Mobile Mavens

Do mobile game developers actually care about Nintendo?

Do mobile game developers actually care about Nintendo?

A few years ago, the idea of Nintendo being relevant to mobile gaming discussions would have seemed ridiculous.

Notoriously inward-looking, and by far the most backward of all the major platform holders in terms of digital distribution, you'd wonder whether the Nintendo of 2009 even knew what a smartphone was.

But now it's finally embraced mobile gaming, and has shrewdly partnered with Niantic to bring us one of the most successful mobile games of all time in Pokemon GO.

And now, with rumours circulating that the Nintendo NX will be some kind of hybrid between a home console and handheld device, we ask our Mobile Mavens:

  • As mobile developers, are you intrigued by Nintendo's rumoured portable/home console hybrid NX?

 

Jared Steffes Co-founder Muxy

I love the rumours! An NVIDIA Tegra 2 chip? Landscape or portrait orientation? Home dock? Nintendo learned some valuable lessons from the Wii U, but will they listen to them?

The Wii U gamepad was massive and is awkward for players of all ages. It is always cool to find interesting ways to use new tech inside of games.

Nintendo has a long history of being very difficult to develop a business relationship with. Sony has been much easier to work with. It would be awesome if Nintendo would change for this console cycle.

William D. Volk Chief Futurist Forward Reality

It had better be able to run Pokemon GO!

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...

I'm massively interested in Nintendo, but in terms of a discussion around mobile games we only have 1.5 games to talk about, as Nintendo is only a part-owner of the game - and the first game wasn't really even a game.

Pokemon GO  is Foursquare with Pokemon slapped on the top.
John Ozimek

The NX sounds really interesting and I am sure I'll be buying one, if only for the new Zelda game. But I don't feel it has a lot of relevance to mobile gaming on iOS and Android.

Nintendo fans will buy a Nintendo console and games. Nintendo is not a disruptive company, as it has always had a niche alongside the console industry and the portable gaming industry.

It innovates in ways other companies are not able to or interested in doing. We totally excuse the premium pricing, lack of backwards compatibility, lack of third-party titles, because... it's Nintendo.

I can think of no other games company that has the same level of fanaticism about it.

Pokemon GO is not a true Nintendo game; it's Foursquare with Pokemon slapped on the top.

Dan Gray Chief Creative Officer ustwo

I always sense a little bit of bitterness when mobile games developers talk about Nintendo, to be honest.

It seems a little bit like people feel this is their backyard and become a bit peeved when a Nintendo IP strolls in and takes the headlines.

Even if they're offering content predominantly not on mobile, they build engaging worlds and characters better than most mobile developers could even dream of.

There's a reason people still love Mario 30 years later and will forget modern day popular F2P titles in only a couple. There's still plenty to learn from here, regardless of the platform or business model.

When it comes to the NX, I'm waiting to see a game that showcases an innovative way to handle multiple session types like being at home or being on the bus for two minutes.

If they can crack this then it'll be a great step forward, fingers crossed. Plus I'll finally be able to play Pokemon on the big screen.

Oscar Clark Consultant, Co-Founder Fundamentally Games

Oscar Clark has been a pioneer in online, mobile, and console social games services since 1998. He is also author of the book, Games As A Service – How Free To Play Design Can Make Better Games.

Dan - you are absolutely right that Nintendo bring something magical.

And even though they had little to do with the specifics of Pokemon Go, their legacy is absolutely writ large in its success and rightly so.

But so far I would argue that Nintendo haven't really adjusted to the peculiarities of this curious mobile space, and I think that matters because they are also being squeezed out of the traditional console space by the sheer performance of the other consoles.

Miitomo highlighted what's hard to call anything other than a failure to adapt.
Oscar Clark

I feel that Miitomo in particular highlighted what I think is hard to call anything other than a failure to adapt.

This was precisely something they could have done amazing things with, but it didn't live up to their usual flair.

The same for me applies more generally with the Wii U, and you could argue that device simply isn't on the map for most console players.

I'm not saying you are wrong about our bitterness, by the way - just trying to suggest its not without basis.

I do still hope they surprise us and that they make something that I can't afford to be without - but I fear hardware development costs have reached the point that they would be better off focusing their genius to content (perhaps with some unique controllers) for other peoples consoles.

The tablet space still feels up for a change in my mind, especially with a console quality mobile processor.

Of course that's my personal opinion - not representing anyone else in that respect!

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...

Not sure you can say that Nintendo is being squeezed out of the console space when its sold 60 million units of the 3DS and over 13 million Wii Us?

The moment Nintendo stops creating its own hardware, it ceases to be Nintendo. Its sales figures for software are amazing, and the attach rate for the Wii U (its worst performing device since the Gamecube) is seven games to every console - the PS4's is 4.

I think we criticise Nintendo because it doesn't do what the industry expects it to, and would rather plough its own furrow than follow the easy money.

But it seems that it's part of Nintendo's DNA to be slightly contrary all the time, and to give fans some tough love.

Oscar Clark Consultant, Co-Founder Fundamentally Games

Oscar Clark has been a pioneer in online, mobile, and console social games services since 1998. He is also author of the book, Games As A Service – How Free To Play Design Can Make Better Games.

Well, there is this:

Data from Statista

From domination in the Wii era to now has been something of a change...

Making a tablet-based console is a sound idea - but this has to put tablet playing experiences front and centre, and then the docking/device has to add value for shared play.

It won't work unless it focuses on digital delivery.
Oscar Clark

It has to compete with the other objects we carry with us to and make it worth having that extra object or replace our existing tablet and still make playing games better.

But it won't work unless it focuses on digital delivery and allows a vastly streamlined content delivery process.

If it does indeed have the latest Tegra I will be delighted - I still have a soft spot for my old employer and it was always the ambition that a mobile chip could deliver console gaming experiences.

This would mark a real threshold moment for that.

I hope its true - and that Nintendo pull it off.

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.

Might be pure patriotism or just being a fanboy, but I’m always interested in what Nintendo do.

More than anyone else in the gaming industry, they’ve innovated and defied expectations, which is why you can never ignore them or not love them for it.

Even if the financial results can be underwhelming on both small (Wii Music) and large (Wii U) scales.

Remember when Project Dolphin was officially named the Wii, had lower specs than anything else around, and they announced a balance board? How we all laughed at them, until it obliterated the competition.

The Wii remains the high watermark

The NX rumour is another in a long line of head scratchers from Nintendo that could go either way. Seemingly, it will tie their console and handheld businesses together, which will help their hardware business streamline.

But how the large screen and small screen experiences complement each other is going to be key. They’ve tried this before with GBA and GameCube, but with little success.

Having one integrated platform could solve that as long as both sizes of games work together. As is usually the case, Nintendo will lead the way with how to do this, leaving third-parties wondering how best to port from other platforms.

If Pokemon GO  had been an NX exclusive, only the hardcore would be talking about it.
Shintaro Kanaoya

In terms of mobile, I don’t think the NX in its portable guise will be competing with the “do everything” devices we already carry.

Pokemon GO is the most played game in the world right now (probably) because it’s on a device that’s already in our pocket. If it had been an NX exclusive, only the hardcore would be talking about it.

At this stage, until we see exactly what Nintendo’s vision is and how they position it, it’s impossible to get a sense of it purely from tech rumours.

Again, witness the transformation Project Dolphin made as it turned into the mass-market Wii. There are probably still people measuring their Wii Fit age on a daily basis.

I’ve always thought Nintendo had the best Plan B in the business, to go purely software. Their core franchises available across platforms (including mobile) would send their stock climbing into the stratosphere.

That they don’t do that is testament to their passionate pursuit of innovating on play, a fundamental part of their toy-making DNA. Which is why I think it’ll always remain a Plan B.

All of that said, I can’t imagine that Pokemon GO isn’t having a profound impact in Kyoto. If I were to bet, they’ll be taking a multi-strand approach moving forward: 

  1. Existing console and handheld
  2. NX
  3. Licensing
  4. Mobile

Of these, mobile might be the most interesting as it could sit across both NX and licensing, with mobile companions for NX (Miitomo extension, integrated location and social graphs), and further licensing/investment/partnerships deals along the lines of Pokemon GO and their DeNA collaboration.

Mobile has had too much of an impact, even with their furtive toes in the water, to not change their approach.

Sorry, what was the question again?

Torulf Jernström CEO Tribeflame

I am not that interested in what Nintendo does - partly for professional, and partly for personal reasons.

Personally, I have never owned a Nintendo console. I grew up a PC gamer, 100%. Hence, I have no nostalgic feelings about most of the Nintendo brands.

Professionally, I am also not that interested in them. As Pokemon GO shows, they can bring absolutely amazing brands to the table.

Apart from that, Nintendo games are not super relevant to the mobile games business.

The games are played at a different pace, with a different business model and are largely targeting different demographics from mobile games.

A new console will not change that, even if it includes a portable component. If they made Android and iOS devices central to the new concept, it would be a different story.

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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