Talking tech since 2003

Nintendo outlined some more specifics in its plans to begin developing smartphone and tablet games on Friday, announcing via its latest financial results briefing that the first such title would hit before the end of this calendar year. We can also expect to see a total of five games by March of 2017.

Yup: five games in a little under two years.

That’s not amazing in terms of output! But, it also seems to signal a commitment on Nintendo’s part to making sure that it doesn’t just pump out shovelware that no one will want. When Nintendo makes its Android and iOS games, you can rest assured that they’ll be polished within an inch of their lives.

nintendoNintendo CEO Satoru Iwata explained the rationale for developing so few games:

“…since the game business on smart devices is already severely competitive, even with highly popular IP, the odds of success are quite low if consumers cannot appreciate the quality of a game. Also, if we were simply to port software that already has a track record on a dedicated game system, it would not match the play styles of smart devices, and the appropriate business models are different between the two, so we would not anticipate a great result. If we did not aim to achieve a significant result, it would be meaningless for us to do it at all. Accordingly, we are going to carefully select appropriate IP and titles for our smart device deployment.”

It may feel somewhat out of touch for Nintendo to take that long with each game. This post on Kotaku about the news points out that some developers manage to only survive on the mobile app stores by virtue of the quantity, rather than quality, of the games they produce. Moreover, the post points out that there are no shortage of poorly produced clones out there that might divert attention from Nintendo’s offerings.

That said, I have no doubt that the legions of Nintendo fans who download these games will go to great lengths to ensure that they get the real thing. I also wouldn’t be surprised if Nintendo incentivized their smartphone game offerings in such a way as to guarantee that clones don’t stand a chance.

For instance, imagine that paying five bucks for a Nintendo-made Yoshi game also provided some exclusive content on a different game on one of Nintendo’s hardware platforms, like the 3DS, Wii U, or whatever the mysterious NX console turns out to be. Doing that would help keep the clones off-balance—and it’s a move that Nintendo can exploit better than any other mobile game developer that doesn’t also have an empire of video games to rely on.

In fact, that’s roughly what Iwata said is going to happen in the financial report:

“When we announced our business alliance with DeNA, we announced an ‘integrated membership service,’ with the mission of establishing a bridge between smart devices and dedicated game systems. The membership service will encompass multiple devices such as our existing Nintendo 3DS, Wii U, the dedicated game system NX, which is currently under development, smart devices and PCs.”

I’m a bit disappointed to hear that Nintendo is only going forward with five games in two years. But hopefully that time will help provide for better games overall.

[Nintendo Financial Results Briefing]

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