When Nintendo released their Nintendo DS handset in 2004, the smartphone and tablet markets represented a small enough portion of the overall mobile market that participating in it would have been insane for the company. In fact, ignoring that product segment did well for them, selling over 154 million units of the DS family. Today, however, mobile is a different space and smartphone and tablet gaming is challenging the 3DS family in a major way.
Over the past few years, Nintendo has seen profit losses for the first time in its history. A lot of this has to do with the company's handling of portable gaming in an increasingly smartphone-toting world. After over a year of looking into mobile gaming, Nintendo has officially taken the plunge through a partnership with DeNA.
Rather than trying a straight-forward partnership where DeNA would license Nintendo's characters and produce games based on them for mobile, Nintendo and DeNA will share development responsibilities, product ownership and revenue. This is a change of pace for Nintendo, whose previous partnerships have turned out some real garbage. After being burned so bad in the past, the company has understandably kept its intellectual property close. This is the second major change to the company's licensing policy, starting with a Netflix-produced, live-action Zelda series.
DeNA West CEO Shintaro Asako talked about the excitement behind this news with GamesBeat, saying,
Mobile gaming is our core business, and we definitely wanted to be the No. 1 mobile gaming company in the world - we've wanted to be a dominant player. We were originally focused on the feature phone space and then shifted over to smart phones, and now (we have) a lot of initiative in both the domestic and international markets. But we really want to be leading player.
It is important to note that this deal will only result in new titles - we will not see any ports of existing titles to the mobile platform. The mobile gaming service, however, will be tied to a membership service, which will be available on multiple platforms, including modern and future Nintendo hardware. This is similar to how Xbox Live works, providing content and connectivity to Xbox 360, Xbox One, Windows Phone and Windows 10 devices.
It will certainly be interesting to see how this partnership pans out for Nintendo, and how good the games that come out of the DeNA studio could be.