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Nintendo Games on iOS/Android? Not IF but WHEN.
by William Volk on 10/26/11 01:53:00 pm   Expert Blogs   Featured Blogs

The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutra’s community.
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.

 

I've always believed that a "software meritocracy" ... a market with entry to all and rewards to winners ... would create a massive wave of game development ... and the iPhone App Store has proved this true.

Meanwhile Nintendo has been having some problems.  The 3DS has not sold as well as expected, even after Nintendo discounted the device (something they had not done for such a new item in quite some time ... maybe Virtual Boy?).  The Wii's appeal has wained and the prospects for the next generation hardware are uncertian.   

The result:

The last six months may have been much worse for Nintendo than the company has previously admitted. According to Japan's Nihon Keizai Shimbun--as related by Reuters, Nintendo will show a fiscal first-half loss of 100 billion yen ($1.3 billion) when it announces its earnings tomorrow.

At the same time there's a real hunger for Nintendo IP on iOS and other devices.  An example would be "Duck Hunt AR" which was an augemented reality version of the classic "Duck Hunt" game.  The app has already been pulled from the store, probably becuse of copyright issues.

Video demo here:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vgIhNIb1L5E

There is no doubt that Nintendo has created some of the greatest games in video game history and I for one, know they would be blockbusters on the iPhone and similar devices.

So, will Nintendo go the way of Sega and become a game publisher?  Well unless some major changes occur, that seems to be a good probability. 


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Comments


Bryson Whiteman
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I'm sure Sony's going to Android as well because of their expected $3.2 billion loss from last fiscal year.

http://www.engadget.com/2011/05/23/sony-estimates-3-2b-loss-this-
year-171-million-cost-for-psn-b/



I don't think it makes financial sense for Nintendo to ever going to Android because of rampant piracy, and they're known for being aggressive for going after pirates.



I don't think Sony's Experia game sales have been worthwhile up to this point as well, so that doesn't indicate that it's a good plan.

William Volk
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Yeah, I didn't want to get into a fan-war, but clearly the money is in iOS and not Android.



Android has the problem that users are generally NOT opted into the billing system. On iOS over 95% have opted into iTunes.



Sony had a GOLDEN opportunity when Sony/Ericsson begged the parent company to allow them to do a phone based on the PSP:



http://www.extremepreneur.com/extremepreneur/2009/01/sony-to-sony
-ericsson-drop-dead.html

james sadler
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There are a lot of reasons why the console market is failing, and in particular the Wii. I doubt Nintendo will jump into the mobile market for at least another year or two. It has become rather clear, to me at least, that the handheld market really is done for now that mobile devices are of the caliber to really compete with them, and they have other practical offerings. Sony could have made the Vita a lot more appealing if they had added a phone feature to it (although I believe skype will come with it), but I fear now that it will have the same response that the original PSP and now 3DS have had. The problem is getting "good" content creators for those devices and pricing the hardware and software in that sweet spot for the consumer. If they can't do those things then the platform will fail.

Curtis Turner - IceIYIaN
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Or they could just add a phone service and doom those other handhelds?

Jonathan Jou
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Whoa, nelly! This is the exact argument you could have used (replacing iOS/android with PS3/Xbox360) back when the Nintendo Gamecube sold miserably, had miserable third-party support, and clearly wasn't going to win the console wars. This is the exact same argument you could have used back when Nintendo came out with the N64, and even though it had some great games, the cartridge media was soon to be its downfall.



Heck, this is the exact same argument you could have used on the original Xbox, which, if you recall, was no success by any metric until Halo came along.



I'm not saying you're wrong, to be sure. That would require just as powerful a crystal ball as then one you're using. Would you like to share the evidence you're basing this off of? For the record, the 3DS has made a comeback in Japan, and I think there's been a lot of bad press around not very bad performance.



It's one thing to say that Nintendo's not as successful as it has been since 2006. I think most of us will agree with that. It's another thing to even think that Nintendo is doomed to bow out of the hardware race because it might only do as well as, say, the Nintendo Gamecube.



Please, tell us more!

Dylan Tan
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While I serious think that Mobile Phone going to be serious next game platform and its getting stronger by the day, i think there is still time and space for these console companies to rethink of their strategy and move forward with better innovation that would make it more acceptable to core gamer. But like many successful company (Nokia included), they are so kind of stuck with their past success and refuse to move forward with better innovation (hence Nokia market share drastically drop and losing out big time to Apple and Google) and only when its a bit too late that they start looking to do something.

William Volk
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I think putting the classics out on iOS wouldn't hurt Nintendo's prospects in next gen consoles.

Bruno Patatas
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I think it's too early to say that Nintendo will go the Sega way.



If you look at the numbers, nearly $700 million are in exchange losses. A further $232 million in non-exchange losses.



Without the exchange loss, they'd be posting a $500 million profit.



From Bloomberg: "Nintendo, which gets about 80 percent of its revenue from Americas and Europe, is predicting lower profit after the yen gained against the dollar and surged to a decade high against the euro, trimming the repatriated value of overseas sales."



The markets together with the earthquake made this last year very bad to all the industry in Japan, so it's normal that Nintendo would suffer with that.



Plus, the 3DS may not be the seller they were expecting, but it's selling quite well. Just look at the DS sales during their first year... The media has been doing quite a bad work with 3DS.



The reason why so many people and media want to see Nintendo IP's on iOS is beyond me...

Jeremy Reaban
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I think it's simply wishful thinking. iOS is the hip new flashy thing. It would also boost Nintendo's stock prices in the short term - great for the day traders, which unfortunately is the only thing Wall Street cares about anymore.



Also bear in mind that since its inception, the App store has only made $2.6 billion for developers (as of July this year). That's less than what Nintendo makes in a down year ($2.84 billion and I think that's just the first half).



Sure they wouldn't have as high expenses, those always spike when new hardware is launched. But they wouldn't have nearly as high a revenue, they'd have to split the money with Apple, have no royalties of their own from 3rd parties, and they'd still end up hurting from the exchange rate.

Bruno Patatas
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@Jeremy Exactly! The revenue would not be that great as some media expect it would be. Nintendo always thought on the long term. Iwata recently reaffirmed that.



But yeah, wishful thinking but that in my opinion is not going to happen.

William Volk
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I think iOS users want to see Nintendo IP on the device. As to the 3DS, I don't recall Nintendo discounting a product so early in it's lifecycle.



The entire video game industry is going thru a sea-change in the midst of all of this as well. It will be 'interesting' to see how the roll out of the next generation of consoles goes.



What would help Nintendo is if it adopted an "app store" like strategy to drive content to its devices. That would be a huge cultural shift for them. Nintendo's paternalistic view of software was motivated by the disaster of the collapse of the video game industry in '83. Times have changed and Apple's shown that a App Store with low barriers to entry can still produce brilliant titles.



It's an interesting affair in any case.

Bruno Patatas
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I'm sure that iOS users would like to see Nintendo IP on the device, but Nintendo is ultra careful with what they want to do with their titles. Just remember the whole CD-i fiasco...



I agree that an App Store like strategy for their consoles would be great, and Nintendo really needs to pay attention to their online market.



But yeah, it's an interesting affair :)

William Volk
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Ah, I may be one of the few people who gets why Nintendo did the CD-i thing (and abandoned the Sony collaberation to build a CD-ROM add-on to the SuperFamicom). It's probabily a result of the settlement with Magnavox (Philips) on the Baer patent case. Nintendo also was going to build a SuperFamicom/CD-i device. The Sony folks took their project and decided to do a standalone system ... with the same name ... PLAYSTATION.



Eventually Nintendo realized that CD-i was an abject failure and just walked away from the idea of a SuperFamicom/CD-i device.



FYI: The Baer patent case almost closed Activsion down (I was there). It was the event that pushed Activision into Chap. 11 and enabled Kotick to come in and rescue the company.

Bruno Patatas
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Cool information! Thanks for sharing :)



All I can remember is those atrocious Zelda games... If they decide to release their IPs on iOS, I just expect that they will be full scale Nintendo games in terms of overall quality and gameplay (unlike the Zelda CD-i titles...).

Harry Fields
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Good grief, Nintendo will not be going software only anytime soon. Yes, the 3DS was off to a rough start, but the DS launch wasn't exactly special. Wii is so last-gen, it hurts. They've got some strong IP coming out for their hardware this quarter and they're sitting on a ton of cash. Nintendo will be fine. Going iOS is not a magical fix.

Brad Borne
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But is it really? Almost 8 million units shipped of anything is nothing to sneeze at, especially when most of it was sold at a hefty profit.

William Volk
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Question: Was the DS discounted this close to launch?

Brad Borne
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@William: So, a few MAJOR differences between the 3DS and the DS.



- The Economy at the time

- The value of the Yen at the time

- The DS was an experiment. It didn't have to move units, they had the true successor to the Game Boy at the sidelines, not really caring if the DS lived or died.

- By distancing itself from the Game Boy name, the DS also distanced itself from the lofty expectations associated with the brand.

- The Economy at the time

- Doom sayers are sitting around preaching about how screwed Nintendo is, shareholders are pressuring them with stupid suggestions. The climate around the 3DS is far worse, the most cynicism the DS got was that it wasn't going to hold out against the PSP, but again, it didn't really need to. It was cheaper, and like I said, primarily an experiment.

- Did I mention the economy?



Yes, iOS is more relevant today than it's ever been, and absolutely, Nintendo should step up the eShop to take on smaller downloads from the iOS dev crowd (getting GameLoft in there is a good first step), and of course there's plenty that Nintendo could and should learn from the iOS scene, but to say that nothing short of fully embracing iOS and jumping ship on their own investments will save them from TEH DOOM is just idiotic.



TL;DR: The original DS was cheaper, came at a very different time. Teh doom is still stupid.

William Volk
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They may focus on the console and not the handheld. Time will tell.



I agree that they are better off than Sega was, when Sega left hardware entirely ... but it's not a rosy picture either.

Tony Chu
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When Sega left hardware, they had been losing money for five years. This is on top of Isao Okawa forgiving Sega for any debts owed to him and giving Sega almost $700 million worth of stock.



To contrast: This is basically the first year Nintendo has posted a loss and most of it was from currency prices (rising yen versus falling euro). Nintendo holds around $10 billion in cash in various currencies and this is where a lot of the loss happened.



The 3DS has had a rough start but it's been the top-selling console in Japan since the price drop. Also:



http://www.gamasutra.com/view/news/38151/Nintendo_3DS_Sales_Hit_6
68M.php



And just to throw this out there: Microsoft launched the Xbox brand in 2001 and it did not become profitable until 2008.



This article's analysis is a little too simplistic.

Brad Borne
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I don't think words can express how utterly un-alike SEGA before leaving the industry, and Nintendo right now, are from each other.



Are Wiis being given away with a subscription to a money sinking, failed, and ahead of its time online service? No, no they are not.

Brad Borne
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Let's think about this for a moment. Nintendo has been sinking billions into launching not one, but TWO entirely new platforms, and you believe that the best course of action is to say screw it all and abandon both platforms altogether?



The 3DS is selling more than the DS was at this point in it's lifetime. The Wii has one good (okay, amazing) game coming out for the rest of it's lifetime, and it's the most expensive game they've ever made, all the high profile 3DS games are about to launch, and Nintendo will have a home console out that will thoroughly out power Microsoft's and Sony's for 2 - 3 years.



At this very point in time, Nintendo has been doing WAY more spending and creating than selling. And the current thought is that Nintendo is going to abandon all that and make it's fortune by selling 99 cent games while Apple takes their cut and rakes in on the hardware?



That is, in all serious, far beyond stupidly absurd. WHY IS EVERYONE SAYING THIS??

William Volk
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I think they could go with the classics on iOS. Not the latest and greatest, but the catalog of NES, SNES and N64 titles.



Time will tell.



Sony on the other hand had the opportunity to do a PSP phone in 2008 and rejected it.

William Volk
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It should be noted that "Duck Hunt AR" is not the first in a long chain of NES look-alike titles that were launched and then pulled off the market soon afterwards. I suspect someone in Kyoto has as a task to monitor the iOS releases for this sort of thing.

William Volk
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Worth reading:



http://gigaom.com/2011/11/09/sorry-nintendo-sony-phone-games-win-
more-dollars/



In 2009, portable gaming revenue in the U.S. was worth $2.7 billion. Sony and Nintendo, whose portable devices play games that can cost between $5 and $40, accounted for over 80 percent of mobile game revenue. Android and iOS games are usually free, 99 cents or, occasionally, a few dollars more. They made pretty big dent in 2010 by grabbing 34 percent of the revenue of $2.5 billion, but the major damage was done this year. By the end of 2011, Flurry says mobile game revenue in the U.S. will equal $3.3 billion, and iOS and Android will account for 58 percent of that, compared to Sony’s 6 percent, and Nintendo’s 36 percent.

William Volk
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.. as I was saying:



http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/pokemon-yellow/id501950963?mt=8



It's Finally Arrived!



Pokémon Yellow is here! 




Your very own Pokémon legend is about to begin!



I don't know if this is licensed or what, but it sure looks like it was.

William Volk
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Guess not:



http://toucharcade.com/2012/02/20/non-functional-pokemon-yellow-a
pp-hits-the-app-store/



This part is interesting:



Nintendo or the Pokemon Company doesn't seem to be too concerned with pulling Pokemon apps, by the way. There are more than a handful on the store, all unsanctioned, and from what we can tell, unchanged since their initial appearances. The chart positioning is ultimately going to get Apple's attention, however. We expect Pokemon Yellow to disappear within hours of this posting.

William Volk
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Pokemon!

http://www.pocketgamer.co.uk/r/iPhone/Pokedex+for+iPhone/news.asp
?c=46630

The Pokemon Company announced a new version of the Pokedex compendium for iOS devices in Japan.

Available for download now, NeoGAF reports that the Pokedex app is compatible with iPhones 3GS and up, iPads (iPad 2 and up), and the 5th generation iPod Touch.

In terms of functionality, it appears to be a port of Pokedex 3D Pro, and uses the pre-Unova Pokemon models. This indicates that the app will deliver the same functionality of Pokedex 3D Pro.

William Volk
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Puzzle and Dragons ($3.5m a day) shows the lost opportunity here, with Pokemon specifically.


none
 
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