Nintendo is finally making its move into smartphone gaming.
Following years of speculation, the House of Mario confirmed on Tuesday that its stable of popular gaming characters will be arriving on smart devices, courtesy of a new tie-up. It also revealed the code-name of its next dedicated games system.
Nintendo is the owner of some of the best-known video game franchises of all time, including Mario, The Legend of Zelda and many more. Traditionally, the Japanese gaming giant has been extremely conservative about letting its popular franchises roam onto non-Nintendo products -- but with the firm's fortunes fading in the face of competition from gaming on phones and tablets, a new wave of customers could be about to get a chance to play with the company's most popular characters.
As part of a tie-up with Japanese company DeNA -- which publishes a range of free-to-play mobile games -- Nintendo content will be coming to game apps for smart devices. "All Nintendo [intellectual property] will be eligible for development and exploration by the alliance," Nintendo's press release explains. This suggests that mobile Mario and Zelda games are definitely on the cards, though notes that only new and original games will be made, so don't expect any ports of Wii U or 3DS games.
Nintendo has resisted calls to get involved in smartphone and tablet gaming for years, but risks being left behind if it doesn't make its games available on these increasingly popular platforms. "The business morphed from the only way that any young person could play a video game into one of many choices for young people who are just learning how to play games," Michael Pachter, an analyst with Wedbush Securities.
Many of DeNA's games generate cash for their maker using in-app payments. This suggests that Nintendo may be planning to release games that are free to download, but offer gamers the option to buy extra items or unlock levels by throwing down small amounts of real cash. Popular apps like Candy Crush have demonstrated the earning power of these so-called "freemium" games, but gaming purists may find the thought of paying for in-game shortcuts hard to swallow.
Nintendo says details on games and release dates "will be forthcoming", but hopes to get an online membership service that works across PC, smartphones, tablets and Nintendo systems up and running in autumn of this year. Speaking to CNET's sister site GameSpot, Nintendo confirmed its mobile efforts would be focused on iOS and Android, and not Windows Phone for now.
NX games system
Meanwhile Nintendo looks to be cooking up a new console, promising its next games machine will feature an "entirely new concept".
At the same press conference where it unveiled its mobile deal, Nintendo also moved to reaffirm its commitment to dedicated games machines, confirming it has a new own-brand system in the works -- though details are very scant for now.
"Nintendo is currently developing a dedicated games platform with a brand new concept under the development codename NX," an English audio translation of the press conference says.
"It is too early to elaborate on the details of this project but we hope to share more information with you next year," the company stated.
Update 12.45pm UK: Added iOS and Android focus, per GameSpot.