Six years ago, Nintendo branched into the world of mobile gaming, utilizing this platform to experiment with a variety of controls and features for their console games. Currently, Nintendo has six downloadable mobile games: Super Mario Run, Fire Emblem Heroes, Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp, Mario Kart Tour, Dragalia Lost, and Pikmin Bloom.
The company moved to mobile gaming for a variety of reasons. In the last few years, mobile gaming has been a rising platform for video games and generating a lot of revenue because of its accessibility to people. Alongside this reasoning, Nintendo predicted in 2014 that the revenue from consoles such as the DS and Wii U would decline. As a result, mobile gaming would be utilized to make up revenue. Nintendo President Kimishima explained that the platform would allow them to reach a larger number of players and be able to be profitable on their own. Not only would it generate revenue but it would also create synergy with the rest of their games to improve Nintendo’s business plans.
Nintendo entered the mobile gaming world with Miitomo, a social networking app that was published on March 17, 2016, in Japan and two weeks later for the rest of the world. However, the reception and popularity of this game dwindled as early as a month after it was first published. By May 9, 2018, Nintendo discontinued the game.
The next app Nintendo developed was Super Mario Run, a platforming game with simplified controls compared to other Super Mario games, that came out on December 15, 2016, on IOS and on March 22, 2017, for Android. The downfall of this game came with the need to continuously pay for new levels leading to poor reception of the game and Nintendo not making as much money as anticipated.
This unexpected situation prompted Nintendo to change their tactics in their next game, Fire Emblem Heroes, a tactical role-playing game. Released on February 2, 2017, Nintendo utilized a freemium payment approach meaning there would be more content available for free and then additional content available with payment. Despite having a smaller number of downloads compared to Super Mario Run, Fire Emblem Heroes generated a much larger revenue with this method.
These three games helped to establish Nintendo’s strategies for future mobile games, going for more freemium content and synergy with other Nintendo games to increase sales. And then Nintendo took a step out of this box with Dragalia Lost.
Dragalia Lost, an action role-playing game, was published on September 27, 2018, for Japan, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Macau, and the US before being released to other countries on January 26, 2019. This game was the first developed for mobile devices that had no prior appearance on Nintendo devices — a completely new franchise. This was a free-to-play game with gacha elements meaning players could pull for characters to utilize in battle. With this gacha element, the game crossed over with a multitude of series such as Fire Emblem Heroes, Persona 5 Strikers, and Princess Connect. The game had done decently well for the past four years, but it was announced earlier this year that after the final update to the storyline in March, Dragalia Lost would be shutting down sometime after July.
From the reception of their mobile games and my own experience with them, none of their games stepped out of the usual constraints of mobile gaming. Instead, to me, Nintendo utilized mobile gaming the way they said they would — as a means of expanding their franchise and reach to players. There were very few “new” things Nintendo experimented with in their mobile games. Of course, I left out Pokémon Go in this discussion, but I found it wasn’t listed as an official Nintendo mobile game on their website, thus I excluded it.
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