Nintendo are expected to release The Legend of Zelda as a smartphone game in the near future, which will be their most high-profile mobile title since Super Mario Run came out in 2016. It will be one of just a handful of games that Nintendo developed for mobile, but they are expected to make a lot more in the future.
It seems strange that Nintendois coming so late to the party, as it has been clear now for a while that the mobile games market is getting bigger. Games represented around 85% of the mobile app market revenue in 2015 and was worth around $35 billion worldwide.
But why were Nintendo so slow to react when all the signs were that mobile gaming was going to be so profitable? Below is a quick look at the evolution of mobile games, all of which should have been signposts for Nintendo to jump in.
Although not the first-ever mobile game, in 1997 Snake was the first to be a really be considered a worldwide phenomenon. Over 400 million people are estimated to have had the game, although everyone carried a Nokia (Snake was pre-installed on the phone) back then. Later, we started to see the first wave of console to mobile cross-overs. Sega’s Super Monkey Ball and Ubisoft’s Splinter Cell were among the high-profile games to do this – well over a decade before Nintendo released its first mobile game.
Angry Birds and an Explosion of Mobile Games
Not long after the first iPhone was released in 2007, the mobile gaming market really took off. 2009 saw the release of Angry Birds on IOS platforms.since then over 12 million copies have been downloaded from the iTunes Store and countless spin-offs have been released. Other titles like Candy Crush Saga, Fruit Ninja and Subway Surfers were also downloaded in their millions and are big revenue earners. They were a clear sign that mobile games could create iconic brands like Mario or Sonic.
Casino app developers were quick to see the light
Online casino games developers embraced mobile gaming from the get-go. In the early days you could play simple slots and poker games, but more sophisticated games followed as the technology developed. Today, much of the buzz is around live casino games which allow you to play blackjack, roulette and other games with real dealers. The live video feed is streamed to your mobile, allowing you to interact with the dealer and other players. This is part of a strategy in the industry to allow for more immersive player experiences – exactly what Nintendo strives for with Wii and Switch.
What next for Nintendo?
The thing that is so strange about Nintendo’s reluctance to dive whole-heartedly into mobile gaming is that its games libraryis so suited for the retro tastes of mobile gamers. Look at the most downloaded mobile games on iTunes and you will see titles like Candy Crush Saga and Clash of Clans at the top. Could you see new versions of Metroid or Duck Hunt at the top of the charts? Of course. They are exactly the type of games millions are playing on their phones today.
We all adore Nintendo as it has carved out its own unique place in gaming, and many of us will claim that there is no need for it to change. But the market might simply demand that Nintendo go ‘all-in’ on mobile gaming. If they get it right, everyone could benefit.