Nintendo is apparently playing mind games with consumers. Just days ago, news surfaced that a Pokémon game was heading to the iOS and Android platforms this summer. Nintendo only owns 32-percent of the Pokémon franchise, meaning that The Pokémon Company / Game Freak has the right to bring its pocket monsters to any platform it chooses. But given that Pokémon titles usually reside on Nintendo platforms, it was assumed that the company finally caved in and decided to develop for smartphones.
Following the game's announcement, Nintendo shares rose 4.9-percent, indicating that investors want the company to change its strategy. Previously shares actually dropped to a five-year low during E3 2011 in June after Nintendo revealed its next console, the Wii U. Investors were said to be worried over Nintendo putting too much focus on hardware and ignoring the industry shift over to social networking.
But on Thursday Nintendo spokesperson Yasuhiro Minagawa said that the company's strategy to develop software only for its own hardware “hasn’t changed and won’t change." That comment solidified previous reports that Nintendo had no desire to enter the non-gaming mobile market, whether it's an actual smartphone or simply games that run on non-Nintendo mobile platforms.
Yet the Nintendo smartphone drama took another surprising turn Thursday evening with reports claiming that Nintendo was "investigating" mobile gaming. "If we had never considered combining a mobile phone and a handheld device, we would be negligent," Nintendo president and CEO Satoru Iwata said. "But on the other hand, mobile phones are subject to monthly fees and we need to consider how well this would fit with game devices or how we should balance these aspects."
"Adding to this, mobile phone companies are generally divided by countries and when running a business on a worldwide basis, we need to consider in what conditions can we partner up with mobile phone companies around the world," he added. "Please understand that we are still researching these areas."
Obviously Sony figured it out with the launch of Sony Ericsson's Xperia PLAY smartphone earlier this year. Although the gadget features less-than-stellar specs, it's PlayStation-certified and includes a slide-out gamepad. Additionally, it's the first phone to play host to Sony's PlayStation Suite, an "emulator" of sorts that allows gamers to play PlayStation and PlayStation 2 titles. The phone doesn't even use a proprietary console-oriented OS, but instead relies on Google's Android 2.3 "Gingerbread" OS which also brings to the table its own library of games from the Android Market.
There's no question that Pokémon Say Tap? BW could be Nintendo's first smartphone experiment when it arrives later this summer. And even though the app will be a card-based rhythm game stemming from Pokémon Black and White, it's not a full-fledged game but rather a promotional tool according to the company. It also may not be heading to North America at all, but remain in Japan instead.
"On July 1, the Pokémon Company announced that it was launching a free Android and iOS application in Japan called "Pokémon Tap? BW" (phonetic)," said the company in a statement. "The Pokémon Company routinely launches applications for cell phones and PCs as a way to promote its non-video game products, such as a music CD and Pokémon TCG [Trading Card Game] cards in this instance. Since they are intended purely as promotional tools, not as unique video games, Nintendo is not involved in any way."
"The relationship between the two companies is unaffected," the company continued. "All Pokémon video game content will continue to appear exclusively on Nintendo platforms. As stated previously, Nintendo has no intention or plans of publishing its IP on non-Nintendo platforms. This is an example of a promotion by a key Nintendo partner and has no bearing on Nintendo's overall strategy."