Nintendo Joins The Smartphone Gaming Market; What Everyone Is Asking

March 27, 2015

If there’s one thing that has been polarizing fans for a few years now, it’s the possibility of Nintendo entering the smartphone scene. Should the “Big N” consider making games for smartphone devices and claim a stake in one of the fastest growing markets? And if they ever did, would that spell the end for their portable consoles dedicated to making games?

Many have thought they should, even assuming that the day Nintendo started making games for smartphones would represent one giant step toward being the software-only company that Sega has now become. Now that the Japanese gaming giant has announced their partnership with DeNA to start releasing games on smartphone platforms, let’s take a look at the big questions many have in regard to this surprising event.

Who is DeNA?

Although not a household name like Square-Enix or Namco Bandai, DeNA may soon become one with this historic alliance. Started in 1999 to make an online auction site, DeNA eventually started providing the infrastructure for mobile and online services in 2009 before eventually publishing games themselves. Today they employ over 2000 people and have several locations across the globe, including their headquarters in Tokyo.

DeNA has already had some big partnerships in the past few years, including one with Disney in 2012 that involved making several popular games. Notable games include Star Wars: Galactic Defense, Transformers: Age of Extinction, and Godus.

What kind of games do they publish/develop?

This is what has a lot of people a tad skeptical about the partnership. Although DeNA’s library of games has an impressive number of top-grossing titles, pretty much all of them are free-to-play. There’s nothing wrong with this business model when done right, but most fans have dreaded seeing their favorite Nintendo IPs become freemium games where your enjoyment is based on how much you spend in the cash shop.

However, DeNA was chosen by Nintendo for a reason, so it is unlikely their games will compare to the shovelware you see in most mobile game stores. When it comes to providing rich free-to-play experiences that are fun to play whether you spend real cash or not, DeNA knows what they are doing. Either way, it’s still too early to tell if Nintendo will have their games be free at all.

Which Nintendo IPs will they use?

This is perhaps the most exciting question popping into the minds of gamers everywhere upon reading the news. Will we see side-scrolling Mario games, or perhaps some kind of Pokemon adventure? Maybe they’ll even focus on resurrecting older IPs like F-Zero and 2D Metroid for their mobile games.

Knowing this question would be asked, Satoru Iwata made it clear that anything is possible:

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.

No matter what IPs DeNa uses, it’s great to see Nintendo open to the idea of lending their beloved characters and worlds into their hands.

What was meant by a Membership Service?

The president of Nintendo also mentioned that they are currently working on a membership service with DeNA that will “create a connection regardless of the device the consumer uses.” In other words, we could finally see the unified account service we’ve all been dreaming about. Imagine buying a Nintendo game for your iPhone and then being able to also play it on your 3DS and Wii U. This is one of the possibilities a unified account service provides.

Whether the Nintendo Network ID system will coexist with this new membership service remains unclear.

Wait, did Nintendo just announce a new system?

Yes and no. It’s no surprise that Nintendo is already working on a new device. In fact, Shigeru Miyamoto openly discussed that new hardware is already in early stages of development late last year in an interview, so this news isn’t groundbreaking. However, this is the first time we’ve been given a codename for the new console: “NX”.

As expected, hardly any details were given on this new console other than that it would be a “dedicated game platform with a brand-new concept”. It makes sense that Nintendo would mention NX during this event simply to calm down the people who would assume Nintendo was abandoning their own consoles in favor of going software-only. What’s interesting is that the NX wasn’t necessarily mentioned as the successor to either the Wii U or 3DS. Since Nintendo has mentioned the desire to combine the benefits of portable and console devices into one, it could potentially be a unified platform.

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