“We have two things to do,” Nintendo president Satoru Iwata recently said to what may have been the 1000th person to ask him about the house of Super Mario is going to cope with that fact that people really, really love their mobile phones and that that might hurt their ability to love Nintendo machines. The company, he said, has “to offer consumers gaming experiences which smart devices cannot realise and to actively try to make smart devices our allies, not our enemies.”
Yes, Nintendo wants to be friends with your iPhone, but not soooo friendly that they are going to sell you Super Mario Bros. or Pokemon on it. They’ve got a different vision.
(I’m going to bold the key points for those of you who are in a rush. And there’s one piece of background you’ll need: earlier in the business investor chat that this answer comes from, he mentioned that a 47-minute YouTube video about the next Animal Crossing was viewed by a million people, 65 per cent of whom were viewing it on “smart devices”, meaning phones and tablets.)
OK, here’s Iwata:
“Smartphones and tablet devices, collectively ‘smart devices’, have been exerting a strong influence on various things around the world. It has already been said that the evolution of smart devices would affect car navigation systems and digital cameras as well as dedicated gaming platforms. In other words, the focus of the discussion has been whether multi-purpose devices, with which you can do various things, can drive dedicated devices out of the market or not.
“I think it totally incorrect to discuss the influence of smart devices and social games together as one topic, and I always try to distinguish between the two. Smart devices have both pros and cons for our business. Take the “Animal Crossing: New Leaf Direct” video I mentioned before, for instance, those who are interested in the Animal Crossing series, but are not aware of Nintendo Direct might have seen a tweet about the video and the link to it on their Twitter timeline and actually accessed it on their smartphone. In this context, smartphones are nothing but our friend. On the other hand, some say that they do not need dedicated gaming systems because they can play a number of games for free or for 85 yen each on smartphones. We believe that neither Nintendo nor dedicated gaming systems are worthy of existence unless our games give consumers unparalleled fun, which games for free or for 85 yen do not supply.
"As I referred to before, when i-mode for cell phones started in Japan, many people said that, as application software including games worked on cell phones, everyone would play games only with their cell phones because they are practical items they always carry, which would eventually eliminate handheld gaming devices. We were asked about this matter many times and answered that we would try something that cannot be done on cell phones. After that, we were able to see the positive result of the Nintendo DS system. On the other hand, it can be said that the fact that Nintendo DS was able to demonstrate the new potential of touch screens, and as a result, created our new rivals called smart devices, I really feel that history is repeating itself. Above all, we have two things to do: to offer consumers gaming experiences which smart devices cannot realize and to actively try to make smart devices our allies, not our enemies.
“Miiverse” is a new network service which connects those who play games, and we plan to start it at the same time as the launch of the Wii U system. As it would take me a long time to elaborate on “Miiverse” here, we are currently preparing a Nintendo Direct video to explain about it in detail before the launch of Wii U. Please let me tell you why Nintendo is making a strong effort for “Miiverse,” how it will change our platforms and how it will relate to smart devices.
“The fun of a game derives from not just enjoying playing it but communicating with others about topics relating to it and empathizing with one another. You might remember that you exchanged information on secret tricks for Mario games in your youth or that you were excited to talk about your progress in “Dragon Quest” with friends in school. “Miiverse” is a new network service where you can communicate and share your gaming experiences with others, and we will provide it integrated into the Wii U system at the launch of the console.
"After booting up Wii U, the screen we introduced as “Mii Wara Wara*” will be automatically displayed with comments from other consumers enjoying Wii U. Also, without any specific development work, all Wii U games are supposed to be able to invoke “Miiverse” without being shut down and utilise basic functions of “Miiverse.” Further development work in a game could create more opportunities for communication and empathy among users. In addition, for our past platforms, users had to exchange a number called a “Friend Code” with each other to build a Friend relationship, where data could be transferred between two specific devices. This process was set up to prevent users from being harassed by the few people who like to behave in an inappropriate manner when playing games. For Wii U, as those who have empathized with each other can create a Friend relationship, the important mission of “Miiverse” is to increase the number of friends to play games with. Here’s an example. Who has more opportunities to go drinking, a person with three drinking pals or one with 20? The same can be said for golf pals or travelling pals. Anyway, as you have more friends to enjoy something together with, you have more topics and experiences related to it and as a result, you will have more opportunities to invite them or be invited to enjoy it. That is to say, more friends to play games with mean more opportunities to enjoy them. As “Miiverse” is not confined to dedicated gaming platforms and will be available on smart devices in the near future, we hope that, even on a train where many people are using smart devices, you will know how your gaming friends are enjoying their games. Our consumers are not confined to the people who actively search for information on video games to find the next game to enjoy and typically never fail to see Nintendo Direct once they become aware of it. After the expansion of the gaming population, due to Nintendo DS and Wii, I referred to our challenge of helping consumers find the next game to play in our Financial Results Briefings. We had tried various actions and were able to show some results, but unfortunately we could not come up with the perfect answer. Then the use rate of the hardware gradually decreased and people were starting to stop playing games during the gap period between releases of highly-anticipated game titles. This is the problem all gaming platforms faced, not only Nintendo DS and Wii. However, if you have more friends to play games with, you will inevitably have more chances to encounter new games. What is more, this will be caused not by publishers’ advertisements, but visualisation of the feelings of those you have empathised with.
"As there are many excellent but buried games in the world, and you must be impressed by some of them, the important mission of “Miiverse” is to create opportunities to let you know about such games without spending our finite advertising budget on it. To sum up, we hope that “Miiverse,” where you can emphasize with others about video games, will work to increase the fun of each game and keep the high use rate of the hardware even while new big titles are unavailable. For this to happen, we need to involve smart devices as well as dedicated gaming platforms. “Miiverse” will increase the number of opportunities the user will experience of finding the next game to play and therefore create a business environment with potentially more game sales. Various people pointed out that playing Wii games alone was not as fun as playing them in a group. For Wii U, even when you are not with your family or friends, you can play games connected to various people around the world through “Miiverse.” We are aiming to have consumers enjoy Wii U with people even when they are physically alone. We believe that this is what we should do in this period when smartphones and tablet devices have spread. We are not considering selling the software we released in the past for smartphones and tablet devices.”
... all of which means that you may not be officially playing any Nintendo games on your iPhone or Nexus 7 any time soon, but you probably will be thinking about Nintendo and interacting with Nintendo gamers with and through your phone or tablet than you ever did before.
Just try not to make your 3DS jealous, OK?