It took years of pleading from investors, but 2016 marked the first time Nintendo officially made a move into the smartphone gaming market. That arrived first with Miitomo (the now-forgotten social network application) and then exploded with Pokémon GO this summer.
Nintendo President Tatsumi Kimishima spoke to investors in April about Nintendo’s mobile strategy. The goal wasn’t just to take Nintendo games and put them on mobile devices; instead, they aim to use mobile spin-offs to drive consumers back to Nintendo hardware.
Kimishima pointed to this (now translated) slide to highlight their three goals for pushing into the mobile sector.
Essentially, Nintendo aims to create mobile games that make money while introducing new and old players to their stable of IP. Those players, if Nintendo succeeds, will turn to the company’s “dedicated video game system business” to find more ways to play. That is, they’ll play a Mario game on mobile, love it and decide they want the real deal on the Nintendo-made machine.
When Pokémon GO released, Nintendo saw an uptick in the sale of aging Pokémon games on the 3DS and other hardware. After Pokémon GO‘s launch, Nintendo saw an increase in the sales of 3DS hardware and Pokémon X, Y, Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire.
What about now that Pokémon Sun and Moon have launched?
Pokémon Sun and Moon are huge thanks largely to Nintendo’s mobile strategy
Sun and Moon are officially Nintendo’s fastest selling games in North America through the company’s entire history. Since launching last Friday, they’ve sold 3.7 million units in North America alone.
That’s 85% better than X and Y, the previous record holder for Nintendo’s stat. Those games dropped in 2013, and the Pokémon brand has only strengthened since.
Nintendo absolutely cashed in on excellent timing here. I’m not convinced it was entirely on purpose, but Nintendo and Niantic managed to tap Pokémon lovers perfectly with GO. They caught fans, many of whom loved the originals as kids, at the pitch-perfect moment in time when they were old enough to absolutely lose their minds over a mobile version that featured capturing Pokémon “in real life.”
Nostalgia is an insanely powerful marketing tool, as we’re clearly seeing with the nigh impossible to find NES Classic. Nintendo struck that chord twice this year, and Pokémon GO is proving that its mobile strategy has teeth.
Will the same work for Super Mario Run and the Mario game that’s rumored to launch with the Switch next year?
I’ll offer this: the Nintendo brand is in the best shape its been in since the early days of the Wii.