On Friday, Nintendo announced it was slashing its sales forecast for Wii U units and that they expect to operate at a loss for the upcoming fiscal year. It’s no secret that their latest home console has been struggling. While their latest handheld console the 3DS saw similar early woes following its launch, a price reduction and a strong lineup of first-party games has helped that system turn itself around. Though Nintendo also announced lowered sales expectations for the 3DS, overall the system is performing well enough. Time will tell if the Wii U will see a similar turnaround, but as of right now, it’s in the tank.
In a follow-up press conference, Nintendo President Satoru Iwata had some interesting comments for the media. As reported by the Wall Street Journal, Iwata stated “The way people use their time, their lifestyles [and] who they are have changed. If we stay in one place, we will become outdated." He also mentioned that Nintendo might be considering a “new business structure" which many have interpreted as Nintendo branching out to put their own IPs like Mario and Zelda on competing platforms like smartphones and tablets.
Today, The Wall Street Journal posted a new article on Nintendo which dispels those “reading between the lines" notions that were taken from Iwata’s statements on Friday. “The spread of smart devices does not spell the end of game consoles. It’s not that simple," Iwata said. “It doesn’t mean that we should put Mario on smartphones."
Further clarifying Iwata’s statements from Friday, WSJ says Iwata feels the key for Nintendo is figuring out a way to use smartphones in a way that makes people aware of Nintendo’s own hardware and games, and encourage them to try them out. This falls right in line with statements that Nintendo of America President Reggie Fils-Aime made back in December about how Nintendo was looking to “experiment" with smartphones and tablets in a way that would drive those users back to Nintendo’s own offerings.
So, no it does’t look like Nintendo is going to be offering their own games on smartphones or tablets anytime soon. Yes, a port of Mario or Zelda would no doubt be a license to print money, and I’m sure Nintendo knows that, but money isn’t necessarily the point. Nintendo itself is over a hundred years old, and they’ve been a leader in the video game market for decades. They’re playing the long game here, and it doesn’t sound like they’re ready to give up on their current strategy, which is developing their own hardware and then selling that hardware based off the strength of their first-party offerings.
Yes, the Wii U is flopping and Nintendo is losing money, but they are far from going broke. If we see anything from Nintendo on smartphones, my guess is it will be some form of connection to their MiiVerse service or a Nintendo eShop app of some kind. Possibly even an original game featuring an icon like Mario, but not actually a “Mario game" like you can get on their current systems. Think along the lines of what Sega did with Sonic Dash. Whatever it is they have planned for mobile devices, we should find out more on January 30th when Nintendo plans to hold a strategy briefing elaborating on the “new business structure" they hinted at previously. Stay tuned.