Nintendo is a signature video game maker — and also the world’s largest, in terms of revenues — that is behind the insanely popular Super Mario, Zelda and Pokemon franchises. Yet, the emergence of casual smartphone gaming has had a profoundly negative impact on the Kyoto-based game corporation as of late. Nintendo has posted its first two annual operating losses ever, both occurring in the past two years.
While one would presume that Nintendo could simply port its games to iOS, Android and other mobile platforms, in order to solidify its dominant position within the industry, company president Satoru Iwata believes that is a shortsighted vision. Instead, Iwata is focused on the long-term success of Nintendo as a corporation whose existence dates back to the late nineteenth century.
“If I was only concerned about managing Nintendo for this year and next year — and not about what the company would be like in 10 or 20 years — then I’d probably say that my point of view is nonsense,” said Iwata, speaking with The Wall Street Journal. “But if we think 20 years down the line, we may look back at the decision not to supply Nintendo games to smartphones and think that is the reason why the company is still here.”
Iwata has a successful track record at Nintendo, replacing former chief Hiroshi Yamauchi in 2002 after the less-than-impressive Gamecube console was announced. Iwata managed to keep Nintendo a profitable company through those years, and then debuted two new innovative products in the Nintendo DS and Wii. In the years since, however, the iPhone, iPad, iPod touch and other mobile devices have made pick-up-and-play gaming extremely popular.
Nintendo will more than likely need to reinvent its approach — the Wii U is not the answer — but in the meantime it does have one thing going for it: exclusive game titles with devoted fan bases behind them. On whichever platform the latest version of Super Smash Bros or Mario Kart is released, consumers will instantly flock to it. As long as this continues, the company has all the time in the world to turn things around.