Satoru Iwata On The Move To Mobile

Iwata Banana

Many were shocked by the morning’s news that Nintendo is entering a partnership with mobile company DeNa to produce mobile software. This is the company that has stayed the course of dedicated hardware for so long, and the only mobile app they’ve launched so far is last year’s supplemental Mario Kart TV. During today’s press conference to announce the partnership, Nintendo president Satoru Iwata had a lot to say about the move, and that he’s feeling confident that consumers will become more interested in dedicated Nintendo hardware.

Nintendo has decided to deploy its video game business on smart devices but it is not because we have lost passion or vision for the business of dedicated video game systems. On the contrary, now that we have decided how we will make use of smart devices, we have come to hold an even stronger passion and vision for the dedicated video game system business than ever before. Nintendo has made this decision because we have concluded that the approach of making use of smart devices is a rational way for us to encourage even more people around the world to recognize the great value of the wonderful game software available on our dedicated game systems.

The other reason that the company is targeting this audience is, of course, because it is large and lucrative.

Smart devices have the widest reach and, thus, have the strongest potential for us to be able to connect with the largest number of consumers. We aim to construct a bridge between smart devices and dedicated video game hardware that connects consumers to our dedicated video game systems.

Iwata also stated that DeNA indeed has the right to utilize all Nintendo IP for new software tailor made for mobile, but ruling out straight ports as those would compromise Nintendo’s own hardware. More subtly, he also hinted that the company may develop fewer software titles as their mobile efforts ramp up.

As for which Nintendo IP will be used, we do not intend to make any exceptions. Potentially, any Nintendo IP could be used in our smart device software. On the other hand, as I just said, games on smart devices require ever-evolving services rather than just being a finished product. A combined effort will be necessary to operate them. People’s attention would only be dispersed if we simply increased the number of the titles we simultaneously released, and we could not expect to expand our business. Accordingly, we will narrow down the titles for development and operation to some extent.

Please also note that, even if we use the same IP on our dedicated video game systems and smart devices, we will not port the titles for the former to the latter just as they are. There are significant differences in the controls, strengths and weaknesses between the controllers for dedicated game systems and the touchscreens of smart devices. We have no intention at all to port existing game titles for dedicated game platforms to smart devices because if we cannot provide our consumers with the best possible play experiences, it would just ruin the value of Nintendo’s IP.

And, if I can talk a bit further about our game development plan, we will continue doing our best to develop dedicated game titles for our dedicated game hardware platforms just as we have been doing. For smart devices, even in the case where we utilize the same IP, we will create completely new game software that will perfectly match the play styles of smart devices.

However, such a venture is no guaranteed success, despite years of armchair analysts telling Nintendo to make bank in the mobile market. Iwata was quick to pronounce that the market is very competitive, so they must put themselves in a position to stand out above the crowd, even if they have to shout out loud.

Just looking at the fact that several applications that earn great profits are highly visible in the smart device game business, people in general appear to see it as an easy money market. The fact is, however, it is a highly competitive market and only a handful of content providers have been able to show enduring results.

If Nintendo cannot make it to that handful of winners, it does not make sense for us to be engaged in the software business on smart devices.

Accordingly, we had been thinking that if we ever decided to do it, we would have to put ourselves in the best position to prosper. Many content providers who are succeeding on smart devices are depending on single hit titles. One of my goals here is, now that we are challenging ourselves with this endeavor by making use of Nintendo IP, to produce multiple hit titles at an early stage after we start releasing our software on smart devices.

In all of this, Nintendo wishes to redefine the meaning of a “platform”, to offer change within Nintendo (gulp).

Until now, when we said, “platform,” it meant a specific video game platform. Now that we are going to release games on smart devices and make use of globally widespread PCs and smart devices for our new membership service, we would like to offer more consumers with software that is suited to their tastes. In other words, we are challenging ourselves to redefine what “Nintendo platforms” mean. With this collaboration with DeNA, a partner with different strengths, we aim to achieve this goal as soon as possible.

As for when we’ll begin to see the fruits of this partnership, it won’t be until this fall. Let us know what you think of Nintendo’s sudden move into mobile in the comments. What kind of games do you want to see?

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Editor-in-Chief (Former)

A man with a plan. My favorite video game franchise is Pokemon, but his favorite video game is Resident Evil 4. I can also tell you trivial cartoon factoids.