Nintendo plans to develop and release new game devices to emerging markets beginning next year, the company’s president Satoru Iwata told Bloomberg in an interview today.
“We want to make new things, with new thinking rather than a cheaper version of what we currently have,” Iwata said. “The product and price balance must be made from scratch.”
Iwata reiterated in the interview that Nintendo won’t sell its games on smartphones, saying “We have had a console business for 30 years, and I don’t think we can just transfer that over onto a smartphone model.”
According to tweets by analyst David Gibson in attendance at Nintendo’s financial results briefing today, Iwata said that charging $30-60 for a game in emerging markets is difficult. Emerging markets need something special to reach mass market, and not just localize existing products that have higher price. Iwata added that Nintendo is studying changes in China.
The Chinese government recently lifted the console ban, allowing foreign firms to produce and sell hardware within the established Shanghai Free Trade Zone. Microsoft is teaming up with Chinese entertainment business BesTV to launch the Xbox One in China in September. It will be the first time a console from a foreign company has legally been available for sale in the country since 2000.
During Nintendo’s briefing for the fiscal year, where it posted a 46.4 billion yen operating loss ($456 million), the company revealed that it will release a line of Skylanders-style NFC action figurines and video games for Wii U and 3DS codenamed Nintendo Figurine Platform.
The figurine can read and write game data across many titles, enabling players to “customize your NFP to raise or train your own Nintendo characters.” According to tweets by David Gibson, the company demonstrated technology by showing a Mario figurine being used across several games.
“And it has been designed to be compatible with multiple software titles for Nintendo platforms,” Iwata said. “In other words, the figurines, which consumers can buy and collect, are going to work with multiple software titles to be released in the future, and we are aiming to develop more software titles compatible with the figurines.
“Nintendo has a lot of well-known character IP that has originated in video games, and we have been regularly releasing titles from game franchises that make use of this character IP,” he added. “This is why I believe a brand-new type of platform will be born when the character IP becomes compatible with NFP.”
NFP will be compatible with Wii U software from this year-end, according to Iwata, and will support 3DS software from next year. Nintendo will launch an NFP infrared reader for the 3DS first half of the next calendar year so figurines can be used across both the Wii U and 3DS. In development since last year, Nintendo hopes to showcase NFP related games and figurines in development for the Wii U and 3DS at E3 2014 in June.
“With the launch of this new product genre, NFP, which will be compatible with Wii U and Nintendo 3DS, is going to serve as the first example of actively utilizing our own character IP,” Iwata said. “At the same time, there are not only going to be decorative boxes for video game hardware and packages for software, but also Nintendo character figurines displayed on store shelves. This will provide exposure for Nintendo, play a great role in raising our brand awareness and create more opportunities for consumers to play video games.’
Nintendo also revealed today that it will launch a smartphone service with its first mobile application tentatively titled Mario Kart TV to coincide with the release of Wii U title Mario Kart 8.
The application allows users to watch and share gameplay footage and screenshots, official and user-generated, as well as view rankings and official tips through the cross-platform interface. The service supports PC, mobile and tablet devices. It is not clear when or if the service will reach western markets.
“As I mentioned at the Corporate Management Policy Briefing in January, our policy is to establish consumer relationships based on accounts named Nintendo Network IDs, which are abbreviated as NNIDs,” Iwata said. “This ‘Mario Kart TV’ (temp.) web service is available even for players without NNIDs, but by logging into the service with an NNID, they will be able to easily find their rankings, videos that their friends have shared, videos of tournaments in which they have participated, and it will be convenient to access this service through smart devices even when they are not at home.”
Mario Kart 8 is slated to launch on May 30 for Wii U. The game features 16 new courses and 16 remixed classic courses, as well as 12-player online play and four-player local multiplayer.