Super Mario to go mobile as Nintendo ventures into smartphone games

Tue Mar 17, 2015 6:38am EDT
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By Teppei Kasai

TOKYO (Reuters) - Japanese video game maker Nintendo Co Ltd will venture into smartphone games, heeding calls from investors to boost revenue by taking iconic characters like Super Mario to players increasingly shunning its consoles.

Nintendo, which already warned its annual operating profit would halve on weak console sales, said on Tuesday it was teaming up with online gaming firm DeNA Co Ltd to develop and operate gaming apps.

The two companies will also launch later this year an online membership service accessible on mobile devices as well as Nintendo's existing Wii U console and the portable 3DS.

"This will allow us to build a bridge between smart devices and gaming consoles," Nintendo President Satoru Iwata told reporters. "It doesn't mean smart devices will eat away at gaming consoles, it will create an entirely new type of demand."

Investors have long called on Nintendo to shift its focus to mobile devices after losing customers to both smartphone gaming app makers and console rivals like PlayStation maker Sony Corp and Xbox maker Microsoft Corp.

The company had so far resisted these calls, pinning its hopes on hit games such as "Mario Kart 8". But in January, it halved its operating earnings target for the fiscal year through March to 20 billion yen ($169 million), citing weak 3DS sales in the year-end holiday season.

Under the partnership, Nintendo and DeNA would buy 22 billion yen worth of shares in each other. As a result, Nintendo will acquire a 10 percent stake in DeNA while DeNA will acquire a 1.2 percent stake in Nintendo.

Although Iwata didn't disclose any details about Nintendo's first mobile game, he said it would not be a hand-me-down from the company's famed console titles.   Continued...

Attendees walk past Nintendo Co.'s Super Smash Bros. signage at the 2014 Electronic Entertainment Expo, known as E3, in Los Angeles, California June 11, 2014.REUTERS/Kevork Djansezian