Shares in Nintendo plummeted by nearly 20% this week, prompting widespread questioning as to what its next steps will be. “We are thinking about a new business structure,” states Nintendo’s president Satoru Iwata. “Given the expansion of smart devices, we are naturally studying how smart devices can be used to grow the game player business. It’s not as simple as enabling Mario to move on a smartphone.”
Nintendo has long resisted the mobile revolution, insisting on releasing games on platforms and devices that they own; in 2011, Iwata claimed that if they were to port out their properties to other platforms, “Nintendo would cease to be Nintendo… My responsibility is not to short-term profits but to long-term competitive strength.” But, according to analysts at Jefferies; “Its console-based business model spells doom for stakeholders. It has no choice but to accept the change… We believe Mario on mobile is coming.”
However, not everybody is inclined to agree. In a post entitled ‘Nintendo Won’t (And Shouldn’t) Make iPhone Games’, Vincent Balestriere outlines the main issue with Nintendo going mobile: “If you want to mess around with gimmicky games on your phone, that’s one thing. But Nintendo’s entire business model relies on the public respect of their IPs. The 3DS is working quite well for those who want to play in-depth video games on a mobile platform. Why should Nintendo bother?”
Video game developer Square Enix Inc. has done very well out of peddling nostalgic appeal, with iPhone ports of classic game franchises like Tomb Raider and Final Fantasy. And while the clumsy in-game controls have caused some enthusiasts to dismiss Tomb Raider for iOS as “virtually unplayable”, that hasn’t stopped fans of the Nineties original from downloading it in their droves – especially when external control pads are available.
Writer Dave Smith believes that tapping into this retro-crazed market could take Nintendo to the top of the App Store. “Nostalgia hurts,” he says. “And yet, one way or another, Nintendo desperately needs to go back to a place where it knows it is loved.”