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Nintendo Reportedly “Retreating” from Mobile, Greater Focus on Switch Thanks to Animal Crossing: New Horizons Success

Animal Crossing: New Horizons 

Nintendo are reportedly reducing efforts on mobile titles and focusing on Nintendo Switch titles thanks to the success of Animal Crossing: New Horizons.

The game sold 1.8 million physical units in its first three days on sale in Japan (making it the best opening week for a Nintendo Switch game), and analysts later claimed the game sold 5 million digital copies over March 2020 (more than any other console game in history).

Later it was revealed the game sold 11.77 million units in its first 11 days on sale, and 13.4 million in its first six weeks. In mid-May, it had become the fastest selling Nintendo Switch game in Japan.

Now, Bloomberg reports that Nintendo are “retreating” from mobile games, “after disappointing results deflated once-lofty ambitions.” While Nintendo president Shuntaro Furukawa had stated two years ago a potential growth of $ 1 billion USD from smartphone games, in May he reportedly had less faith.

After reportedly stating “We are not necessarily looking to continue releasing many new applications for the mobile market,” shares in Nintendo dropped by 4% the next day. Bloomberg claims that their efforts with smartphone games was out of necessity to compensate for the failure of the Wii U.

This may have also been due to the drop of interest in mobile games during the coronavirus pandemic; leaving many indoors with their consoles and PCs. Bloomberg claims that Sensor Tower’s data “showed marquee Nintendo titles like Super Mario Run plummeting by double digits.”

In global gross revenue for 2019, Super Mario Run earned $ 7.5 million USD, trailing behind Animal Crossing Pocket Camp at $62.9 million USD, Dragalia Lost at $ 63.5 million USD, and Fire Emblem Heroes $154 million USD. It should be noted the latter two are developed by other developers.

The above is further blown out of the water by Fortnite Mobile ($407.1 million USD), Gardenscapes ($538 million USD), Monster Strike ($930.3 million USD), and Honor of Kings ($1.7 billion USD).

Bloomberg then compares this to Animal Crossing: New Horizons; a game many would consider a “casual” game much like a mobile game. Combined with the success of the Nintendo Switch, Nintendo shares are at a reported 12-year high. The company also made “record earnings” during the pandemic (“February through May“).

Serkan Toto, a mobile games consultant from Tokyo, claimed that “since the release of Mario Kart Tour in fall 2019, Nintendo’s mobile pipeline is empty. In a sense, Nintendo’s enormous success on console reduced the need and the pressure to put resources into mobile. […] New smartphone games will come, but it’s very likely these will be just alibi releases to appease shareholders.”

Other factors such as the ongoing discussion and condemnation of lootboxes is also another factor likely to de-incentivize Nintendo from pursuing the mobile market. Animal Crossing Pocket Camp and Fire Emblem Heroes both shut down operations in Belgium, after the Belgium Gaming Commission declared loot boxes were the same as gambling.

Ace Research Institute analyst Hideki Yasuda further stated the importance of the franchise being used in a mobile game. “You need an active long-running franchise with hundreds of attractive characters to make a good gacha game and then you’d need to keep adding new characters each month to retain players. Fire Emblem is the only Nintendo franchise capable of doing that.”

This would likely explain why Fire Emblem Heroes and Animal Crossing Pocket Camp have done so well; a constant stream of new content to earn or buy. The same can also be said of Animal Crossing: New Horizons however. The latter also saw a 45% increase in earnings after the release of New Horizons. 

Bloomberg reports that Nintendo stated it would focus on mobile games that had already been released, and that it did not foresee revenue in that area having a notable rise.

Nonetheless, Nintendo has earned ¥51 billion yen (est. $4.7 billion USD) from smartphone games and other licencing in fiscal year 2019. However, this was an 11% rise from the prior year, and only half of the goal Furukawa had previously stated.

The success of the Nintendo Switch also likely aided in the game’s success. It launched in 2017, and by January 2018 had become Nintendo’s fastest selling console in US history.

At the beginning of May 2020, we reported that the Nintendo Switch had sold over 55.77 million units worldwide. Sources claim that Nintendo are seeking to increase production by 10%, to work around limitations brought about by the coronavirus pandemic, and end shortages.

Likewise, the coronavirus pandemic has been attributed to Animal Crossing: New Horizons‘ success. Reasons vary from its cute and relaxing tone, to providing a sense of routine and stability at a difficult time.

Animal Crossing: New Horizons is out now on Nintendo Switch. In case you missed it, you can find our review here (we recommend it!)

Image: Reddit

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Ryan Pearson

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Taking his first steps onto Route 1 and never stopping, Ryan has had a love of RPGs since a young age. Now he's learning to appreciate a wider pallet of genres and challenges.