News Article

Talking Point: The Pokémon Trading Card Game for iPad is a Smart Move

Posted by Thomas Whitehead

A sensible approach to the tablet market

Nintendo is likely to be weary of those ready to tell it — in ever authoritative tones — that it should pitch up its tent in the iOS and Android gardens and bask in the glow of golden revenues. We imagine that while the company is happy to debate the issue, it'll have little tolerance for those that declare the inevitability of immense profit is just a few smart device games away; the issue is far more complicated and full of risk than some would care to admit.

There's an undeniable trend in the gaming market showing that the smart device market is increasingly overpowering the 'conventional' games industry in pure revenue. That is fact, but what is less definitive is whether companies more attuned to producing console and handheld games can make the billions their shareholders demand from these ares. If recent years have taught us anything it's that iOS and Android are notoriously difficult to master, with viral successes and big hits sometimes coming way out of left-field, with key brands hitting a critical mass — whether an original idea or a rip-off of a sadly overlooked game — and rolling with it.

The unpredictable, often chaotic nature of those stores also means that there's a long list of publishers and developers that have made sustained bids to truly crack the smart device market, but still rely on the old-fashioned idea of games that require controllers to make their millions. The list of companies with varying degrees of success is long — Sega, Square Enix, Ubisoft, EA, Activision and Capcom are among them. There have been high points, but none of these companies are packing up all of their big-budget studios and simply 'going mobile'; the promised land of smaller screens hasn't obliterated the need for conventional games.

We're in a rapidly changing environment, of course, which naturally prompts some to criticise Nintendo as acting too slowly. The company has more to lose than software publishers, however, as moving content away from its systems to smart devices immediately devalues its hardware business. It's been making losses, but it's had hardware struggles in the past — on each occasion it's recovered; if Nintendo jumps recklessly away from its existing business models, there's likely to be no going back.

Those declaring the reveal of The Pokémon Trading Card game for iPad to be game changing revelation, in that respect, are getting ahead of themselves. The Pokémon Company, to start with, has always had a relatively independent mandate — despite its affiliation and ownership by Nintendo — in pursuing its goals to boost the brand. Pokémon as a phenomenon is licenced and diversified in unique ways — compared to Nintendo's core properties — due to the manner in which the franchise has come together; it's become as important for 'mon to have films and TV shows as games, while merchandising is equally big business. It's also not as simple as saying that Nintendo's other properties should all follow the same road; that'd be akin to saying Level-5's Professor Layton should have been expanded in the same way as Yokai Watch has been — it's not that simple, and consumer's desires can be unpredictable and temperamental.

Over the course of many years Pokémon has sustained impressive levels of success; the mainline series of games on Nintendo's handhelds have been the driving force. Yet that selling power hasn't often translated to the many spin-offs of Pokémon into other game genres; the dungeon crawling games, brawlers and safari style camera games — as examples — haven't been failures, and these diversions wouldn't keep coming if they weren't making some money, but the truly staggering sales remain the preserve of the coloured or alphabetised core games. Rather like our Layton / Yokai Watch comparison, if it was easy to make every game with Pokémon in the title a smash hit selling over 10 million copies, Nintendo, Game Freak, The Pokémon Company et al would have done it long before now.

In that respect it makes perfect sense for The Pokémon Trading Card Game to come to iOS, as it can throw its hat into the virtual card game market and see if the right combination brings not-quite-pocket monster revenues. Importantly, Nintendo is targeting iOS with the sort of app that can potentially flourish on the platform without undermining existing products on its own hardware. The last equivalent product on a Nintendo portable was on the Game Boy Color, which recently saw a release on the 3DS Virtual Console in Europe. An argument can certainly be made that Nintendo's undermining that VC release — number one in the recent bestseller chart in the European 3DS eShop at the time of writing — but we think this is a fair example of justified opportunism. It's a re-release of a title originally released in the West way back in 2000, after all.

Even accounting for the semi-independent nature of The Pokémon Company, let's consider what Satoru Iwata said back in January in a presentation to shareholders, on the subject of Nintendo leveraging smart devices.

The traditional definition of a video game platform imposed a restriction in which we were unable to connect with consumers unless they purchased a Nintendo system. Given that the competition for consumers’ time and attention has become fierce, I feel that how we will take advantage of smart devices is an extremely important question to answer. However, in order to be absolutely clear, let me emphasize that this does not mean simply supplying Nintendo games on smart devices. Taking advantage of smart devices means connecting with all consumers, including those who do not own Nintendo’s video game systems, through smart devices and communicating the value of our entertainment offerings, thus encouraging more people to participate in Nintendo platforms.

Cross-promotion of the TCG and the video games is a key goal of The Pokémon Company, bringing the previously disparate competitive communities together at competitive tournaments, but likely to also use each respective area to promote sales of the other. In our interview with J.C. Smith, the Director of Consumer Marketing for the Pokémon Company International, he talked up the importance of accessibility and promoting the brand to a wide range of people, with the affiliate company developing the app internally — Game Freak and Nintendo's development teams are, we imagine, busy enough already.

This is a beta test obviously, but we want to make sure people can have the ability to learn and play the TCG any way they want. We’ve been doing the trading card game online on PC and Mac for four years now; for us, it’s all about getting people to play and having a touch point into how to play the trading card game. We’ve always done stuff that was right for expanding that audience, so it’s nothing different than [what] we have been doing. In fact, we put out the Google Maps app that allowed people to search for Pokémon. We like to do things from a marketing standpoint that make sense to reach our audience.

When you compare the philosophies outline by Iwata-san and J.C. Smith, the principles are essentially the same. The key point, too, is that it's been possible to play the TCG on PC and Mac for a good period of time, so in many respects this iPad app is long overdue. Nintendo left the virtual representation of the TCG largely dormant for a decade after its Game Boy Color outing and has since seen it used an area to test out other markets. In some respects it's showed the company's willingness — even at one step removed as it is, in a sense, with the management of Pokémon — to expand horizons. The key is that the TCG and video games are unique experiences from each other, so this is far from the scenario of the sequels to X & Y not being on Nintendo hardware, which remains inconceivable at present.

We can understand why there can be uncertainty and discomfort around this announcement, nevertheless, and we've read multiple viewpoints arguing that this app would have suited the Wii U — with the GamePad as the obvious control option — particularly well. Yet Nintendo does have to be smart about not throwing away opportunities, and the modest performance of some spin-off apps and games on its own hardware suggests that the main series is a very different beast. The card game market does fit iOS nicely, however, and let's not pretend that cold-eyed business and profit targets aren't behind this app — we can expect in-app purchases and credits to be absolutely integral to the experience.

The complexities of business ultimately put this product at the feet of The Pokémon Company, which has released other 'apps' for the franchise before now, with this TGC announcement merely the latest. In the current market, however, it's unsurprising that it caused some to wonder whether it meant Nintendo was 'going mobile' with games. The answer's simple — it's not. We bet it's interested to see how this app performs, however, as it is the perfect candidate to be a success on iOS, drive consumers towards Pokémon and, by extension, closer to Nintendo hardware.

It'll be interesting to see how this Pokémon Trading Card Game performs on iOS. Its success would reward smart thinking, and can boost Nintendo sales rather than harm them.

Where do you stand on the TGC app for iPad. Are you for or against it, or perhaps unsure? Let us know in the comments below.

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User Comments (48)



Mk_II said:

Nintendo shares are already up on this news so investors seem to agree.



Mega719 said:

Off topic but are you going to post about the Pre Order exclusive costumes on Gamestop, Amazon, and Best Buy for Hyrule Warriors? Or the Disney Infinity 2.0 Toy Box Starter Pack and other things i see in My Nintendo News



TwilightOniAngel said:

Meh is just the trading card game,is not like nintendo is releasing there big IP's on the ipad.If they do then it's time to freak out.



Kaze_Memaryu said:

I still say it's a bad move.
As I stated before, this opens the door for unprecedented demand. Smart device/tablet owners now have a base to demand even more Nintendo games. This not only causes more people to be dissatisfied with Nintendo (if they don't follow that demand) and lose interest in the brand as a whole. But if Nintendo releases even more on smart devices/tablets, it will inevitably devalue their main line of products, simply because there's barely any group that is as stingy as smart device/tablet users.

All in all, while I hope it doesn't take a turn for the worst, I fear that this will not only bring a lot of trouble through the Nintendo headquarter doors, it will also split the community, not bring it together - or did I miss the console release announcement?



mike_intv said:

Is not this just an expansion of the on-line TCG, already available on computers?

If so, it is far less revolutionary — or problematic — than those on the this board think. It is just evolutionary.



duducamargo said:


In practical terms, you're right, it's just a port to iOS on the PC/Mac version of the game, but they'll use this to expand the brand even further and get more people interested/invested into Pokémon-related gaming, so I see it as a good thing



Serebii said:

@mike_intv Yeah, the media (especially outside Nintendo sites) is going crazy about it, some acting like it's the first ever Nintendo-related app, too. We got this the last few times Pokémon apps came, and when Pokémon TCGO first came too.



ultraraichu said:

As someone who play the TCG online (PC & Mac) and real life, I can say this is more then welcoming news.

For one thing it help raising more awareness for the game since it's been out for more then 4 years on a non-Nintendo platform yet people react to the app like this is a first and they sell out.
Also this might also get more people to buy the real TCG since their version of in-app purchase (optional) is buying a new theme deck/ booster pack and entering the code online for a digital version of the cards.

At least soon I'll be able play it anywhere and not in one place



kereke12 said:

I'm sorry Nintendo life but that's a stupid thing to say. This is not a good move. Because that just shows Nintendo isn't capable of fixing there problems or more like doing anything anymore. Like I said and I'm not the only one who's says the said the same-thing. Nintendo is using the easy way out. I've been a hardcore Nintendo fan for a long-time and still am. But what the Pokemon Company aka. Nintendo is doing is a wrong move. Instead of making games for there platforms there too busy making games for others platforms. This is just a test to see if the game will sell well on iOS platforms & it will sell good because what everyone wished is coming true. Nintendo is finally putting there games on Mobile-Devices. I know a lot of people on here are saying: "Not to get worried its just a full game that came from PC". That may be true but its something too think about as you know that a lot of gamers out there including the people on here have always wanted Nintendo to do this & its sad too see this...I thought Microsoft did stupid things but Nintendo just made it too first place. Its something to think about. It truly is. I bet you, after the game releases on the market for iOS a lot of people are going to demand more Nintendo games on Mobile-Devices & now knowing Nintendo will listen to them and put out more games. Like I said before. This is a test. Everyone got what they wanted, HOPE YOUR HAPPY NOW!!!!



rjejr said:

Oh these comments should be fun read

I'm in agreement w/ the main article BTW.



Xaessya said:

Its not a bad move, I just wish we had something like that for our systems as well.

@rjejr I know what you mean XD



Mega719 said:

@kereke12 @Kaze_Memaryu this doesn't mean anything you act like Nintendo is going to just abandon their system audience to work with Mobile which they obviously aren't doing. This is just a side thing like Miiverse and Mario Kart TV not a new business, just accept it



rjejr said:

@kereke12 - "This is just a test to see if the game will sell well on iOS platforms & it will sell good"

It's not going to SELL at all b/c it's a free web browser app, has been for 4 years now, its not even really a packaged "game" per se.

Saying putting this on Apple devices will kill real Pokemon games is akin to saying selling packs of Pokemon cards in stores is going to kill Pokemon games b/c people will just play with the cards instead of the video games.



ZenTurtle said:

It's just a limited and repetitive game, even more so than the video game.
But if kids like it, who am I to fault them?



ricklongo said:

It is a pretty good move. But yes, also bringing it to the Wii U (supporting cross-play with iOS and PC) would be an even better move.

In fact, leaving the Wii U out in this case is one of the most puzzing moves I've seen Nintendo do in recent years.



duducamargo said:


I agree. It could be done in theory, since PTCG Online is implemented in Unity. Using dual screens to play this game would be so good!!

One reason by not doing it right now and going for iPad first is that it is a free game after all, and it'd reach a lot more people on iOS than it would on Wii U.

I see why a lot of people are concerned (even though I personally think they're overreacting on this announcement), but overall, very smart move that will only make the Pokémon brand stronger IMO.



MoonKnight7 said:


Meh, this isn't nearly as bad as you say it will be. It's more about what makes sense for the iPad and Nintendo won't be abandoning their systems just because of something like this. Pokemon has no rules to follow, they can do what they like.



Sir_JBizzle said:


Oh these comments should be fun read

I couldn't agree more! Though I wish when people go on rants, they would split it into paragraphs... But that's none of my business...

Concerning the article, I agree with it by the way. To add, most people who play TCG, digital or otherwise are fans of Pokémon anyway, which means they more than likely are Nintendo fans or at the very least own a Nintendo system even if to exclusively play Pokémon main entries, so I don't see how this is exactly hurting anything.

Though I have been back and forth on the whole Nintendo to mobile thing, and while I wouldn't want to see repurposed IP for mobile, it wouldn't exactly hurt Nintendo to to crack open their war chest a bit to hire a mobile development team that makes games tailored for smartphones/tablets, then save the really good stuff for their consoles and handhelds...



originaljohn said:

I hope Nintendo plan to role this out with a email based account system (Miiverse on iDevices). This is going to have millions of downloads if apps like hearthstones is anything to go by, so why not take advantage of the massive mobile user base and expand the population of Miiverse?
I think Miiverse is THE vehicle to entice mobile users over to dedicated gaming devices.



Tritonus said:

If they don't go multiplatform with this, and by multiplatform I mean Wii U and 3DS as well, then I really don't like this too much.

I want to play this, but I don't have an iPad, but I do have both of Nintendo's consoles.



agqwestern said:

I'll wait for the 3DS/Wii U version. It would be almost criminal for this not to happen as it would be such an easy conversion, especially for the latter. All credit to The Pokemon Company for doing this, i think it's a great idea to bring (back) a wider audience to the series. I'll definitely tell my friends with iPads about this (and try and convince them to buy/download it...)



Kaze_Memaryu said:

@Mega719 I suppose you miss the point. I'm not saying that this is a sign of Nintendo abandoning their own platforms, it's a first argument for mobile/tablet gamers to demand it, and no matter how Nintendo reacts to these demands, it WILL hurt their business in some way. Nintendo is in the perfect position to meet these demands (even though it's not their intention), and those who download this app know that, so they will keep demanding and pointing out this app as an argument for releasing even more Nintendo app games onto the market.
And, instead of reaching a new audience, they lure them in the wrong direction. Instead of giving them reasons to own a Nintendo system, Nintendo spoils them with a game that doesn't even exist on consoles (yet), so why would anyone who plays the TCG on an iPad be even remotely inclined to care about a 3DS or WiiU?
Going further from this thought, it's rather obvious that other Nintendo games will also receive the app treatment, because there are only so few people who give a damn about Pokémon trading cards.



TingLz said:

It was free on the PC, and now it is free on the iPad. What is the big deal?



IronMan28 said:

I'm pretty sure this is a bit less important than people are making it out to be. I can understand the thought process behind someone saying it'll hurt their brand, but I don't think this situation warrants that reaction. If this were a Mario type game, then it would be more cause for concern. Yes, it could go further, but I doubt they'll do much more than give away crap like this if they give the same treatment to other IP.



Manaphy2007 said:

it helps nintendo but does it help wii u and 3ds? nope. nintendo can sprinkle an android/ios nintendo game like the Pokemon TCG here and there and focus on wii u and 3ds and games for them help them. some assume that android/ios helps drive sales for wii u and 3ds, false, it helps nintendo like i said earlier but it a short term fix for the company, doesnt help the home and portable consoles.



Zobocop said:

I'm simply tired of all the deja vu with each new console generation. It's like starting over every damn time. Regardless of how successful Nintendo has been in the past and how many millions of games they've sold, here they are trying to be seen again. You'd think getting over a hurdle like this once would be enough.



outburst said:

I guess in the iPad, there are only a handful of iPad variants out there so they can easily optimize the game or app on them. While Android tablets have tons of different specs/variants. So they are focusing in the iPads first then maybe move on Android tablets later. Or perhaps they have other issues with Google/Android?



sillygostly said:

This is all well and good, and the iPad is arguably the perfect platform for the TCG as the screen (and by extension, the resolution) is quite large so the cards can be seen in all of their detailed glory, plus, a touch screen interface is also ideal for this sort of experience. I just hate the fact that I'll need to be online in order to play the game so I can't play it on the train or anywhere outside of home for that matter (and I'm not going to pay the extortionate $250+ premium for an iPad just because it includes 3G connectivity).

My other gripe (and it's a major one) is that Game Freak may implement micro transactions for the iOS release, which I'm not down with. I think the PC/Mac versions offer an expansion pack once per day or so but the whole appeal of the GBC game was that I was able to access all of the cards in as much abundance as I wish (though it was heavily chance based) without having to pay or otherwise hunt for the cards themselves (though I did buy a bunch of physical decks on impulse about a year ago).

I actually wouldn't mind if Game Freak decided to make the TCG an annual franchise for 3DS and basically re-release the same game year in year out (with the only difference in gameplay being the addition of the new cards that were released throughout the year), but I won't fork over cash for virtual booster packs as I may as well just buy the physical cards themselves.



KnightRider666 said:

I think it's a stupid idea not to bring it to Nintendo's own consoles as well. Very upset about this.



jakysnakydx said:

@Kaze_Memaryu This is my stance as well. This is satisfying a insert size here demand but creates a much larger one that can't be won.
For those seeking to understand, Nintendo releases this game on iPad, the iPad community now wants Mario. Does Nintendo release Mario on iPad or not? If yes, then the dedicated game base is pissed, if not the casual Apple community is pissed and Nintendo's audience is fragmented.

I personally feel Nintendo's biggest mistake was making the bargin bin basement system again. Every single one of Nintendo's systems has been such and they feel this is the unique selling point of the system. I however argue it is not. The Wii is now only ~$100. Is it selling like hotcakes? No, because the interest is gone, it sold like hotcakes back at $250+. If the people are interest price is LESS of an issue (didn't say not an issue, I said less of an issue). Nintendo holds this notion that by creating yesterday's stuff at today's more affordable price it gains traction but I don't feel that has ever been the REAL case here. It has great content that if on even better machines would probably hold better in the long run.

The Wii U is awesome but I would have happily paid an extra $50-$100 for something better. I think the right approach here is to work with the gamepad to make it its own standalone device that can be played by itself or with the Wii U. The most advanced systems might have a Microsoft Surface tablet running with the Xbox one simultaneously, either or is functional but together they make a great and unique experience.

The gamepad could easily turn into a more portable tablet with an encasement that gives it the comfort it does now. THEN, we wouldn't have this battle. While I don't think smart devices are going to rule the world (the PDA sure as hell didn't) I do think there's a bigger trend to see here, that of portability, convenience and accessibility. Multifunctional, always on and always ready.



Iggly said:

Like I said in earlier, I don't see what's the big fuss. TCGO has been available on PC for a long time so what makes the iPad release so special?



NodtheThird said:

It is a smart move, but where is the is the trading card game for the WiiU, making a nice version for the gamepad would be great.



R-L-A-George said:

Looks like this is just mimicking Konami with Yu-Gi-OH. Also as far as I know Nintendo has nothing to do with the TCG.



ryanator008 said:

Why just the i Pad? Are the developers of this app still under the impression that there is only one tablet in the world? It's okay though. Windows tablets have had it for a long time.



XCWarrior said:

This is a very bad move for Nintendo. So your physical trading cards... what becomes of them?

And what are you going to do at tournaments that you hold? Are you going to have a physical deck take on a digital deck? Have 2 separate tourneys?

And then, why just the iPad? Android has become the market leader, Apple is going by the wayside when it comes to tablets. Just a curious move which I think Nintendo is going to see little profit from.



TingLz said:

@XCWarrior This was on PC for awhile, so this doesn't make much difference. I do know Yu-gi-oh and Magic also have digital versions and that's not really hurting their sales

It's also free anyway



Henmii said:

I think its a VERY bad move. But if they do it, then at least ask the same price. And not a ios price (99 cent). That would be unfair to people who already bought it on 3DS.

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