Nintendo's new chief sees $1B future in mobile gaming

Shuntaro Furukawa tells the Nikkei newspaper he wants to build on the lessons the company learned with Pokemon Go.

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Steven Musil
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Nintendo is hoping to catch big bucks from games on the small screen, ala Pokemon Go.

Sean Hollister/CNET

Nintendo's incoming chief sees big money from games played on the small screen.

Shuntaro Furukawa told the Nikkei newspaper he wants to build the company's smartphone game operations into a 100 billion yen ($910 million) business, applying lessons the company learned from its wildly popular Pokemon Go game.

"From what I can see, smartphone games are the ones I want to expand the most," said Furukawa, who will take the helm in June.

The Kyoto, Japan-based company reported consolidated sales of 1 trillion yen for the year ended March 31, but much of that is attributed to its hot-selling Switch console-handheld hybrid game 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. But the Japanese gaming giant has a history of being extremely conservative about letting its popular franchises roam onto non-Nintendo products. With the firm's fortunes fading in the face of competition from gaming on phones and tablets, Nintendo made its much-anticipated move to smartphone gaming in 2015.

One of its first titles was Pokemon Go, which made its US debut in 2016. The game encouraged players to walk around in the real world with a smartphone and find mythical creatures called Pokemon. The game shattered download records and at one time was more popular than Twitter and Facebook.

Its popularity has faded in the past year or so, but not before Pokemon Go became a billion-dollar business. As of last July, the game had raked in more than $1.2 billion in worldwide revenue, according to mobile app analytics company App Annie.

"'Pokemon Go,' which transformed the story and gameplay for the smartphone, became a huge realization," outgoing Nintendo President Tatsumi Kimishima told Nikkei.

Expanding Nintendo's mobile operations is a priority for Furukawa, who has ambitions to grow the business through a single game-changing hit, Nikkei reported.

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