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Miyamoto: I fear that smartphones are becoming the norm for games
Miyamoto: I fear that smartphones are becoming the norm for games
July 3, 2014 | By Mike Rose

"I have a sense of fear in that 'hand-me-down smartphones'... are becoming hardware systems on which to play games due to their prices being lower than that of our most inexpensive video game system in our history."
- Shigeru Miyamoto talks smartphones to a room of Nintendo investors.

During the recent Nintendo general meeting of shareholders, the company once again found itself under fire from investors who want to know why Nintendo isn't making smartphone games.

Miyamoto admitted that he is now fearful of the impact of the mobile industry on Nintendo's business, but he added that there will always be a place for traditional video games.

"I do not believe that will completely control the future of video games," he said of mobile games, adding that mobile devices do not provide enough security when used by children, and this is an important factor to Nintendo.

"Taking into consideration that more and more children have a good command of these kinds of media, which help these media to spread, the most important task for Nintendo is how to provide new styles of entertainment by using these technologies, and how to make these new kinds of entertainment yield significant sales and profits," he added.

Shinya Takahashi, director of Software Planning at Nintendo, added that his company has successfully provided unique entertainment for TVs and handheld devices for many years, and that the company's current work on smartphones will be no different.

"We are currently developing an application for smart devices," he said. "Through such an application, we would like to connect with many consumers around the world, including those who do not own Nintendo’s video game systems, and communicate the value of our entertainment offerings."

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Corentin Billemont
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Isn't he more saying in this specific quote that smartphones pushing a lower software price model is the real danger (for their company) here though?

Michael Danquah
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That's what I thought as well. It's the same fear that mr. Iwata stated a few years ago at GDC during a keynote of his. To a degree it's very true. There are some stellar games on iOS but those also suffer from the majority of slock titles that are cheap or "free-to-play".

James Coote
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Mobile ought to be an opportunity for Nintendo to expand into - do new types of games, new IPs and refind the casual audiences. Whilst still having the console business, which I think they've correctly identified as not going anywhere

Felipe Budinich
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I would love to have a Nintendophone, I would hate to have a Gree like app on android and ios.

Seriously the duopoly is getting stagnant.

Alan Barton
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you beat me to it, I was making a longer post with more info. :)

Alan Barton
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If phones are a threat to them, it would make sense to make their own phone!

I would like to see a Nintendo/Gameboy branded mobile console/phone that was sold worldwide. They could design one far cheaper, easiler and faster than dedicated console hardware, based on reference ARM phone designs. They could also easily create their own Nintendo branded version of Linux for it, if they don't want to go with something like Android. Also all software development tools are free. Plus their games brands are some of the strongest in the world, so that would really help their phone sell.

So I really think a Nintendo phone would make a lot of sense and if they make it open enough for indies to publish their games on a Nintendo phone game store, I'm sure many developers would love to get their games on a Nintendo phone.

I would jump at the chance of supporting a Nintendo phone. :)

Larry Carney
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With the way the press already treats Nintendo, I can already imagine the "N-Gage 2.0" articles.

Alan Barton
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@"With the way the press already treats Nintendo"

Yes they are embattled, but they can and have to come out fighting.

Also the way the press treats Nintendo currently is some in the press falling for a bigger PR game that always occurs when a new console generation gets released. Big companies play dirty. They always have. Those of us who have been in the games industry long enough to have heard many decline of something stories over the years, have long since seen how it always occur around the time a new console generation is released and then later these stories turn out to be false. But by that time, the stories have done their intended damage. Its all part of tactics like Spin and Negative PR to discredit and undermine opponent companies in the eyes of the public and media.

For example, for years we have had to listen to rubbish like the decline of PC gaming, then the decline of the PC itself, and of course how consoles have so much better graphics than PC (yeah right) and now they are targeting Nintendo, who had a sales head start in the current console race.

Yes the Wii U is a lower spec console, and it shouldn't have been that low, (it should have been at least DX11/GL4 level graphics) and also Nintendo haven't responded enough to the challenges they currently face. But still, that aside, they could still do very well indeed with a Nintendo/Gameboy branded phone and they still have many world class brands to use on it, each of which is worth billions (and all of these brands are so powerful that any games company in the world would love to have even just one of Nintendo's brands). So they are not as weak as some wish to portray them.

Also if a Nintendo/Gameboy branded phone was done well and open enough for developers to publish their games on it, then it would quickly win the support of thousands of indie developers, who together would greatly help counter any negative PR in the media. A developer friendly campaign like that would also be very good for Nintendo's image.

Many indie developers would jump at the chance of supporting a Nintendo phone. :)

Benjy Davo
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I disagree entirely most youngsters wouldn't be seen dead with a Nintendo phone and certainly no adult. Let's face it their hardware is fairly ugly and toy-ish looking. There's little money in the actual hardware anyway so why bother? They could truly make a killing I think with some of the simpler Mario/Donkey Kong titles on smartphones.

Sam Stephens
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I don't think Miyamoto-san has to worry too much. It's true that the mobile market has become very viable for cost-effecient game development, but there are certain constraints that I believe the platform will never be able to transcend. The necessity to create a functioning phone with a simple and intuitive interface for a wide range of functions is limiting to what is creatively possible. A dedicated gaming device that is designed for games first and foremost will always be able to facilitate a place for games that are difficult to create on a mobile device. That's why I don't really think the 3DS is competing with mobile devices. They each serve different roles in the market and therefore the desire for each kind of software is different.

Ken Love
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Betcha' there's more people playing games on Mobile then the 3DS. :-)

Sam Stephens
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Perhaps, but many of those people probably wouldn't own a gaming device anyways.

Gabriel Acosta
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Even if there are more people, the people playing on mobile probably also aren't the types who would pay $20-$40 for a single game either...

Kaze Kai
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I like nintendo but to me, this just sounded like "We can't charge $60 for games on phones and we'd have to make them really cheap or full of IAP" and given that nintendo has a track record for not understanding how online functionality works or is supposed to work at all, I doubt they can pull off the latter.

Honestly though, consoles and console games are far too expensive to be justifiable anyway. The advent of dev tools and programming courses has made it much easier to develop games with smaller teams so console games are no longer worth $60 when an equal or better experience exists on PCs or tablets and at this point they're just price-gouging the consumer base under the basis of tradition. "They've always been expensive so we should continue making them expensive." I think a reworking of the gaming industry because of tablet and PC gaming would be welcome considering how much the console side of the industry has stagnated in the last half-decade.

I don't believe getting rid of consoles is a solution because people will still pay for them but I don't feel that paying $5-$40 on a console or handheld for what amounts to the same experience as a $1.99 mobile app is necessarily fair.

And I don't buy into the whole "mobile apps devalue the cost of video games" argument either. Maybe they do a little, but not nearly as much as retail console games and eshop games bloat the price. I can get a platformer on PC for $10, why should I pay $60 for mario? Brand recognition? If that mattered at all, most people would own Macs instead of PCs that are just as powerful (if not more) for half the price.

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A lot of subjective opinion here.

It doesn't boil down to the price tag so much as it does perceived value, especially when talking about the cost of entertainment per hour. Through this lens, many $60 console games are worth the price of admission (not all of course, many are crap). Also through this lens, many $1 games are NOT worth the price of admission.

And it's all the eye of the beholder. I've definitely paid 10 bucks for games that i've probably gotten 100s of dollars worth of value out of. Same with $60 games.

Also, brand recognition goes further than you'd think. Spending 50 bucks on a Mario game is a pretty safe bet to me. Dropping 50 bucks on the app store for a boatload of games is (currently) a crap shoot, and ultimately a waste of my time as I'll likely end up sifting through a lot of garbage.

Using Apple as an example of why you think brand recognition is meaningless is probably the worst example I can think of. People have bought Apple products on faith for years. And last I checked, they've been gaining market share in the home computing world, so something must be working for them.

John Maurer
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I know Nintendo has been doing a lot of reflection lately. Although Miyamoto's concerns are not unprecedented, I don't believe smart-phones are going to knock-out consoles or handhelds. I'm more of the opinion that this is just another emerging demographic. The challenge presented before publishing and developing entities is what types of games really work for this medium, and which ones don't.

Either way, in order to remain relevant on the platform they're going to want publish to it. Nintendo has an interesting advantage over Microsoft & Sony, nostalgia. I know I've dropped over $200 on older NES, SNES, and N64 titles on their EShop. I think that would be a good place to start.

John Maurer
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And it looks like they already have:

Ken Love
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"I don't believe smart-phones are going to knock-out consoles or handhelds."

They already have. Hand held consoles, anyway. About 2 Years ago, actually. The only group making decent handheld these days are Nintendo. AND.. like I said.. "Decent".

Nintendo missed the Mobile boat by a landslide. Now, they have to play catch-up.

John Maurer
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"They already have. Hand held consoles, anyway. About 2 Years ago, actually."

If we are talking about the casual consumer, then I agree 100%. The hard-core audience still gravitates towards hand-held's, Nintendo's in particular.

I only mention this because the casual market is fickle, whereas a hard-core audience is not, and they tend to spend more per-capita.

The opportunity for gain is much greater in the casual market, I'll give you that, they are of greater volume and consequently yield a greater number of points of sale.

"The only group making decent handheld[s] these days are Nintendo."

I could say that they are the only one's who ever made good hand-held's, but that would be unfair. PSP (for it's time) and PSVita are actually very respectable pieces of hardware, Sony's just never been able to get the same market penetration.

"Nintendo missed the Mobile boat by a landslide. Now, they have to play catch-up."

I agree, but again they've got a plethora (man I love that word) of older titles that younger generations have never even heard of before that they could start pushing, many of which could definitely compete with modern titles.

I think what's hurting them there is they feel because the titles are older they aren't worthy of a marketing campaign.

To that point its all about market awareness, right? The angle would be not in showing off something shinny and new, but gems from the past.

Stefan Kallin
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The core gamers often pay for the nostalgia trip - everyone else use free emulators if they are interested in old gems. Ouya even used it in marketing i think - no sure if officially.

Joaquin Bello
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Nintendo needs to open the wii u, so "anyone" can develop for it. By anyone i mean something like steam but with more control. The sale system of steam is broke, you train you users to wait. Specially when you have developers like The Behemoth that drop the price 90% in a month old game!!. I think the IPhone market stinks because 1 dolar per app minus 30% is absurd, specially when they overprice there hardware. The steam 20 to 10 game price for indie games and the 60 to 50 for AAA games is the perfect equilibrium. Not to cheap not to expensive, and instant download. The download factor is really important in developing countries to avoid piracy and avoid making them pay more than the developed countries.

Nintendo is one of the last big companies that still can think like an indie. Nintendo needs to answer the question of what else can you do with a wii u beside playing Nintendo games.

Stefan Kallin
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Not sure what you are asking for (what else can you do with a wii u beside playing Nintendo games)?
For home use it has almost the same functionality as a iPad mini. That is the way I have been using it for more than a year now. And it is cheaper than the iPad.
I have had a few "phone calls" with relatives, altough it is a little akward seeing people on the TV while talking to them.
It is far easier to hold than the flat iPad when laying in the sofa surfing or playing.
When we discuss stuff in the family it is easy to get an internet site up on the the TV screen for all to comment on (+ cat videos).
It could be more integrated with facebook/twitter/reddit or whatever but all of that is not far away, and for gaming purposes there is miiverse.
I often miss the posibility to make spreadsheets but that is just me, and I am not to pleased with spreadsheets on iPad either.
Indie games are coming, if they are priced right is hard to say.
Third party is a big problem as they probably never will be big sellers on any Nintendo system.
Apps do not exist but is not all of that moving over to regular sites with HTML5 functionality?

Joaquin Bello
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Sorry I wasn't clear, I meant what other games can you play beside playing Nintendo games?
Like you say third party is a big problem, so for me the solution is doing something like steam and steam greenlight. They don't have to worry fot competition because they know that there games are going to sell well.

Still I dont think Nintendo,Xbox,Sony can do what steam does, because of all the bureaucracy and lawyer crap.

Ken Love
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If this man is just NOW getting this, Nintendo are even more delusional than what we all expected. :-/

Jeremy Alessi
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Nintendo needs to focus on the local friends and family games. That's where they shine. Also, Nintendo games are still a real escape. The problem with mobile is that your gameplay is always being interrupted by a text message or something else. Playing a Nintendo game has now become a lot like reading a novel, you do it to get away.

It's hard to ignore the smartphone market chewing away at the younger part of the market, where Nintendo always shined. However, smartphones and tablets are very solitary devices. Consoles are innately social (as in local multiplayer). That's still something consoles do better than anything else.

They certainly have a challenge on their hands but the spirit of the company is something that's not present anywhere else. I'm confident they'll find a way to keep it going. At least I'm hopeful they will...

Mike Griffin
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They're assembling a comprehensive Nintendo ecosystem "companion app" for smart devices. That's a good start. After, they can open up the Wii U to accept additional functionality from second screen devices. Ironically there's no phone or tablet equipped with motion sensors on par with the Gamepad (not to mention d-pad/analogs), but who says you can't offer different second screen gameplay for mobile devices to bring another player in.

As for a Nintendo phone: None of the major Nintendo brands would do well in their existing (or traditional) formats, if attached to a purely touch medium. You would probably have to pair it to touch only, however. Oh sure, mobile devices are opening up to controllers, whether connected via USB or Bluetooth, but that's rarely the initial target for a mobile game.

Nonetheless, the reality is that a powerful smart device can output to TV via HDMI and support a game controller, so the very concept of "mobile" gaming being limited to simple/repetitive/money gougers has already changed. It's this onset of cheap + powerful mobile chipsets that has spurred the micro-console movement.

Perhaps what people are suggesting is a phone/game device hybrid that includes dedicated d-pad and buttons, in which case the traditional gameplay of Nintendo's elite brands could translate mostly intact (for 2D-style designs, anyway. Devices like the Vita make a nice case for proper analog sticks on a portable for 3D games).

Maybe we should just wish Nintendo luck with its new Wii U marketing campaign and the tens of millions they are sinking into that, and look forward to a well-designed Nintendo companion app for smart devices. Then perhaps you extend the Wii U's second screen gameplay to a third screen - phone/tablet. That's a good start, without veering into territory that isn't a particularly good match for the company (yet).

SD Marlow
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It's a good thing he got to keep his job BEFORE this meeting...

It would be ironic for them to create a 5DS that is basically a clam-shell version of the Sony Vita, but going down that thought road leads me back to the idea of a Nintendo micro-console. Of course, they have already gone the wrong direction here, releasing a Wii mini that still used optical media but had no network connectivity! A Wii U mini without optical drive and a re-tooled backend/online service seems like the most cost effective step they can take right now.

Equally unlikely is they hash out a deal with Amazon to bring their games exclusively too the Campfire, er, I mean, Kindle Fire TV. That would allow them to use Amazon's online services and charge a near premium price for the games as they are ported.

A third, future option is a robot that is its self an interactive game system for younger kids and older adults. I'm thinking some creepy anime version of Teddy from the movie A.I..