Nintendo's alliance with DeNA has arguably been one of the biggest gaming announcements of 2015 so far, and marks a brave new era for the Japanese veteran following countless denials that it would ever move into the smart device arena.
Nintendo president Satoru Iwata has now revealed that smart device gaming will form a very important part of the company's revenue structure - but not at the expense of its core business, which remains dedicated to gaming systems and software.
Speaking at the recent Financial Results Briefing, Iwata outlined the firm's plans for smart device games, and explained that a lot of work has been happening behind the scenes to prepare for this move:
We will start the service for the first game application by the end of this calendar year. Internally at Nintendo, we have executed several organizational and personnel changes in order to properly operate the smart device business, and we will make further changes before the first release.
Iwata also reconfirmed the fact that any Nintendo IP could potentially be used in a smart device game, and pointed out that quality will be a prime concern:
As we confirmed on March 17, all of our IP can be considered for a smart device game. On the other hand, since the game business on smart devices is already severely competitive, even with highly popular IP, the odds of success are quite low if consumers cannot appreciate the quality of a game. Also, if we were simply to port software that already has a track record on a dedicated game system, it would not match the play styles of smart devices, and the appropriate business models are different between the two, so we would not anticipate a great result. If we did not aim to achieve a significant result, it would be meaningless for us to do it at all. Accordingly, we are going to carefully select appropriate IP and titles for our smart device deployment.
He also touched upon the number of titles being released between now and March 2017:
Regarding the number of the titles, you may want to know that we will release approximately five titles by the end of the next fiscal year, which is the end of March 2017. You may think it is a small number, but when we aim to make each title a hit, and because we want to thoroughly operate every one of them for a significant amount of time after their releases, this is not a small number at all and should demonstrate our serious commitment to the smart device business.
Iwata explained that via smart devices Nintendo could reach millions of new customers, making this sector one of the key "pillars" in the company's revenue structure. However, he was quick to add that this doesn't mean the Japanese veteran is losing faith in dedicated consoles:
We will strive to expand this business into global markets at a steady pace so that eventually we will entertain hundreds of millions of people all around the world. We are aiming to make this one of the pillars of Nintendo's revenue structure.
On the other hand, Nintendo continues to have strong passion and believes in the promising prospects for the future of our dedicated video game system business. We will deploy our game business on smart devices not because we think that the dedicated game system business will wane, but because doing so will encourage a greater number of people to associate with Nintendo IP, to become familiar with the charms of video games and, eventually, to explore more premium experiences on our dedicated game systems. To realize this, we need to create a bridge between the two platforms.
Finally, Iwata touched briefly on the integrated membership service that is expected to replace Club Nintendo. Nintendo is working on this with DeNA:
While we will announce the details of this integrated membership service at a later date, I can share with you at a high level the idea is that the consumer can access multiple devices using one common ID.
For us to be able to bridge the gap between smart devices and dedicated game systems, we will offer advantages to consumers who use one ID across multiple devices.So far, the members input their Club Nintendo ID to use the services. With this new service, our members will be able to visit Nintendo's website and log in with one ID, and they will receive various services including the ones based on their past purchases and gameplay records as well as services that will be an improved version of the current loyalty program.
With this new membership, we are planning to deploy services that will make playing Nintendo games with their game pals more fun regardless of which platform they are accessing.
While Iwata doesn't add much that wasn't already known about the DeNA partnership, it's clear that this side of Nintendo's business is likely to be a big one - and hopefully should give the company the forward momentum it needs to grow its core business.