Nintendo Going Mobile – Good or Bad For Gaming?

Ben Stegner 20-03-2015

In the world of video games, there are certain things that are almost guaranteed to never happen. EA will probably never stop putting microtransactions in its games, Xbox and PlayStation fanboys will never get along, and the Atari 2600 will get a port of Crysis before Half-Life 3 is confirmed. And of course, Nintendo will never make games for mobile devices.


Except for the fact that Nintendo announced just that.

Wait, What’s Happening?

Just last year, the president of Nintendo, Satoru Iwata, said that Nintendo had no plans to make mobile games. However, it has apparently had a change of heart, as its just announced that it will be soon be creating games for mobile devices. Of course, this is referring to platforms such as Android and iOS – Nintendo has had its own mobile device line starting with the Game Boy up through the current New 3DS Nintendo's New 3DS - Here's Why You Should Be Excited More than just the size and style redesign of the 3DS XL, the New models are a half step toward being a new generation, with a faster CPU, more buttons, and an exclusive game announced. Read More that plays its games.

Nintendo will be working with DeNa, a Japanese mobile gaming company that’s already been involved with lots of titles. You know the type:

You might not be able to tell from this video, but every single one of its games is of the same variety: free-to-play or freemium, where the game is free to install but forces the player to either wait or pay money to keep playing. Not all free games do this No Hidden Cost: 7 Free-To-Play Games That Are Actually Free Mobile gaming has a problem. You download a game, you start playing, but you hit a paywall. These games don't have that problem at all. Read More , but the vast majority feel more like moneymaking schemes than the experiences designed to delight that Nintendo is so well-known for. These games can drain your wallet in no time 5 Warning Signs For Avoiding Freemium Games That Want To Suck Your Wallet Dry Many games are free up-front, but bombard players with an endless array of in-game purchases, some of which are impossible to avoid if you want to complete the game. Read More , and they’re certainly not a feature we want to see in a Zelda game.

Iwata explained that “smart devices touch so many people”, and so it would be a “waste not to use these devices.” Nintendo isn’t just dipping its toe in, either; the Nintendo president explicitly said that “we are challenging ourselves to redefine what Nintendo platforms mean.” Not many details on the types of games we’ll be seeing have been given, though Nintendo has made it clear that they won’t be porting classic titles over – so we won’t just be getting Super Mario. Bros with touch controls. If that’s what you’re interested in, you can easily do that using emulation on Android to play hundreds of retro games How to Turn an Android Device Into a Retro Gaming Console Love retro gaming? Here's how to easily turn any Android phone into a retro game console and enjoy your favorite classic titles. Read More .


This might sound like amazing news if you’ve been wanting to play the latest Pokémon title on your iPad, or it might sound terrible if you’re a longtime Nintendo fan who feels like the company is selling out.

Nintendo on Mobile Could Work Out

On one hand, Nintendo could be making an amazing decision here. It makes sense: the diehard Nintendo fans already own a Wii U, 3DS, or both, and so they likely won’t be the ones playing these mobile games. By moving onto iOS and Android, Nintendo is gaining access to a whole new group of people who would never touch a “traditional” video game consoles. It’s already had some slight forays into the freemium realm with Pokémon Shuffle and Rusty’s Real Deal Baseball, and you could argue those weren’t too bad.

It’s no secret the Wii U isn’t doing well (even though it has some advantages over the PS4 and Xbox One 7 Ways The Wii U Is Better Than The Xbox One And PS4 While the battle between the PlayStation 4 and the Xbox One rages on, a third competitor watches from the sidelines: the Wii U. Read More ) and Nintendo expanding could be the boost the company needs. If someone tries a free Pokémon game on their phone and gets hungry for more, that could lead them to buy a 3DS; more revenue for Nintendo! Because of the lackluster sales of their home system, Nintendo has to be smart and prepare for a future where it doesn’t have the Wii printing money.

As it stands now, Nintendo seems to be going about the process wisely. This isn’t some knee-jerk reaction just to make some money right away; Nintendo is stressing that it must not just be its characters on iPhones, but Nintendo-quality experiences as well. Nintendo knows this isn’t its area of expertise and it has made a sizable investment in a company who is knowledgeable about mobile games, specifically the type that make truckloads of money from in-app purchases.


So, this isn’t some fool’s errand by Nintendo to make a quick buck. However, it isn’t all sunshine and pleasure. Nintendo’s move has serious implications that will likely be irreversible.

Nintendo on Mobile is an Awful Idea

As a longtime Nintendo fan, I have serious concerns for what this move implies for the company and fans of its games. We’ve already established that many people who wouldn’t consider themselves gamers still check out mobile games. However, even with freemium titles, the vast majority of players don’t play for long, let alone pay up. Putting the money and energy into free games won’t be worth it if the games aren’t making a profit.

And what happens if these mobile games take off? If Nintendo is making insane money from Android games Mobile Gaming Comes Of Age: Best Android Games In 2013 Shooters, runners, arcade, racing, puzzles -- we show you the best games released in 2013 for just about every genre. Beware, addictive picks inside. Read More , and its home console is still lagging behind, which platform is it going to want to invest in? Sure, Wii U games make them $60 at a time, but if Nintendo puts all the energy into making one and it sells next to no copies, it’s a loss for the company.

Perhaps, if its mobile games become popular, Nintendo’s next move will be to make polished games on those platforms more akin to its first-party counterparts. After all, Nintendo has to follow the money, since that’s obviously why they’re doing this in the first place.


Following this trend, if mobile consumers of Nintendo’s titles decide they want full-blown Nintendo experiences to come to them instead of having to get a Wii U or 3DS, what’s the big N going to do? At that point, mobile gamers won’t be likely to pick up Nintendo’s consoles, so if Nintendo wants the money it’ll be forced to get better games to where consumers want them.

This is all about the financial aspects; what about the brand? Iwata said that Nintendo will be responsible when it comes to microtransactions, making sure that the IPs aren’t ruined or so full of in-app purchases that they aren’t safe for kids What Are In-App Purchases & How Can I Disable Them? [MakeUseOf Explains] "I can’t believe it!" my cousin said to me the other day, "someone’s just bought a $10 in-app purchase on my mother’s phone, and she doesn’t even know what I’m talking about!". Sounds familiar? How... Read More , but how long will this last? When the money starts to fly in due to the popular games, will the company compromise on this just a little to increase profits?

DeNA has a huge responsibility on its hands; it is carrying the weight of the medium’s longest-lived and most iconic characters. In the past, there have been both amazing and atrocious third-party uses of Nintendo characters. Masterpieces such as Metroid Prime or Donkey Kong Country Returns, both from Retro Studios, or the Zelda: Oracle games (emulate them on Android 5 Best Retro Games That You Can Emulate On Android Emulation allows you to play retro games on your PC, but have you tried it on your phone? Here are five fantastic titles to try on your Android device. Read More to see for yourself) from Capcom stand as some of the best. The other end of the spectrum carries the abysmal Zelda titles on the Philips CD-i, with infamous cutscenes and tedious gameplay.

Only Time Will Tell

Admittedly, some of my reservations on this decision come from my love of Nintendo. After all, games like Super Mario World, Star Fox 64, and Wario Land formed my love of video games as a child 5 Children's Video Games That You'll Enjoy Too Just like you enjoy that animated movie as much as the kids it was made for, the world of video games has some great titles that appeal across ages. Read More , and I’m certain I’m not the only one. It’s a huge change.


Ultimately, I hope that this does great things for Nintendo and that going mobile enables it to continue to make awesome experiences on its first-party consoles. Nintendo certainly not going anywhere soon, but something about seeing in-app purchases in a Mario platformer sickens me inside. Nintendo is all about magical experiences and innovation (Nintendo has invented products ahead of their time 4 Nintendo Products That Were Way Ahead Of Their Time Nintendo has always been an innovative company, but even their lesser-known products were ahead of their time. Read More more than once), and freemium games are all about gouging the player to make money. The two are incompatible.

I’m against this decision, solely on the basis of preserving Nintendo’s brand. In a world of EA filling classic franchises with in-app purchases until they’re unrecognizable, Ubisoft stuffing Assassin’s Creed: Unity with temporary power-ups that can be bought for $100, and games like Evolve serving as DLC shells that are free-to-play experiences sold for full price, it was always nice to know that we could still look to Nintendo to follow the good old model of selling video games. Now, that’s gone and we’re never going back. Nintendo is in this for good.

Experience the joy of Nintendo with games that make incredible use of 3D on the 3DS 4 Nintendo 3DS Games That Make Incredible Use Of The 3D Tech The 3D in the 3DS isn't just there for show. It's actually a key part of the console that just isn't used by enough games. However, there are some games that take the 3D technology... Read More , or step back and revisit hidden gems from the N64 4 Hidden Gems From The Nintendo 64 That You Should Play We are going to give these hidden gems their moment in the sun, and hopefully, you will go back and play them, because you will still have a great time! Read More .

What’s your call on Nintendo’s decision: good or bad? Do you have personal memories of Nintendo like me, or do you perhaps despise freemium games no matter who makes them? Get a conversation started in the comments below.

Related topics: Mobile Gaming, Nintendo.

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  1. Craig Snyder
    March 23, 2015 at 4:11 pm

    It was only a matter of time before this happened, and I really hope Nintendo goes about this the right way (in my opinion, at least). I hope their utmost concern is providing a quality gameplay experience, and not crafting a mobile games based around sucking the user in and draining them out with microtransactions.

    If this is going to be something where a kid can pay $30 for a new Mario game, then I'm down for it. If we're looking at free game release where you're going to have to pay for extra lives and extra levels, then ugh! If they're getting together with DeNA, then I can only imagine it's the latter. Let's hope not.

  2. Leah
    March 23, 2015 at 12:42 am

    Although now I can see cell phone manufacturers getting behind this because gamers will want to get bigger capacity phones.

  3. McFuzz
    March 22, 2015 at 10:17 pm

    This is terrifying. Go to the Top Grossing section of the Google Play store right now. Do it. I'll wait.

    Welcome back.

    Did you see that, in the top 20, there were only 3 genres of games? Clash of Clans clones, Candy Crush clones, and Slot/Gambling games? This is the 'mobile gaming' market. Any PC gamer would scoff at you for even calling those games, in fact, even an Xbone owner may laugh at the definition (And that is certainly saying something.)

    Did you also see that the top selling paid app is Minecraft? Did you see where it was in Top Grossing? IT WAS 61ST. SO if Nintendo don't make their games free, they won't make any money. If Nintendo make their games free, they ABSOLUTELY HAVE TO include in-app transactions (Or ads! Ads in my Zelda game!?). Welcome to the money trap.

    Sony has dicked me over with a lack of games on the PS4, Microsoft has dicked me over by its target audience changing exclusively to sports and racing, and now Nintendo are throwing their brand into the toilet by trapping themselves in the 'impossible to succeed with legitimate gaming experiences' tablet market.

    If you don't make your game addictive, you don't have a constant revenue. If you charge money for it, you won't make any money. The balance is a knife's edge. If people won't pay $9 for Minecraft, the most popular thing since pretty much ever, there's hardly a chance in hell they'll pay $20 or more for anything Nintendo pushes out. Oh but $3 at a time for Clans is just fine, because it's a free game.

    RIP Console Gaming Industry. I'm going to PC with no regrets.

  4. Leah
    March 22, 2015 at 5:21 pm

    What would be cool is if they took their old games, like the Marios, and make them available on our mobile devices with official games. Would I pay for them? I don't know. I really enjoy playing the old Marios so I may pay something to have access to it on my phone.

    • Ben S
      March 22, 2015 at 8:51 pm

      This is a nice idea, but they explicitly said that won't be happening. They're going to be creating new games, not porting the classics.

    • Leah
      March 23, 2015 at 12:40 am

      I know. But, I can dream. I just want to be able to play those old games again.

      Anyway...I think this is a good idea because it allows gamers one less thing they have to carry around. But, a negative side I keep thinking about is how much memory it will take up?

  5. Justin Dennis
    March 22, 2015 at 6:34 am

    hopefully they don't screw this up. I really just want Pokemon on my Android. I'd pay $40 for that.

  6. Melinda Weeks
    March 21, 2015 at 5:10 pm

    I think nintendo is realizing that more and more people are gaming on their phones and tablets. I myself have not console gamed much since I discovered my love for game of war.
    I am excited to see what will be offered! They may steal my time back away from MZ.

  7. Kyle
    March 21, 2015 at 2:04 pm

    This seemed inevitable. The entire "proprietary" platform concept that runs purely off its own IP seemed unsustainable long term (sure there's 3rd party software but who buys a Wii U to play a game that's also on another platform?) .

    The Android/iOS space is now practically a direct Nintendo competitor for this strange grey area of the gaming industry. Just as the author noted, there's tons of people that don't qualify as the stereotypical "gamer" that own Nintendo products. But at some point, are people going to keep buying proprietary devices just for specific IP? Do I really have to carry a clunky DS with me in addition to my smartphone and/or tablet to play Nintendo games? These devices cost exponentially more and have several times the same amount of resources, not to mention larger screens, the ability to use awesome 3rd party bluetooth controllers or even dedicated builds like nVidia Shield etc.

    As someone who values openness and ubiquitous IP, this is exactly what I want to happen. I've been on a official Nintendo hiatus since the Gamecube days because of their choice to be a silo and this will bring me back as a supporter.

    And honestly, I really hope for the day Nintendo finally goes the way of Sega and commits fully to IP only. I can't stand their gimmicky consoles, but I love their IP. It would be totally amazing to be able to purchase Nintendo IP on the platform of my choice.

    "But sir, what about the unique controller(s) etc.?"

    Bring them too!? There's plenty of examples of platform independent software that comes bundled with hardware ad-ons.

    Welcome to the 21st century Nintendo, my childhood thanks you.

  8. Cody M
    March 21, 2015 at 3:44 am

    I know a crapton of college kids who would buy the new pokemon games on their phones, but are too poor for the 3ds. If they develop their new games for cross-platform mobile, they could make some big profit gains.

  9. Tim Brookes
    March 20, 2015 at 10:39 pm

    Just give me Animal Crossing on my iPhone!

  10. Nathan
    March 20, 2015 at 9:55 pm


    My personal thoughts are that Nintendo is going to be a lot smarter and more careful than others and that they are going to keep the full meaty experiences on consoles and handhelds (possibly a combination if NX is indeed that hybrid many are theorizing it to be) no matter what. Their desire is to use mobile games as a simple means to drive people to their dedicated hardware; i.e. make mobile games advertisements for the ones on dedicated hardware. I don't think they'll ever move all of their resources to those platforms, especially because their desire has always been to innovate and move the industry forward. Moving solely to mobile in the future would essentially be leaving that legacy of innovation behind.
    Furthermore, while mobile games might not drive people to the real games on Nintendo's dedicated hardware, it still can. There are lots of us who are Nintendo faithful and will keep the company moving forward and the addition of users from the mobile space (even if only a small chunk of people come from that direction) will only be beneficial.

    Check out the Gamescoop discussion on IGN this week. The guys discussing it know more about what's up than we do and I found their thoughts to put my mind at ease.

  11. Alex D.
    March 20, 2015 at 8:00 pm

    Why are we so worried about Nintendo tackling the mobile gaming market? Last I checked Nintendo has been the king of mobile gaming for the last 25 years. I know the Gameboy and DS lines are different from the modern day mobile gaming market (i.e. Plants Vs. Zombies, Candy Crush, and Angry Birds). Still I feel Nintendo switch to Andriod, iOS, and Windows Phone would just be another platform to develop on. I don't see them taking the Clash of Clans of approach to gaming (that being a very loose term). So long as they stay the course, don't get greedy, and remember quality over quantity that I am honestly not worried.

    • Ben S
      March 20, 2015 at 8:52 pm

      I understand what you mean, but remember that on their platforms, they make the rules. On iOS and Android, it's a whole new market because most people with smartphones didn't buy them for the explicit purpose of playing games like they would for a 3DS.

      You don't see them taking a Clash of Clans approach, and I hope you are right. But did you see what this DeNA developer is known for? Why would Nintendo team up with an expert in freemium games (like Clash of Clans) if they weren't going to make freemium games?

      I'm speculating, of course. but this isn't a scene where you just get in a little bit. They're going all-in.