You can finally play Nintendo games on your smartphone this year, but don't expect too much

Super Mario’s headed to your phone sooner than you think. Nintendo’s first mobile title, in partnership with Japanese mobile game development company DeNA, is set to arrive before the end of this year.

Nintendo CEO Satoru Iwata told investors as much during a presentation in Japan on May 8 — the translation is provided here by Nintendo.

The company plans to expand its mobile offering slowly: one game in 2015, another four by March 2017. If that sounds conservative, that’s because it is — Nintendo’s taking a careful approach to the mobile market. Iwata characterised the approach as such:

You may think it is a small number, but when we aim to make each title a hit, and because we want to thoroughly operate every one of them for a significant amount of time after their releases, this is not a small number at all and should demonstrate our serious commitment to the smart device business.

This approach is antithetical to the mobile market, which commiditizes games and rewards low-prices over quality. That’s not to say it’s the wrong approach, but certainly in opposition to how much of the mobile market works.

Nintendo mobile plansNintendoNintendo’s plan for mobile includes a direct connection to other Nintendo platforms

If you know Nintendo, though, it’s not a surprise at all: Nintendo’s long maintained a focus on quality over quantity. In the early 1980s, when the original Nintendo Entertainment System was first gaining traction in Japan and the United States, Nintendo employed a strict licensing system with game developers.

The system forced game developers to submit games to Nintendo ahead of retail launch in order to assure they were up to the company’s (often ambiguous, though certainly high) standards. More than just ensuring Nintendo’s games were up to snuff, the system actively prevented a market crash — something Nintendo feared after Atari’s crash-and-burn just a few years earlier.

Atari coverMatt WeinbergerBefore the gaming crash of 1983, Atari was king

Nintendo’s mobile approach is similar — rather than play the market’s game, the company does its own thing. “We are going to carefully select appropriate IP and titles for our smart device deployment,” Iwata said. “If we were simply to port software that already has a track record on a dedicated game system, it would not match the play styles of smart devices, and the appropriate business models are different between the two, so we would not anticipate a great result.”

In plainer terms? Don’t expect to play Nintendo’s most popular console games on your mobile phone any time soon, and don’t expect a flood of them either. As Iwata put it, “If we did not aim to achieve a significant result, it would be meaningless for us to do it at all.”

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