Nintendo to Bring Its Games to Smartphones, Tablets

After years of scoffing at the idea of putting its games on mobile devices, Nintendo now sees smartphones and tablets as a new market waiting to be monetized and developed.

mobile games

Nintendo is joining up with a Japanese mobile gaming company to finally begin bringing some of its popular video gaming characters to smartphones and tablet computers in an attempt to reignite its sagging business and global sales.

For years, Nintendo has resisted bringing its games to small mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets so as not to dilute its gaming console business, but that's changing now as the company refocuses to seek new ways of retaining and bringing in new customers for its video game titles, according to a March 17 announcement by the company.

Under the deal, Nintendo is partnering with Japanese mobile game company DeNA to develop games for mobile devices using some of Nintendo's most beloved gaming characters, including Super Mario, Zelda and Pokemon, as it works to reinvigorate its sagging games business.

The two companies will also work together to create a global games offering that members will be able to join so they can play games on their mobile devices involving existing and new Nintendo characters and themes starting this fall, according to the companies. The games that will be developed will be built to work specifically with small mobile screens and devices.

"Leveraging the strength of Nintendo's intellectual property (IP) and game development skills in combination with DeNA's world-class expertise in mobile games, both companies will develop and operate new game apps based on Nintendo's IP, including its iconic game characters, for smart devices," the companies said in a statement. "The alliance is intended to complement Nintendo's dedicated video game systems business and extend Nintendo's reach into the vast market of smart device users worldwide."

To ensure that the games for mobile devices work well and render images properly on the smaller screens, only new games will be created, rather than trying to port existing games over from Nintendo Wii U home consoles or the Nintendo 3DS portable system, the companies said.

"In order to create completely new game experiences for smart devices, all Nintendo IP will be eligible for development and exploration by the alliance," Nintendo said in its statement.

Details on what games and characters will be included and information on pricing have not yet been announced.

Nintendo helped power the video game console industry starting in 1983, when it launched its original Nintendo Entertainment System. The company has since sold more than 4.3 billion video games and more than 680 million gaming consoles around the world, according to figures provided by the company.

Nintendo has been hearing calls from investors for years to jump into the smartphone and tablet gaming markets, but until now those pleas were not heeded, according to a March 17 story by Reuters.

"This will allow us to build a bridge between smart devices and gaming consoles," Nintendo President Satoru Iwata told reporters, according to Reuters. "It doesn't mean smart devices will eat away at gaming consoles, it will create an entirely new type of demand."

DeNA, which launched in 1999, is a major gaming company that lost some of its momentum in the past two years as users moved on to more popular gaming apps, according to Reuters. DeNA's games are mostly played using Web browsers, rather than being installed as apps.

Nintendo recently recorded three straight years of operating losses before its last fiscal year, according to a March 17 report by Fortune.

The business of games on smartphones and tablets has been growing wildly in the consumer marketplace in the last few years.

Google frequently has been refining its Google Play Games platform, such as adding features to help game developers find their target markets for their products by incorporating more demographics-tracking tools to the Google Play Developer Console. The extra demographics collection followed earlier moves by Google to add new game statistics to the Google Play Developer Console.

Those tools follow Google's continuing updates of its Google Play Services platform, such as the addition of features including turn-based multiplayer support and improved battery life capabilities. In July 2013, Google began a push to encourage Android developers to create more games for tablets to attract game players to the popular devices.