on how these monetise as individual products. 

If Monument Valley can make money as a paid game, surely Nintendo can do the same?

Nintendo's strategy appears to lean towards using mobile titles to promote their own hardware and games, therefore monetisation isn't the key metric, it's conversation to console/handheld sales.

I'd expect these releases to be more supplementary than standalone, and can be fun without much worry of turning a dime on their own. I'm really excited.

John Ozimek Co-founder Big Ideas Machine

John is co-founder of PR and marketing company Big Ideas Machine. Also an all-round nice guy...

You are right Dan - I didn't articulate that but I completely agree. Key to the Nintendo philosophy is the combination of device and software; that's why I'm pleasantly surprised that it is starting with two such strong and current IPs and not something easy from the back catalogue.

Animal Crossing has a core game based on social interaction and sharing, which is perfect for mobile.

I am always an advocate for premium pricing when it's the right game, but I know the industry numbers favour a F2P approach - and therefore that I am swimming against the tide a bit by not being a fan of F2P games generally.

Harry Holmwood European CEO Marvelous Entertainment

A 20-year veteran of video games and online space, Harry is European CEO of Marvelous AQL, a Japanese developer and publisher of social, mobile and console games, known for console games like No More Heroes and Harvest Moon, but now highly successful in the free-to-play mobile and web space in Japan and Asia.

A games programmer before joining Sony’s early PlayStation team in 1994, he then founded developer Pure Entertainment, which IPO’d and launched a free-to-play online gaming service way back in 1999.

He was also a director of pioneering motion gaming startup In2Games, which was sold to a US group in 2008.

Along the way, he’s been a corporate VP, troubleshooter, and non-exec to a variety of companies and investors in and around the games sector.

I think it's a fascinating and important move. How important will depend on pricing and monetisation model, as has been stated already.

They're great games, and this is the first time we've heard from Nintendo that it's bringing (what seem to be) their standard game portfolio over to a non-Nintendo platform.

Until we see more about what the NX hardware is, and what Nintendo does with these titles on mobile, how it plays out is anyone's guess.
Harry Holmwood

The obvious danger for them with premium releases is the potential for price erosion on their existing model - will the nature of mobile put downward pressure on pricing for these kind of games?

If it does, what does that mean for the games' equivalents on Nintendo's own hardware? Or is Nintendo seeing the opportunity for somehow cut down versions of its franchises on mobile to drive users to buy their consoles and premium games? Or will it seek to monetise these games via F2P mechanics?

Nintendo's been the one Japanese company which seems constantly able to create global hits. Most Japanese games are developed 'Japan first', with the rest of the world as a secondary market.

What's interesting now is that we're seeing big divergence in the platform choice between Japan and the west - thus far, PS4 has done incredibly well in the west, but has not ignited the market in Japan.

3DS and PSVita perform better in Japan than they do in the west, and the higher ARPPUs in the Japanese market are leading Japanese developers focus more and more on mobile, primarily for their home market.

Will we see mobile continue to dominate in Japan, at the expense of Nintendo platforms, or will the NX come through and carve out a strong market? Until we see more about what the NX hardware is, and what Nintendo does with these titles on mobile, how it plays out is anyone's guess.

John Ozimek Co-founder Big Ideas Machine

John is co-founder of PR and marketing company Big Ideas Machine. Also an all-round nice guy...

Correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't this also the first time Nintendo will have developed and published games on a non-proprietary platform?

Nintendo has been so effective at protecting its IP and margins because historically you can only play Nintendo games on Nintendo hardware.

2012's Animal Crossing: New Leaf, the latest main series entry

So, whilst this move on mobile is equally a risk and an opportunity, there's nothing to indicate that Nintendo will stop its approach of creating unique hardware that requires games to be device-specific.

For all the complaining, Nintendo fans will dutifully keep spending on the hardware in order to play such unique games.

Alexey Sazonov CEO Panzerdog

  • What do you think of Nintendo's decision to bring Animal Crossing and Fire Emblem to mobile?

Great decision that will provoke a lot of 'shut up and take my money' reactions.

  • Which are you most looking forward to, and which do you think will be the most financially successful?

I wonder if Nintendo was moved by Stardew Valley's success on Steam. The only question is whether Stardew Valley arrives on mobile first and splits the revenues with Animal Crossing.

Stardew Valley has proven that a healthy appetite remains for Animal Crossing-esque experiences

As for Fire Emblem, I've spent many hours with the series (particularly, Radiant Dawn and Path of Radiance), and I have been dreaming of playing it on something more convenient, like PC, but iPad also will do.

To this day, there's nothing else like Fire Emblem. It has memorable story and locations, awesome characters (and relations between them), skill development and abilities. I don't see reasons why they won't use the same price tag as X-Com and make similar revenues.

Fire Emblem is, however, more of a niche game for hardcore gamers, so Animal Crossing should sell much better.

Scott Foe Chief Product Officer Ignited Artists

Shintaro Kanaoya CEO Chorus Worldwide

Founder and CEO of Chorus Worldwide, a publisher for Western mobile developers seeking success in the Asian markets, Shintaro has over 20 years' experience within the gaming industry.

He has worked in various roles from game production, localisation, marketing and business development at companies such as EA, SCEE, Rare and Microsoft.

It’s worth remembering that this is Nintendo and DeNA collaborating, and if Miitomo is anything to go by, Nintendo are bringing the fun and polish, while DeNA are bringing their mobile expertise.

I’d be surprised if Animal Crossing and Fire Emblem came out as ports at a premium price.

My guess would be they chose these for their strong F2P monetisation potential, as well as being Phase 2 of their testing before (if) they ever bring Mario, Zelda, Metroid et al to mobile.

Features Editor

Matt is really bad at playing games, but hopefully a little better at writing about them. He's Features Editor for PocketGamer.biz, and has also written for lesser publications such as IGN, VICE, and Paste Magazine.

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