How are Nintendo doing as a third party?

Nintendo finally made the jump to third party last year when they started developing mobile games. In this video I take a look at what they’ve done right so far, and what they’ve screwed up.

Script:

Camera 1: A friend reminded me of this the other day. What are Mario’s overalls made of?

Camera 2: Denim denim denim

C1: I still love that joke.

<intro>

C1: Welcome, once more, to P Myth Gaming. Now last year, Nintendo finally went third party

C2: No don’t worry you didn’t slip into a coma

C1: I am of course referring to Nintendo’s venture into mobile gaming. We’ve had three apps so far, Miitomo, Super Mario Run, and Fire Emblem Heroes.

C2: Pokemon GO was developed completely separately. The only connection Nintendo have to it is their ownership of one third of the Pokemon Company, and the various trademarks.

C1: So in this video I reckon it’s a good time to assess what Nintendo have done right so far on mobile platforms, and some of the places where they’ve come up short.

Now each of these three apps are wildly different, and have taken wildly different approaches to the mobile gaming space. It’s even a stretch to call Miitomo a game, it’s more like a truncated social media platform, than say a mobile version of Tomadachi Life.

It had some quirky moments, and it was fun for a while customising your Mii avatar in various outfits and such. The special events where you could get Splatoon and Zelda clothes and accessories were particularly cool.

Outside of that customisation aspect though, there wasn’t a great deal to keep you coming back. The question and answer feature was interesting for maybe a week or so, but wasn’t really a massive hook. And the Miitomo drop game, whilst a mildly amusing way to acquire more outfits

C2: Watching my friend’s head’s bounce around off of pegs and flippers did bring a smile to my face

C1: Again didn’t really get it’s hooks into you. I confess that after the app had lay dormant for a while I deleted it off my phone, as it was just taking up space.

C2: And that thing took up more space than J Lo’s arse.

C1: Super Mario Run however, is a very different kettle of fish.

This was a proper Mario game, brilliantly tailored to the mobile platform. I don’t really understand the people who were complaining that it wasn’t a proper Mario experience. Do you really just want a straight port of Super Mario Bros on your phone? I know I much prefer the approach they took of tailoring traditional Mario platforming, to the device that it would be played on.

I thought the game played great, each of the various modes kept me coming back for more, and it was brilliantly balanced for casual players to get involved, even more so after the recent update which added an easy mode,

yet still with enough challenge there for seasoned Mario veterans to sink their teeth into. Collecting the various Pink, Purple, and Black special coins got really challenging, and those bonus levels were approaching Super Mario Maker levels of insanity.

C2: My phone was lucky it didn’t go hurtling across the room trying to do that black coin one.

C1: Because of the amount of content in it, and the quality of it, I had no regrets in paying the 8 quid for the full game. Especially considering it meant I wasn’t going to be bombarded with ads or prompts for micro transactions whilst I was playing.

One premium price point and you’re done, here’s your game, go and enjoy it, is an approach I wish a lot more mobile developers would take.

That having been said, when it came to the messaging, I do think things went a little bit breasts skyward. This is reflected in the game’s poor app store reviews, which rarely mention the quality of the game itself, instead expressing frustration at having to pay for the levels from world 1-4 onwards after downloading the app for free.

Take this review from ClownKillaz99

C2: What ClownKillaz1 through 98 thought, we don’t know.

<Read review>

It’s interesting to note that the end of that review actually backs Nintendo’s one and done pricing strategy. But the confusion arises from not having that cost up front in the app store, instead giving players the impression the game is a freebie, and then hitting them with the premium price point out of the blue three levels in.

Now people like you and me

C2: Who have no lives and know about this stuff

C1: Were well aware that we would be paying for the game. But the huge majority of casual mobile gamers aren’t the type of people who, for example, get out of bed at 3am to watch a press conference livestreamed from Japan

C2: <mug to camera>

C1: So they will be taken aback by this sudden confrontation of a relatively large cost to continue playing.

What Nintendo should have done is offered the three levels as a free to download demo version, with a separate listing for the full shebang. It would’ve saved a lot of confusion, and those app store reviews would probably be a lot more favourable.

Taking all that into consideration though, the game has had over 70 million downloads, with a 5% conversion rate for people paying for the full game. Which in the mobile gaming space, isn’t actually all that bad.

Now Fire Emblem Heroes on the other hand, takes a full on free-to-play approach, with micro-transactions for various things in game. The game itself, is again, of a really high quality, the artwork is great, and although the monetization is based on micro-transactions, they aren’t intrusive. You know they’re there, and I can see myself maybe shelling out for a few orbs here and there to add more heroes to my team, but it doesn’t seem necessary to enjoy the game.

I do wish that the game did a bit of a better job in explaining what all the various items and features are, as I still don’t really know what I’m doing outside of battling and summoning heroes. The other minor quibble was the amount of additional downloads the game had to go through to get properly started after the initial install.

But both Fire Emblem Heroes, and Miitomo, aren’t constantly pestering you to spend money, and there isn’t a necessity to, in order to enjoy the game. But the option is there if you need or want it. This to me seems like the right approach to take when it comes to Free To Play games.

=It also makes me incredibly fearful for the Animal Crossing mobile game when that hits. I’ve sunk something like 350/400 hours into New Leaf

C2: I’ve got better relationships with some of those villagers than I do real people

C1: And depending on what form that game will take, my bank balance may end up taking multiple, sizeable hits.

So as stand alone experiences, Miitomo’s quirkiness aside, Nintendo are making some great content for mobile platforms. The only real major quibble is with their communication. They dropped the ball a little on Mario Run, which led to a not insignificant backlash, and I wish that Fire Emblem Heroes did a better job at explaining the various features within the game. Nintendo need to be more aware that they’re now talking to a market that perhaps aren’t as clued up as traditional gamers, or even the casuals who dabbled with the Wii.

Even as a gamer myself but someone who’s never really played Fire Emblem, a little bit more hand-holding would have been welcome, it would help me get more invested in the game itself, and thus more likely to go and check out the full games on 3DS.

This latter point is the key to Nintendo’s approach on mobile. The use of these lighter iterations in the series as a means of getting people interested in their IP will be a crucial part of Nintendo’s business strategy going forward, and so far it seems to be working.

Pokemon GO, whilst not a Nintendo developed app, still pushed Pokemon Sun and Moon sales exponentially, and also resulted in a big 3DS hardware sales bump as people bought systems to play those games. Similarly, following Super Mario Run, Super Mario Maker on 3DS shifted over 2 million copies in it’s first month, whereas the Wii U version has lifetime sales of 3.8 million.

Obviously the install base on 3DS is significantly larger, but that’s still pretty impressive, and it’s entirely possible that Super Mario Run helped drive a part of that.

Like I say, I’ve never really played a Fire Emblem game before either, but Heroes has definitely gotten me more interested in the series, and I might just pick up a copy of Awakening for 3DS to see what a full experience is like.

C2: You know, once I’m done with Breath of the Wild and have time for RPGs.

C1: A synchronised approach in future, and cross platform promotion of other titles within franchises, has potential to really drive both software, and hardware sales, in the future. If Nintendo line-up the Animal Crossing mobile game right,

C2: Appealing to the Farmville crowd say

C1: and then use that to drive interest in a new entry into the Animal Crossing series on Switch, they’re setting themselves up for some real success.

How are you finding Nintendo’s mobile fare so far? Has Fire Emblem Heroes bankrupted you yet? Are you still checking Miitomo every day? How’s your hunt for those special coins going? Fire away in the comments below. And please, if you liked the video, hit the like button, maybe check out some of the other stuff too, and if you like that, hit subscribe. Thanks to everyone who has done so far, thank you for watching, and I’ll catch you next time.

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