In 2015 Nintendo will take its first major steps on games for smartphones and tablets, no doubt combining the expertise of partners DeNA and also lessons learned from some eShop experiments, such as free-to-play titles Pokémon Shuffle, Steel Diver: Sub Wars and Rusty's Real Deal Baseball. The first of those listed 3DS games has certainly been contentious, with its microtransactions not being universally popular.
Gaming on smart devices does carry some negative connotations, with some opinion tying these titles to manipulative and expensive free-to-play models, where the balance of gameplay and value can be hard to find. Part of the resistance, among fans, to Nintendo bringing its IPs to iOS and Android can be the concern that, in pursuing those models, the company's franchises will have their reputations damaged.
Satoru Iwata addressed that point in an interview with TIME, insisting that Nintendo will strive to find the correct balance to protect its iconic brands.
I understand that, unlike the package model for dedicated game systems, the free-to-start type of business model is more widely adopted for games on smart devices, and the free-to-start model will naturally be an option for us to consider. On the other hand, even in the world of smart device apps, the business model continues to change. Accordingly, for each title, we will discuss with DeNA and decide the most appropriate payment method. So, specifically to your question, both can be options, and if a new Nintendo-like invention comes of it, then all the better.
On the other hand, Nintendo does not intend to choose payment methods that may hurt Nintendo's brand image or our IP, which parents feel comfortable letting their children play with. Also, it's even more important for us to consider how we can get as many people around the world as possible to play Nintendo smart device apps, rather than to consider which payment system will earn the most money.
Though specifics on what these smart device experiences will be are under wraps, the Nintendo President is keen to emphasize that the company's approach to unique, interesting experiences will be a distinct part of its efforts on these new platforms.
Let me explain so that nobody will misunderstand: I have never intended to dismiss the entertainment experiences that people are enjoying on smart devices or any other media. On the other hand, my understanding is that, on smart devices, the main demand is for very accessible games which smart device users can easily start and easily finish. These are not necessarily the characteristics that people demand from games for dedicated video game systems. Actually, this is one of the reasons why we believe that we should not port games for dedicated game systems to smart devices just as they are because doing so will not fully satisfy the needs of the smart device consumers. In other words, even when multiple systems can run games, I believe the entertainment experiences that the consumers demand vary from system to system.
...We believe that we will be able to use smart devices in a very unique way so that they can be a bridge to our dedicated game systems, and at the same time, that we will be able to deliver unique experiences to the users of smart devices. As you know, even before the advent of smart devices, we employed touchscreens for our games with Nintendo DS, and we also adopted accelerometers for our Wii Remotes faster than smart devices did, and produced unique games. By utilizing our unique know-how in areas like these, I believe we will be able to come up with unique propositions for consumers.
When asked about what Nintendo will do 'right' in comparison to other developers in the smart device market, Iwata-san stated that we can expect multiple titles to arrive within a short space of time. Rather than go for one hit to be iterated in minor ways, multiple IPs will be used for a variety of experiences.
Most mobile game makers who have yielded tangible business results appear to be dependent on a single hit title. For Nintendo, being able to make use of the enormous IP library that we have carefully nurtured for more than 30 years is a major strength. We would like to create several hit titles simultaneously by effectively leveraging the appeal of Nintendo IP, which many people around the world are familiar with.
For those resistant to the idea of the likes of Mario, Legend of Zelda and Metroid on smartphones, this isn't exactly good news. As we have argued in a recent editorial, however, this is the reality in which we find ourselves.
Let us know what you think about these various comments from Satoru Iwata on Nintendo smart device plans.