Nintendo has caused surprise and plenty of debate today by announcing a new deal with DeNA, which will focus on a variety of areas. We'll see Nintendo IP on smart devices, a Club Nintendo successor, and Satoru Iwata also re-affirmed Nintendo's focus on its own gaming hardware by announcing its Codenamed NX platform.
There's a lot to take in, so we've produced this Guide / FAQ to tackle what we know, and also to share logical ideas on what could come next. We're also inviting your questions in the comments, too.
Let's get to it.
So, in one sentence, what has Nintendo announced?
Nintendo has announced a partnership with DeNA to bring its IP to new games on smart devices, and to also deliver services across all platforms including a loyalty programme to replace Club Nintendo.
Who are DeNA?
DeNA - pronounced 'DNA' - manages and provides infrastructure for mobile and online services. With its headquarters in Tokyo and over 2000 employees, it owns and manages a number of subsidiaries in the mobile space, particularly in Japan. It partnered with Disney for work on mobile games in 2012, and owns the Mobage mobile gaming service, which is particularly popular in Japan with over 30 million users.
How many shares will Nintendo own in DeNA?
According to the agreement Nintendo buy around $181 million of shares in DeNA, which equates to a 10% stake, and DeNA will buy an equivalent value of shares in Nintendo. Nintendo will be the second largest shareholder in DeNA after the founding family.
Wait, don't Sony also hold shares in DeNA?
No, however Sony did own a shareholding of DeNA of around 13% which was sold off in 2013 for a reported $440m.
Which Nintendo IP will be used for smart device games & apps?
Nintendo has made clear that it sees "no exceptions" to the potential use of its IP in the partnership, meaning all franchises and characters will potentially appear in games and apps on smart devices.
I'm hearing about plans for a "Membership Service", what's that?
Satoru Iwata announced that Nintendo would be working on a membership service with DeNA, which will "create a connection regardless of the device the consumer uses". This strongly points to a unified account service that'll tie together content across smart devices, 3DS, Wii U and - in future - NX.
What is Nintendo NX?
No real details have been given apart from Nintendo is working on a new "dedicated game platform with a brand-new concept". It has not been made clear whether this is the successor to 3DS, Wii U or potentially both.
What It All Means
What do Nintendo mean by 'Smart Devices'?
Whilst no platforms have been mentioned, we suspect that Nintendo will be aiming to release its games and apps on both Apple iOS devices (iPad & iPhone) and Android devices - both phones and tablets. It is a lot less likely - but not impossible - that we will see them on Windows Phone or BlackBerry.
Is Nintendo moving away from its own hardware, then?
No, Satoru Iwata has explained that Nintendo is continuing its focus on its own hardware, and announced a new system with the codename NX; it will be shown more in 2016.
Does this mean an end to Wii U and 3DS games?
No. Don't be silly.
Will we see 3DS games, or Wii U games coming to smart devices?
No, Nintendo explained that only new games will be coming to smart devices and will be designed specifically for that hardware, it's likely they will be companion or simple games to popular franchises and will serve as a tool to get new consumers interested in Nintendo IP.
Will we see Virtual Console games coming to smart devices?
At the moment this is unclear, it hasn't been confirmed or denied directly by Nintendo. We wouldn't be totally surprised to see much older games on smart devices, perhaps as part of a subscription service - however there is no information at this time.
Who will be developing the smart device games & apps?
This will depend on the game or app in question, however both parties made clear that it will be a joint development approach. It would appear that DeNA will concentrate on the technical/online infrastructure elements of games whilst Nintendo concentrate on concept, IP and gameplay.
Will this all use the Nintendo Network ID?
It's not been confirmed, but we'd be extremely surprised if existing Nintendo Network IDs aren't the core login and point of access for Nintendo's new DeNA-driven services.
So, something like PlayStation Plus is possible?
An early instinct is that there may be a service like this, but Nintendo hasn't explicitly mentioned a subscription service. Membership of its new loyalty program could be free, of course, and simply bring benefits for games bought or played across all platforms.
So this will take the Nintendo Network ID into the cloud and solve complaints about accounts being tied to hardware?
That shouldn't be assumed for this generation. There'll likely be full integration in terms of accessing respective services on smart devices, Wii U and 3DS, but the current infrastructure of NNIDs and content management on current generation hardware may still be tied to hardware.
Does this also mean more cross-platform games?
This move with DeNA to bring games to smart devices won't necessarily mean any more cross-platform gaming in the short term, and changes nothing in terms of the compatibility between Wii U and 3DS. What the future will bring with NX, however, is unclear.
What could this partnership with DeNA mean beyond games on smart devices?
DeNA's expertise is in managing platforms, particularly dealing with high volumes of traffic on services. Nintendo has had problems with this in the past, with its Network crash over the Holiday period in 2013 being a notable example. DeNA can certainly bring its knowledge and infrastructure to minimise these issues in future.
But will this affect things like online services, the eShop?
DeNA has a lot of success running gaming platforms and e-commerce infrastructure, so if Nintendo is aiming to launch a version of the eShop that's accessible on the web, smart devices etc - which it's been loosely trialling with eShop download sales on websites in North America and Japan - then DeNA could play a valuable role in that. We can envisage a future where you can login on a variety of platforms and apps, always with the ability to buy and manage downloads across any system.
And here's one from Twitter. Is Nintendo doooooooomed?!?!?!?!?
Nope, but it'll sure be interesting to see how this all pans out.
If there are any obvious questions we've missed let us know in the comments; we'll do our best to give perspective and information where we can.