Nintendo in Mobile Gaming Business: Go… Outside!

  • Kim Cabral
  • 2019-06-Mar

So, it’s the matter of fact now: Nintendo games have gone mobile. It’s not about the company changing its policy, it’s rather about our time. Having kept it masterpieces exclusive for its hermetic platform, in 2018 Nintendo made something quite unusual: it published a game for mobile platforms only, as if no Big N console ever existed.

The Era of Convergence

While the 2000s were the Era of Diversity for gadgets, the 2010s will be remembered as the Era of Convergence. Look: BlackBerry phones run Android, iOS offers selectable keyboards and lots of apps by Google, and, on the other hand, Apple Music is available for Android. Microsoft releases Office and all the apps for rival mobile platforms even before admitting that Windows Phone is dead. iPad features USB Type-C ports. Everybody learns from the others, and that unites.

Game console makers have been standing apart, keeping its hardware-bound policy almost intact, each major platform having its roster of exclusive games, sometimes even longer than that of shared ones. And Nintendo has always kept this closeness a level higher than Sony or Microsoft.

Not that Nintendo has been ignoring mobile market at will before that. The calls were up since 2013, when Nintendo got outrun by GungHo, a mobile game developer. And it’s not that Nintendo did nothing to establish itself as a mobile game developer. But it had too much to hold on to. Familiar names and characters. Successful franchises of past decades. Unique hardware features so appreciated by Wii fans.

So all Nintendo did in mobile domain was just replicating its past hits and bringing its approach into handheld gaming with Switch… Until Dragalia was released.

Dragalia Lost: One Small Step for Mobile RTS, One Giant Leap for Nintendo

In September 2018, Dragalia Lost by Nintendo hit the mobile app markets (we mean App Store and Play Market). Being a solid mobile RTS up to all the standards, Dragalia Lost is something Nintendo has never done. It’s not a port of some classical title (like Super Mario or Pokémon); it’s a brand new game for mobile platform. And it’s not even scheduled for Nintendo’s own consoles, despite its earlier modus operandi.

If we take a closer look, we’ll notice one more thing. It seems that for the first time Nintendo acts like it has nothing behind. Dragalia Lost was made from a scratch, with no connection to any Big N classics. Yes, it utilizes a popular scheme of humans training dragons and fighting in dragon shape, with rich customization options, gacha-styled.

Nintendo was not embarrassed by Dragalia’s moderate success. Though initially it only was available in USA, Japan, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan, these markets are quite large, and having less than 5 million Android users and some more on iOS is not much of a hit.

A Little History

Though Dragalia Lost is the biggest talk of the world, it’s not the first Nintendo’s experiment.

  • Miitomo was a social networking service with gaming elements, utilizing Nintendo account. It was warmly perceived in 2016 after the launch, but in 2018 the interest faded, and Nintendo discontinued the project. Well, it shows that the company does know when to get off a dead horse.
  • Super Mario Run is the famous character’s official debut on mobile platforms, despite third party followers mimicked Mario a lot. Though its downloads are in the hundreds of millions, don’t consider the game itself such a hit. It’s driven by enormous success on other platforms and even beyond the gaming world.
  • Fire Emblem and Animal Crossing are mobile takes on self-titled series published on – three guesses to figure out! – Nintendo consoles.

Plans and Chances

As far as we know, The Big N is now working on at least three titles to hit mobile app markets this year. And two of them will feature Mario again: they will be Mario Kart Tour and Dr. Mario World. The third one is probably even of a greater meaning.

The Legend of Zelda, remade for mobiles.

Though all these leaked or announced titles are just ports and remakes, we can only guess what else Nintendo has in store. The matter is that we knew virtually nothing about Dragalia Lost before its official release. Even the employees of Cygames, Nintendo’s partner in making it, weren’t unaware of the collaboration. Unlike mobile vendors, Nintendo knows how to keep it secret. So its brand new titles may be under production already, despite our unawareness.

The only conclusion we can make is that Nintendo is in. And it’s ready to rely on fresh creativity along with classical titles, building a new independent roster. Don’t expect something as cult as Mario or Zelda, but these will surely be robust quality games, not the cheapest, but worth each cent.

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