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DeNA West CEO Shintaro Asako on why Nintendo's 'free-to-start' games will be successful in Japan, China and the west

DeNA West CEO Shintaro Asako on why Nintendo's 'free-to-start' games will be successful in Japan, China and the west

One of the most anticipated speakers at Pocket Gamer Connects San Francisco 2015 was DeNA West CEO Shintaro Asako.

Speaking in the Superstar Sessions track, Asako spoke in some detail - but not too much detail - about DeNA's partnership with Nintendo.

"The Nintendo deal is a huge, huge deal," he said, adding, "Nintendo has the best IP, and IP that's perfect matched to smartphones".

Indeed, one revelation was that DeNA had been in talks with Nintendo for many years before the two finally announced their deal earlier in 2015.

"It took us 5 or 6 years to convince them," Asako revealed.

"We wanted to convince them to release games on Mobage [DeNA's browser platform]. They didn't like it. Five years later, the industry has changed. The market has changed.

"Nintendo wanted to attract a lot of people who they don't reach today, including China and emerging countries."

New ways to pay

Although not giving away any details about what the games will be - the first will be announced in 2015 - Asako was ambitious enough to think these games would impact the entire mobile games industry.

Nintendo wanted to attract a lot of people who they don't reach today, including China and emerging countries
Shintaro Asako

"I think our games might change the way people play mobile games," he stated, saying that just as mobile games have moved from free to freemium, the new "free-to-start" philosophy that Nintendo is promoting will be something novel again.

Of course, whether this happens or not, it's clear that the biggest reason to expect the games to be successful is the massive attention that each of the five releases will generate.

"Successful mobile games needs to be discoverable," Asako pointed out.

"I'm convinced there will be hundreds of millions of people who will want to play free-to-start Nintendo games."

And significantly, he argued that very few games are successful in the west, in China and in Japan; three distinct markets that are worth around $5 billion.

Of course, his assumption is that Nintendo's games will have a high probability of doing just that.


Contributing Editor

A Pocket Gamer co-founder, Jon is Contributing Editor at PG.biz which means he acts like a slightly confused uncle who's forgotten where he's left his glasses. As well as letters and cameras, he likes imaginary numbers and legumes.

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