FastCompany’s Jared Newman has written an interesting article talking about Nintendo’s challenges in mobile from here on out. Obviously Pokemon GO (Free) has been a massive success, and some commenters (ahem) think that Nintendo should focus on mobile from here on out. But Newman makes some interesting points – Nintendo is still fresh to mobile, and Pokemon GO is still heavily based on Niantic’s previous work. Nintendo doesn’t have as much experience with the mobile business as a whole, though they have partnered up with DeNA to help out with future titles, though as Newman points out, Pokemon is Nintendo’s second best-selling franchise behind Mario. Oh, and what’s to say that Pokemon GO couldn’t be the next Draw Something (Free), a game that has a rapid ascent, but quickly falls off in popularity?
The only problem with throwing cold water on Nintendo’s plans here is that it might not really matter if Nintendo goes into mobile competently or not. Sure, their only more popular franchise might be Mario, but it’s not like they don’t get excitement for their lesser franchises. And some lesser-known games like Animal Crossing have massive potential on mobile because of what Newman cites as Nintendo’s design ethos as Nintendo’s real strength. It will be a challenge to combine free-to-play, which often homogenizes game design, with Nintendo’s uniqueness. But I don’t think that it is impossible to do, and that Nintendo makes up for a lot of shortcomings just by the strength of being Nintendo. Seriously, they slap a Pokemon game on mobile and they rule the App Store without any help from Apple or Google in a matter of literal hours. That’s just how strong Nintendo’s properties are. And look at the introduction of that Nintendo retro console – people are stoked about that thing. Maybe they aren’t super-excited about buying a Wii U to play classic games, but put Nintendo games in an accessible, low-cost-of-entry form and they will come.
Still, while I admit to being extremely optimistic about Nintendo’s mobile future, it is worth keeping in mind that there are risks and it isn’t a sure thing. But we are talking about Nintendo here.