I was very excited to hear that Nintendo plans to release an Animal Crossing and Fire Emblem mobile game! Honestly, nothing would make me happier than to see them take their rightfully fat slice of the entertainment profit pie. Both Animal Crossing and Fire Emblem are strong titles that can easily conjure millions in sales to the House of Mario’s coffers. Many people are wondering about the release date, the mechanics, and the content for these upcoming titles, but today I want to focus on the long-term expectations now that Nintendo has promised a full mobile gaming commitment.
My biggest question here is: Will creating a strong foundation for mobile gaming crowd the demand for the handheld market currently occupied by the likes of the 3DS? I know it’s hard to imagine Nintendo simply cutting its Game Boy platform in favor of relatively smaller scale phone versions. I mean the Game Boy market is just beginning to see a more seamless integration with console gaming as seen with the dual compatibility on Smash Bros. 4, not to mention the ever popular Pokémon games that foster competitive tournaments on an international scale.
In a market dominated by smart-phone mobile gaming, the Game Boy platforms have managed to stay relevant through the virtue of first party exclusives. However, the introduction of Nintendo exclusive titles into the smart phone market basically erases the only thing Game Boy had going for it. The plan to dive into the mobile market is essentially an announcement to discontinue future Game Boy hardware. According to statistics.com, after FY13 Nintendo has witnessed a steady decline in the amount of sales of the Nintendo 3DS. As of 2013, they had 13.95 million units sold, 2014: 12.24, 2015: 8.73, and in 2016 they sold just 6.79 million.
While Nintendo’s first outing, Miitomo, is falling short of other mobile offerings (I’m not too surprised honestly), their future installments could cannibalize the 3DS and finish it off for good. Such a move from Nintendo wouldn’t shock me either when by their nature, corporations tend to cut the fat when they are starving for market control. A move like that reminds me of Disney recently shutting down its gaming division along with Disney Infinity in response to ESPN’s continual loss of subscribers. ESPN represents roughly 50% of Disney’s yearly profits and took precedent over their smaller gaming initiative, Infinity.
Many can argue that Nintendo isn’t exactly like Disney and the 3DS is significantly different from Disney Infinity. I do concede that the Game Boy platform carries a massive enterprise value as the 3DS is much more widely recognized around the world. However, would Nintendo really shut down one of its longest standing platform consoles to focus on a different market? Yes, yes it would. Again, referencing Disney, Bob Iger told Fortune.com in regards to the Infinity shut down,
“We did not have enough confidence in the business in terms of being stable enough.”
As Fortune.com speculates, Disney shut down Infinity to pursue a more predictable business model. This is very close to Nintendo in regards to the same financial uncertainty it faces from the NX console. As they are being eclipsed by PS4 and Xbox One’s high definition gameplay, Nintendo needs something to recapture its lost market share. To do this, Nintendo needs every available penny to bolster NX’s exposure and positive reception. In short, they not only need the NX to succeed but every other aspect of the business as well.
If faced with the choice to cut upcoming mobile games or upcoming handheld games, which would Nintendo choose? I would bet Nintendo would finally give up the legacy of the Game Boy for good.