With many industry watchers wondering how Nintendo's portable business will weather the growing popularity of cheap and free-to-play mobile and social games, Nintendo president Satoru Iwata presented data showing players of such games are still playing games on the Nintendo DS as well.
At a recent presentation to stockholders, Iwata acknowledged that Nintendo's performance peaked around the same time that social games began their rise, but emphasized that the two phenomena are not necessarily linked directly.
"If there is a causal correlation, those playing both Nintendo DS and social games will play with Nintendo DS less frequently or become less likely to purchase Nintendo DS software," Iwata proposed.
Iwata then presented internal survey data showing that social game players continue to use the Nintendo DS at rates similar to those who don't play social games. In Japan, in fact, Nintendo's data shows that paying users on the popular Mobage and GREE networks are actually more likely to actively use their DS than the overall population of DS owners.
"The only explanation I can find is that these users love games," Iwata suggested. "They are spending more time both on Mobage or GREE and Nintendo DS."
Paying mobile and social gamers in Japan also purchase more Nintendo DS titles (1.5 games/year on average) than the general population of DS owners (1.2 games/year average), Iwata said.
The situation is similar in the U.S., Iwata asserted, with Facebook game players slightly more likely to be active Nintendo DS players than all adult Nintendo DS owners. Additionally, U.S. smartphone game players were not significantly less likely to play their DS than the population at large, Nintendo's survey showed.
While Iwata admitted that this data doesn't mean Nintendo "will be all right forever," he stressed that "so far, consumers have not stopped playing with Nintendo DS because they are using these services or playing social games."
The Nintendo president also reiterated his GDC keynote warnings
that the rise in popularity for free games could erode the value of game in general in consumers' minds, leading to problems across the industry.