It's been five years since Nintendo first announced its foray into mobile gaming on iOS and other platforms. Although the company has seen some success in the business, it's also seen some misfires, and this week Bloomberg is reporting that Nintendo is now "retreating" from its mobile gaming plans.
For the near future, Nintendo will now focus on apps that have already been released. In terms of potential new Nintendo apps, developer partner DeNA has mentioned recently that players shouldn't expect a new game until near the end of the current fiscal year.
Although Nintendo saw high profits with titles like Fire Emblem Heroes, the company's recent earnings have been declining. In total, Nintendo released iOS apps like Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp, Dragalia Lost, Mario Kart Tour, Super Mario Run, and Dr. Mario World from 2016 through 2019.
According to Sensor Tower, three of Nintendo's biggest apps saw decreasing revenue from February through May, 2020 (including Dragalia Lost, Super Mario Run, and Fire Emblem Heroes). This was during a period when mobile apps were otherwise noticing an uptick in user engagement due to stay-at-home orders.
In the beginning, Nintendo kicked off the smartphone gaming initiative following struggling Wii U console sales, hoping that the booming mobile gaming market could help prop up poor console numbers. In the wake of the success of the Nintendo Switch, a mobile/home console hybrid released in 2017, it seems that Nintendo has less of a reason to keep up with releasing games for smartphones and tablets.
Most recently, "Animal Crossing New Horizons" on the Switch has seen massive success. In May, the game became the best-selling entry in the franchise with 13.4 million units sold, and is the fastest selling Switch game overall.
Mobile games are expected to make $77.2 billion this year, which would account for half of the overall video game industry’s sales, according to research from Newzoo. But “since the release of Mario Kart Tour in fall 2019, Nintendo’s mobile pipeline is empty,” said Serkan Toto, a mobile games consultant in Tokyo. “In a sense, Nintendo’s enormous success on console reduced the need and the pressure to put resources into mobile.”
Nintendo originally intended to launch around three apps per year, but they were continuously delayed and players saw longer and longer wait times between releases for new games. When they did finally launch, many arrived with criticisms about an abundance of in-app purchases and poor controls.
Now, according to mobile gaming analyst Serkan Toto, new Nintendo smartphone games will come down the line, "but it's very likely these will be just alibi releases to appease shareholders."