Nintendo has finally taken the first, long-awaited step toward bringing Mario, Link, Samus and more to smartphones everywhere.
The storied Japanese video game maker announced a new partnership with Japanese mobile game developer DeNA Tuesday to feature Nintendo’s wealth of memorable characters in smartphone games.
“The alliance is intended to compliment Nintendo’s dedicated video game system business and expand Nintendo’s reach into the vast market of smart device users worldwide,” the companies said in a statement.
Nintendo has notoriously abstained from smartphone ports for its games over fears of devaluing its collection of characters — some of the oldest and most popular in the gaming industry — to their longstanding, loyal fan base.
In order to avoid diluting those brands and still take advantage of the vast market opportunity in mobile gaming, the companies will only be releasing new games based on Nintendo’s intellectual property, as opposed to porting past hit titles.
“To ensure the quality of game experience that consumers expect from this alliance of Nintendo and DeNA, only new original games optimized for smart device functionality will be created, rather than porting games created specifically for the Wii U home console or the Nintendo 3DS portable system,” the statement explained.
The deal could still alienate some of those fans according to The Guardian, which points out that DeNA builds most of its games on a “freemium” model, wherein games are offered for free but require users to make in-game purchases in order to progress. The model has been the subject of increasing criticism in the gaming industry in recent years.
Nintendo and DeNA will launch the “online membership service” across smartphones, tablets, computers and Nintendo devices this fall.
As part of the deal Nintendo and DeNA will each buy a $182-million stake in the other, and Nintendo shares rose as high as 29 percent following the announcement. Nintendo has suffered in recent years as a result of low sales of its latest Wii U console, which was viewed as a meager departure from the original Wii system that put the company back on top of the industry in 2007.
The announcement was accompanied by another from the president of Nintendo Satoru Iwata, who said the company is working on a new console codenamed “NX,” which will be “a dedicated game platform with a brand-new concept.”
Iwata said more information about NX is coming next year.