Nintendo Reportedly Distancing Further Away From Mobile Games
Nintendo is a big, big company, with a lot of franchises and fans under their belt. It's no surprise, then, that the Kyoto-based game studio has a lot of hands in a lot of pies. One of those pies is the mobile game market. In 2018, Nintendo's president changed hands again following Tatsumi Kimishima's run. The new president, Shuntaro Furukawa, had a prediction that year that mobile games would have a high growth potential for sales. In a way, he was right. The onset of the 2020 coronavirus pandemic has led to a mobile boom; with so many people staying indoors for safety, it's not shocking that mobile games are selling better than ever. Despite this, Nintendo's own mobile games haven't been doing so hot. The lofty goal of three to four mobile games a year for Nintendo now seems to be dying out, according to a recent report published by Bloomberg.
The report, which cites various sources such as anonymous Nintendo employees and Japanese mobile industry analysts, states that Nintendo has begun steadily retreating from the mobile market. Instead, they're switching (pun intended) their focus to the Nintendo Switch. Those who have kept a close eye on Nintendo (or simply play mobile games often) will know of their mobile titles. Things like Mario Kart Tour, Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp, and Fire Emblem Heroes are still getting downloads and sales. When compared to other heavy hitters in the mobile industry, however, these games aren't performing nearly as well critically. Nintendo has taken notice of this, especially in an era where play-to-win gatcha game mechanics are falling under increasing scrutiny. These mechanics are the primary way mobile games make money, allowing them to be free-to-play upfront. Nintendo has gone so far as to ask their own developers to reduce in-game microtransaction prices amidst their growing distance from mobile games.
When looking at the timeline of 2020, it makes sense why this would be happening. In 2018, Nintendo's mobile-forward outlook was one of necessity. The Switch had been out for one year by that point, and it still had a ways to go to get where it is today. This meant Nintendo had to make up for the lackluster life of the Wii U, the Switch's predecessor that performed less than average. Mobile games looked like a lucrative way to do just that, but as one of the aforementioned analysts pointed out, that's hard to do unless you have a bunch of long-running series with loads and loads of characters. The only series that really fits that bill for Nintendo is Fire Emblem. Meanwhile, you have the coronavirus pandemic. The point in time when the pandemic really ballooned in size coincided with the release of Animal Crossing: New Horizons on the Switch, a game that seemed like the perfect escape from the chaos of life while staying indoors. Since the release of New Horizons, the Switch has been selling better than ever before, with the game going on to break records for Nintendo.
All of this is to say one simple fact: The Switch is performing really well, to the point where Nintendo's mobile outings simply aren't. People aren't playing Nintendo's mobile games because they're all gravitated towards the Switch, a stellar console with countless games that allows for mobile play from the get-go. According to Nintendo's mobile partner DeNA, the likelihood is not to expect any new Nintendo mobile games until the end of the fiscal year for Japan (March 31st, 2020). While Nintendo's most popular mobile games will still get the company's focus, it sounds like anything more is going to be few and far between. It's the end of a pretty brief era for Nintendo, though definitely not a surprising one when taking just a quick glance at the Switch's sales records in 2020. All of it goes more in-line with what Nintendo was aiming for pre-Wii U, which certainly isn't a bad thing, as it means Nintendo is just performing that well in the console market. You can check out the full report on Bloomberg and see for yourself what to make of it all.