Mobile is far from Nintendo’s most lucrative platform, but Nintendo president Shuntaro Furukawa says in a recent investor Q&A that its smartphone dealings have a positive impact that extends beyond just direct mobile revenue and profit.
For Nintendo, Furukawa says the benefit of mobile is to give it more opportunities to communicate with its customers and reach audiences and individuals that it may have missed with a console-only approach.
“For example, we have broadened the fan base for Nintendo IP like Animal Crossing, Fire Emblem, and Mario Kart, and in doing so increased our points of contact with customers,” says Furukawa.
He calls attention to Animal Crossing in particular, noting that the 2017 release of the mobile spinoff Pocket Camp introduced the Animal Crossing franchise to many customers that later went on to buy 2020’s Animal Crossing: New Horizons on the Switch.
“Sales from the mobile business do not account for a very large percentage of Nintendo’s overall business, but the mobile business itself is significant in that it provides a wide range of customers a way other than Nintendo Switch to continue playing games using Nintendo IP over a long period.”
It’s not a new strategy for the company but Furukawa’s comments this time around do lean heavier into the idea that the mobile business has also been a powerful driver for new Nintendo Account signups, which then allow Nintendo to “create long-lasting ties with customers” by getting mobile players into that ecosystem.
“In ways like these, the mobile business with its multiple objectives is contributing to the sustainable growth of the overall Nintendo business,” says Furukawa.
Furukawa’s recent commentary notably follows his comments from May that suggested Nintendo could be looking to wind down its mobile business, or at least slow down the cadence of new releases (via Bloomberg).
While neither the question nor Furukawa’s answer directly mention that comment from a few months back, the exchange from this recent Q&A seems to indicate that Nintendo isn’t looking to completely exit the mobile market despite, as Bloomberg notes, its properties not faring as well as other mobile games in recent months and its own reluctance to implement mechanics that encourage overspending.
To that end, Furukawa notes Nintendo plans to continue working alongside DeNA, the mobile company it started working alongside back in 2015, on its two-pronged plan to “develop and operate the kind of core system necessary to provide original Nintendo games for smart devices and Nintendo Switch” and “to develop mobile apps that make use of Nintendo IP and operate those services.”
“As I mentioned earlier, one of the goals of the mobile business is to create long-lasting ties with customers via Nintendo Accounts,” says Furukawa. “We are establishing that through our collaboration with DeNA and will continue with those efforts.”
Still, while Furukawa assures investors that the value of its mobile games doesn't come strictly from revenue, it's clear from sometimes ill-received monetization overhauls arriving in games like Fire Emblem Heroes, Pocket Camp, and Mario Kart Tour that the company is still struggling to figure out its exact place in the mobile game space.