Nintendo Thinks It Will Dominate The Garbage Mobile Gaming Market

Nintendo Thinks They will Dominate The Garbage Mobile Gaming Market

This week in Japan, Nintendo boss Satoru Iwata made some lofty promises about the company's plan to make mobile games.

"We will strive to expand this business into global markets at a steady pace so that eventually we will entertain hundreds of millions of people all around the world," he said. "We are aiming to make this one of the pillars of Nintendo's revenue structure."

I wonder if they really know what they're getting themselves into?

The world of mobile gaming is, to put it kindly, a big flaming garbage dump. The two biggest app stores — iTunes and Google Play — are giant, fickle beasts with very little curation and absolutely no accountability, to the point where clones of clones of clones are the status quo and it's near-impossible for developers to find success unless they're heavily promoted by Apple or Google. (I once heard a mobile game developer say they had to release a new game every month just to turn a profit.)

So it's hard not to be sceptical when Iwata talks about how Nintendo plans to release only five mobile games by March 2017 because they want to be sure those apps are all high-quality hits that sell bazillions of copies. (The first game, he says, will be out at the end of 2015.)

"You may think it is a small number," Iwata said, "but when we aim to make each title a hit, and because we want to thoroughly operate every one of them for a significant amount of time after their releases, this is not a small number at all and should demonstrate our serious commitment to the smart device business."

In theory, this is all lovely. And it'd be wonderful to see a developer like Nintendo — whose best titles in recent years have been small, mobile-like games such as BoxBoy and Pushmo — dominate the world of phones and tablets. But Nintendo has always worked in their own ecosystem. They have never had to directly compete against the endless stream of Mario clones and other cheap hacks on iTunes and Android. This is new territory, and I hope Nintendo's decision-makers realise that they can't handle it in the same the way they have handled games on their own systems.

"Since the game business on smart devices is already severely competitive, even with highly popular IP," Iwata said, "the odds of success are quite low if consumers cannot appreciate the quality of a game."

Well, sure, if you don't count Candy Crush or FarmVille or any of the other truly awful games that have sold gangbusters on mobile platforms. And, yes, high-quality games do often grow popular via word of mouth and recommendations from sites like ours.

But what happens when Nintendo comes out with this great game and starts selling it for $US5 or so, only to see a throng of other developers clone it, make it free, and then skyrocket to the top of the app store? Threes, perhaps the best game on iPhone, was almost immediately dwarfed in popularity early last year by 2048, a blatant (and uninspired) clone. Why? Because Threes cost $US3 and 2048 was free. The creators of Threes had the audacity to charge for their work, so the garbage mobile market swallowed them up.

Will Nintendo avoid making mistakes like that? Will they find some way to stand out? Or will the horrible world of mobile video games eat them alive?


Comments

    Wow... because we all know that the mobile market is just dominated by the *western* AppStore and Google Play right?

    I'd be lying if I said the whole mobile situation doesn't bother me greatly, if this is where it's all headed now. Will we look back in the future and see mobile games as the destroyer of the games industry...?

      Why? Mobile gaming is complimentary to "hard core" gaming.

      Or are we going to perpetuate the stereotype of only "hard core" gamers are true gamers?

        A: For the reasons stated in the article above
        B: Because console gaming seems to be becoming a barren wasteland devoid of any originality. (Indies notwithstanding)

          a) Shovelware has been part of gaming since time in memorial. Mobile will just go through the same growing pains. Well western mobile gaming anyway... AFAIK the asian mobile market isn't as bad since mobile's a lot older over there. Every media has gone through this... hell PC gaming was meant to be "dead" when consoles came, handhelds was supposed to "eat" into consoles profits because it was more convenient and on the fly. The market just adjusts around it.

          b) That's a bit more of a subjective argument as everyone has a different experience and taste to everyone. And besides the new generation is only about... 1 year old? Its not like everyone jumps the bandwagon straight away and everyone will still be working on squeezing the juice out of all the new consoles.

          Agreed
          Games these day's don't really interest me anymore. The games that are coming out are literally the same games weve been playing for almost the last 10 years. Rehashed yearly sequels that have very little to offer over the previous iteration.
          Other games rather than trying to be unique try to incorporate elements from other 'successful' titles - resulting in even more of the same crap.

          Playing games was a passion of mine ever since i was a kid, but I barely play anything anymore. In fact tonight was a lazy Sunday night and I felt like playing something but there just isn't anything that I want to play. It's all the same stuff that I've been playing for years.

    Iwata has demonstrated that he understands exactly what he's getting into, this is not a decision made lightly.

    And handling exposure and free clones is not a problem when yourbrand name is so thoroughly ingrained into society. People will search the stores for "Nintendo" in much the same way that Google's and Apple's apps are profoundly popular and have amazing legs.

    "Pages" isn't cheap or new, there are bunch of clones. Why does it sell?

    It seems obvious to me that Nintendo can and will bring their craftsmanship to the mobile market. They're the ones who kicked off portable touch screen gaming, this is most definitely within their wheelhouse.

      The risk is of somebody copying the Nintendo app, tweaking it slightly, then re-releasing it as "Super Maroi Bros" by "Nitendo" at half the cost. It will be a massive game of whack-a-mole.

        I think we're overlooking a key element here.
        Majority of mobile games are VERY VERY simple. They are extremely basic, and therefore it's ridiculously easy to clone them.

        But it's obvious Nintendo isn't looking at making different versions of Pong. They're looking at making proper titles.

        Games that are indepth won't be as easy to clone. And even still, a cloned version probably wont be the same. People want to play as Mario or Yoshi, not knockoff characters that have resemblances.

        I think Nintendo intends to make games that would be similar to what you'd expect on one of their handheld devices.

          There are documented cases of games being literally cloned, the same game released under a different name by virtue of simply copying the original game.

          Not many pirates are that brazen... but some are.

    So obviously Nintendo will do their typical thig of refusig to play by the rules ad therefore rewritig the rules and have everybody else copy everything they do.

    Dude, Jason, come on man, Im pretty sure they know how the business of videogames works better that your damning commentaries give them credit for. You wait and see, they're indestructible.

    It's disingenuous to believe that Nintendo apps will have to battle their way out of the cesspool of shovelware and clones. Their name alone on the app will get millions of downloads in launch day. If the game ends being any good, it will become a staple of the market.

    Last edited 09/05/15 5:23 pm

    All I want ninty to do us release old Pokemon games on phones. I have an emulator, but I'd gladly pay $5 for an older version that doesn't have current hardware still being manufactured to play it.

    Maybe if Nintendo designed a phone like the Xperia Play with specs similar to a handheld and equivilant to the current relesae phones (what the Vita was rumored to be back in the day). With ability to have access to Virtual Store. Then it would absolutely be one of the best devices around.

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