Despite possessing many popular properties to draw from, Nintendo’s performance in the mobile game market has been average at best. While some smartphone-based titles, including Fire Emblem Heroes and Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp, have managed to garner fans, the financial performance of mobile games has been disappointing overall. Indeed, the mobile market has not become a “$1 billion business with growth potential,” as Nintendo president Shuntaro Furukawa predicted in 2018.
Initially, Nintendo entered the mobile game market to compensate for the disappointing performance of the Wii U console. While offerings such as Super Mario Run and Pokemon Rumble Rush have featured beloved characters, critics have called them “more of the same,” feeling that Nintendo’s mobile games do not tread any new ground and merely present existing properties and characters in a slightly new format.
Nintendo had not released any new mobile games since Mario Kart Tour in fall 2019. DeNA, Nintendo’s partner in mobile game development, has announced that the company does not plan to debut any new titles until the end of the Japanese fiscal year – March 31, 2021 – at the very earliest. However, they will continue to support and update existing mobile titles.
A report by financial news source Bloomberg indicates that Nintendo intends to redirect their efforts into prioritizing the continued success of the Nintendo Switch console. The Switch has seen a rise in popularity during the global COVID-19 lockdown, primarily due to the unexpected success of island life simulator Animal Crossing: New Horizons. People around the world have used New Horizons’ community features as a way to connect with and visit friends and loved ones during the quarantine. The game catapulted Nintendo’s share prices to a 12-year high and has led to the Switch consistently selling out at retailers worldwide.
Some of Nintendo’s mobile games, notably Fire Emblem Heroes, have drawn controversy due to “gacha” mechanics, in which players are encouraged to spend money for random chances to obtain powerful items or characters (similar to loot boxes in video games). It is unknown whether this issue contributed to Nintendo’s decision, but, in the past, the company has been openly critical of the need for players to spend increasing amounts of money on mobile games.
What are your thoughts on Nintendo’s decision? Have you been enjoying the company’s smartphone games? Let us know!