Nintendo recently reported its first annual loss, showing that perhaps 3DS isn’t enough of a success. Nintendo hasn’t even released its legacy games on mobile platforms where others like Sega have (Sonic the Hedgehog). While current CEO of Nintendo, Satoru Iwata, is in charge, it’s unlikely that Nintendo will acknowledge its mistake. When asked about releasing Nintendo games for smartphones, Iwata replied, “This is absolutely not under consideration. If we did this, Nintendo would cease to be Nintendo....”
But what about rereleasing classics on iOS? That doesn't seem to conflict with Iwata's unflinching desire to keep Nintendo from making easy money. Let's take a look at some numbers to estimate those releases.
The following data about Nintendo platforms and games are from VGChartz.
- The Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) sold 500.01 million units globally.
- Super Mario Bros. sold 40.24 million units.
- The original Game Boy sold 501.11 million units.
- Pokemon (including the Red, Green, Blue, and Yellow versions) sold 46.01 million units.
Now let’s look at some iOS comparisons.
- Apple has recently updated the lifetime sales number for iOS devices at 365 million units, 67 million of which are iPads.
- Recent success Draw Something was downloaded over 50 million times in the first 50 days of being released.
Downloads of some popular iOS games, like Angry Birds, Draw Something, and more, have overtaken lifetime sales of the most popular NES and Gameboy games despite less of the originating devices existing. iOS users are willing to pay for the games that they want.
8% of NES users owned Super Mario Bros. (40.24 million copies of the game out of 500.01 million users). If only 4% of iOS users purchases a Super Mario Bros. port to iOS, half of the NES sales units for the game, Nintendo could potentially make $14M in profits. That assumes the game is sold at $0.99. But who honestly wouldn't pay up to $5 to play Super Mario Bros. (or Zelda titles) on the iPhone or iPad?
What about Game Boy games? Just a few months ago, Pokemon Yellow appeared on the App Store for a weekend. The app was not Pokemon Yellow. The game didn’t work. And despite over 1000 one-star reviews, people continued to download it. The game reached #3 in the Top Paid Apps on the App Store in an incredibly short time. The original Pokemon titles sold even more than Super Mario Bros.. It also may be more profitable considering it would be a great candidate for an in-app purchase scheme (in-game currency, collectable digital items and Pokemon, etc).
There are plenty of Zelda and Mario-like games on the App Store, but a game that truly mimics the experience and gameplay of Pokemon has yet to be accomplished. But one may be coming out soon. Stephen McVicker and Calisprojects are developing an ambitious, Pokemon-like game called ZENFORMS that's slated to be released in June.
Even if Nintendo releases Pokemon after ZENFORMS is released, it isn’t going to cut into Nintendo’s sales. But it’s unusual that Nintendo is refusing fans old games that would cost Nintendo nearly nothing to release. There’s a demand out there for Nintendo-style classics and Nintendo is losing out.