Nintendo Reportedly Moving Away from Mobile Games

Nintendo is reportedly moving away from mobile gaming development and will instead focus its efforts on the Switch.

Super Mario Run
Photo: Nintendo

Reportedly unhappy with its performance in the mobile gaming market, Nintendo is said to be moving away from that space to focus on game development for the Switch. The report comes from Bloomberg, which says that Nintendo hasn’t seen a return on investment from the mobile games released thus far.

In a year when the mobile gaming market is projected to make up to $77.2 billion — half of the total of the gaming industry’s sales, Nintendo hasn’t announced any plans to release anything new onto mobile devices.

“We are not necessarily looking to continue releasing many new applications for the mobile market,” Nintendo president Shuntaro Furukawa told shareholders in May, according to Bloomberg.

While Bloomberg says that Nintendo originally jumped into the mobile gaming space to “shore up the bottom line amid the Wii U’s failure,” the Switch has been a massive success for the company. In fact, the recent release of Animal Crossing: New Horizons pushed Nintendo’s stock prices to a 12-year high, according to the outlet. The game, which has been adopted by many as a necessary distraction and a way to interact with friends in the age of social distancing, sold 13.4 million units in just six weeks.

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Nintendo has not seen the same spark in the mobile space, and one has to wonder how the Switch itself might have cannibalized the company’s mobile sales. After all, the Switch can also be used as a handheld device you can play anywhere.

“Since the release of Mario Kart Tour in fall 2019, Nintendo’s mobile pipeline is empty,” mobile games consultant Serkan Toto told Bloomberg. “In a sense, Nintendo’s enormous success on console reduced the need and the pressure to put resources into mobile.”

Bloomberg also reports that Nintendo hasn’t quite nailed the right business model for its mobile games amid the heightened public scrutiny over microtransactions. “Gacha” games, which feature a type of microtransaction model where you pay into a lottery system in hopes of winning rare loot, remain the most lucrative types of mobile titles in Japan, but have “invited controversy because of its addictive aspects,” according to Bloomberg.

This criticism has reportedly pushed Nintendo to ask mobile game developers to find ways to allow players to spend less on their games, fearing that exploitative microtransaction models like pay-to-win and gacha could hurt the brand. Even if Nintendo were to warm up to the gacha model, Ace Research Institute analyst Hideki Yasuda told Bloomberg that the company’s current lineup of mobile titles wasn’t equipped to support this business model.

“You need an active long-running franchise with hundreds of attractive characters to make a good gacha game and then you’d need to keep adding new characters each month to retain players,” Yasuda said. “Fire Emblem is the only Nintendo franchise capable of doing that.”

This doesn’t mean Nintendo will step away from the mobile market completely. Bloomberg notes that Nintendo’s frequent collaborator in the mobile space, DeNA, has acknowledged that more apps may be coming but not until the end of the current fiscal year, which ends in March 2021.

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“New smartphone games will come, but it’s very likely these will be just alibi releases to appease shareholders,” Toto told Bloomberg.

We’ll keep you updated as we learn more.