Late last night Nintendo President Iwata addressed a room full of executives and investors to tell them, as well as gamers watching at home, about his company’s future. He outlined several new initiatives for Nintendo, including a new dynamic pricing scheme for loyal customers, and even announced a release month for Mario Kart 8.
However, in addition to some rather concrete ideas, Iwata also teased some more nebulous ones. Specifically, the Nintendo President revealed that the publisher plans to leverage the mobile space for increased exposure and that they will focus on the health market for future hardware.
For mobile, Iwata wanted to make it explicitly clear that Nintendo has no plans to port Mario games or Zelda games to iOS. Rather, it sounds like Nintendo’s plans for mobile revolve around second screen experiences, or apps that add back into the console experience.
Although Nintendo’s Wii U has a gamepad controller that can be used as a second screen, said device can only operate within a specific, and limited, range. A mobile app, on the other hand, can be additive but not restrictive.
“We feel that simply releasing our games just as they are on smart devices would not provide the best entertainment for smart devices, so we are not going to take any approach of this nature. Having said that, however, in the current environment surrounding smart devices, we feel that we will not be able to gain the support of many consumers unless we are able to provide something truly valuable that is unique to Nintendo. Accordingly, I have not given any restrictions to the development team, even not ruling out the possibility of making games or using our game characters.”
Aside from being obtuse, Iwata’s quote opens a wide variety of possibilities for the mobile space. If the Nintendo President is to be believed, it sounds like developers will seemingly have free reign when it comes to envisioning mobile experiences. But again, don’t assume this means mobile Mario.
“However, if you report that we will release Mario on smart devices, it would be a completely misleading statement. It is our intention to release some application on smart devices this year that is capable of attracting consumer attention and communicating the value of our entertainment offerings, so I would encourage you to see how our approach yields results.”
Up until this point, Nintendo seemed rather apprehensive to the idea of going mobile, but clearly their poor sales numbers have forced them to re-evaluate some of their policies. One such policy that won’t change, however, is Nintendo’s vow to keep their software on their own platforms. Nintendo is still very much committed to their hardware, and letting their first party titles matriculate to other platforms could hurt any potential appeal that the Wii U might have.
Switching gears almost completely, Iwata also discussed the health market, and how Nintendo plans to strategize around said market. Again, he wouldn’t talk specifics, but Iwata claimed that Nintendo is investigating “non-wearables” for monitoring health.
“We wish to achieve an integrated hardware-software platform business that, instead of providing mobile or wearable features, will be characterized by a new area of what we like to call ‘non-wearable’ technology. When we use ‘health’ as the keyword, some may inevitably think about ‘Wii Fit.’ However, we are considering themes that we have not incorporated to games for our existing platforms. Including the hardware that will enable such an idea, we will aim to establish a blue ocean.”
As far as a timeline for this new health-focused initiative, Iwata says that it will take about two to three years for developers to provide new themes for gamers.
“While we feel that this is going to take two to three years after its launch, we expect the QOL-improving platform to provide us with new themes which we can then turn into games that operate on our future video game platforms, too,” he said. “Once we have established such a cycle, we will see continuous positive interactions between the two platforms that enable us to make unique propositions.”
Ultimately, most of what Iwata revealed sounds like it has potential, but without any concrete examples it’s hard for gamers to get truly excited. Luckily, the presentation was bolstered by other reveals — like the aforementioned Mario Kart 8 release window and the promise of DS games for Wii U’s virtual console. Nintendo is acutely aware of the position they are in, as indicated by the recent pay cuts for company executives, and this recent news proves that they are willing to change their policies to improve. The only question is whether or not that will be enough.
How would you like to see Nintendo tackle the mobile market? What do you think they mean by non-wearables?