Nintendo surprised many observers with its recent - and sudden - announcement of a strategic 'alliance' with DeNA, a company that specialises in back-end systems, e-commerce and smart device games. The headline announcement, along with a number of others, was that Nintendo IP will be used in new games for smartphones and tablets, with the first releases due this year.
The partnership prompted Nintendo and DeNA share values to increase a huge amount, but the deal is about more than just smartphone games. DeNA will bring its expertise in online systems and infrastructure to deliver a 'Membership' programme, which will replace Club Nintendo in the Fall season. A little more information - or detail in the wording - is now available courtesy of an officially translated Q & A from last week. We did previously provide a translated summary of the Japanese original, but it's interesting to see the official text that points to the Club Nintendo replacement bridging the gap between smart device content and dedicated hardware - Satoru Iwata's comments are below.
The only things we can announce today regarding the new membership service are limited to that it is compatible with multiple devices and that it will form a bridge among these devices. If I can go a bit further, we will construct a system so that we can invite the users who play our game applications on smart devices to our dedicated game systems; something you have done on one device can be utilized on another. We have scheduled this new membership service to start in the fall of this year, and it will have a loyalty program like the existing Club Nintendo. Allow us to stop here, as we will make further detailed announcements on the new membership service when we progress further in its development and are ready to explain it in a more comprehensive way.
Another answer that's a slight variation on all that's been said before, in tone if not content, is the following response to a rather challenging question. Addressing a semi-polite accusation of a company policy u-turn and a dithering approach, Iwata-san was adamant that the timing and process towards the DeNA deal was right for Nintendo.
As to your question, "Why did you announce a policy which is different from what you used to say?", one thing is that we have finally found a clear way to achieve a win-win relationship both for the dedicated video game and smart device businesses by deploying Nintendo IP raised in dedicated video game systems to smart devices. Another thing is collaborating with a powerful partner, DeNA. Instead of one company having to do everything, this partnership will enable us to not assign an excessive number of development staff to areas where weaknesses exist, and as a result will help us avoid disturbances to our software development for dedicated video game systems. Or, I should rather say that we have found an answer to creating an advantageous situation for both sides by letting more people know about Nintendo IP and bridging the gap between these two platforms. You mentioned that what I explained today sounded different from what we have said in the past. Please understand that I had been hoping to come up with this sort of solution and that I was finally able to talk about the whole picture today, because various prospects we had been considering and working on have come together as we had hoped, so I personally feel very comfortable today.
As for your criticism that the decision is late, I think that whether it is late or not will be decided by what we produce in the coming years, and it could rather be described as the best timing. My personal view is that the time is ripe as many factors like various encounters with people, the ways our internal discussions have progressed and the ideas we have generated through that process occurred simultaneously. We will do our best to prove that our decision was made at the right time.
It likely won't be too long before early game details emerge, while the Membership programme itself shouldn't be too far away. It'll be intriguing to follow.