Can Nintendo Thrive on Mobile?

Editorial: GameSpot editors share their thoughts on Nintendo's landmark announcement.

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In a surprise announcement Tuesday, Nintendo and DeNA announced a landmark partnership that will see the companies work together to bring Nintendo IP to smartphones and tablets.

The announcement paves the way for Nintendo's long-held business strategy of releasing its franchises only for its own hardware to finally come to an end.

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Details are light at the moment. While Nintendo isn't eyeing straight ports, it will consider its entire IP portfolio for possible iPhone and Android games. The first products out of the Nintendo-DeNA partnership will be released before the end of the year.

As part of the agreement, Nintendo also confirmed it is developing "a core system compatible with a variety of devices including PCs, smartphones, and tablets, as well as Nintendo's dedicated video game systems."

Though there remain a number of unanswered questions about Nintendo's plans for the smartphone market, investors are already responding positively. In Japan, Nintendo shares are skyrocketing in the wake of the announcement.

To dive deeper into the news, we polled a selection of GameSpot editors for their thoughts. See below for their full responses, and be sure to let us know what you think in the comments below.

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Randolph Ramsay, Managing Editor:

My initial reaction to the news of Nintendo moving to mobile? FINALLY. Nintendo has been a long time holdout when it comes to embracing mobile platforms, and they've had very good reason to. But the reality is if Nintendo wants to remain viable in the long-term, if they want to attract new audiences to their outstanding portfolio of games and hardware, then expanding their reach to mobile is the most prudent bet. And no, I'm not talking about attracting Candy Crushed obsessed casual gamers.

I'm talking about the next generation of core players, young people whose main gaming platforms are--like it or not--are the tablets and mobile devices mom and dad give them to play with. I have a five-year-old son who loves playing on my iPad, and the only Nintendo 'game' I can provide for him is Camp Pokemon. I have a 15-month-old daughter who's already obsessed with playing on my phone, and I would love to introduce her to Mario and pals. There's a whole generation of potential gamers growing up without the Nintendo brand affinity many of us have. Grabbing them at their formative gaming years on the devices they already have access to is not only a smart move on Nintendo's part, but an inevitable one.

Rob Crossley, UK News Editor:

I've often sympathized with Nintendo's concerns about jumping in bed with Apple and Google. Mobile has become a tantalizingly vast business, now bloated to the size of an estimated two billion customers, which makes even the best selling consoles seem feeble by comparison.

But it's also a market that demands games are sold at about a hundredth the price of traditional titles. Publishing on iOS and Android, for Nintendo, comes with a tacit agreement that its games don't necessarily require a premium price point. That changes the very foundation of its age-old business proposition, of creating wonderful entertainment at a justifiably high price.

"One cannot underestimate the risk Nintendo is taking here" -- Rob Crossley

One cannot underestimate the risk Nintendo is taking here. Soon it will be in a position where it will offer two kinds of mobile games: some that are on 3DS and sold for $40, others that are on mobile that will be close to free. If both kinds prove to be immensely fun--and they will be--then it's only natural that people will gravitate away from the high prices.

Will the additional money from mobile offset the inevitable losses to handhelds? That is an incredibly difficult question, the answer of which will be central in determining whether its new direction is a success or not.

Justin Haywald, Senior News Editor:

Nintendo is making the smart move.

Following the mobile announcement, Nintendo's stock jumped by 26%. And while that doesn't mean much to gamers, Nintendo is a publicly traded company. They have to do more than make gamers happy; they have to make money.

While this could be seen as flip-flopping on Nintendo president Satoru Iwata's previous commitment to stay off of smartphones (because it is), the Japanese market has gone mobile. Microsoft's and Sony's home consoles are floundering in Japan while the portable market flourishes. So avoiding mobile right now is just a dumb move. This is an announcement that will keep shareholders off of Nintendo's back but also infuse the company with more money.

That doesn't mean we're going to get great mobile games from Nintendo. There's a reason that the best experiences on your phone come from small indie studios and all the microtranscation-based money makers come from larger studios. Nintendo is getting into mobile to make money, and we're going to get things more like the Puzzles and Dragons Super Mario crossover and the terrible (but successful) Pokemon Shuffle.

"Nintendo is making the smart move" -- Justin Haywald

So why am I still excited for this? Because of what this opens up for the company next. The pairing with DeNA could mean a dedicated login not just across Nintendo devices, but across all devices where you can access or play Nintendo games. Mobile is a necessary stand-in right now to bring in money and make shareholders happy. But a future where Nintendo once again has the freedom and popularity to create great experiences that aren't limited by platform? That's exciting.

If Nintendo's plan is to use this future freedom to give us cross-buy options for games, access to the virtual console everywhere, and to give small development teams room to innovate and experiment, rather than just pumping out ways to squeeze money from consumers one microtransaction at at time, Nintendo has an incredibly exciting future.

Eddie Makuch, News Editor:

"I was surprised today to learn that Nintendo would be jumping into the smartphone/tablet market through a wide-ranging partnership with DeNA. After all, Nintendo's long-stated--and often-repeated--stance on the subject seemed clear: 'We'll make content so compelling that people will eagerly buy a 3DS.' And Nintendo had good reason to take this approach.

But it now appears that the smartphone/tablet market is simply too large a sector to ignore. While Nintendo isn't yet talking specifics about its plans for mobile--beyond saying its first titles will debut later this year--it's exciting to imagine the possibilities. The Japanese game giant has some of the most beloved and recognizable characters not just in gaming, but across the entire media landscape.

Bringing Mario, Zelda, and Donkey Kong to mobiles could be an incredibly lucrative move for the company. Of course there are a number of unanswered questions here: Will Nintendo make these games or DeNA? Are they going to be bite-sized experiences that instead push you to a deeper experience on 3DS? Microtransactions? Whatever the case, Nintendo is making a future-focused move--and that's exciting."

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