A few years ago, it looked like mobile games could be the next big frontier for Nintendo, bringing the company's formidable franchises and design know-how to a widespread and lucrative market. Now, with the Switch three years into a lifecycle that's already proven far more successful than its predecessor's, it looks like Nintendo's reigning in its mobile plans.
"We are not necessarily looking to continue releasing many new applications for the mobile market," says Nintendo President Shuntaro Kurukawa, quoted in a Bloomberg piece analyzing the company's changing stance on mobile. Furukawa's comment came in May, at a time where Nintendo would've already seen evidence of its mobile business slipping. Data collected by Sensor Tower, a mobile app analytics firm, shows Dragalia Lost, Super Mario Run, and Fire Emblem Heroes revenues trending downwards year-over-year from February through May. Other prominent mobile titles thrived during that same time, perhaps due to bumps in player onboarding and retention due to COVID-19 stay-at-home orders.
Nintendo's big quarantine success story, Animal Crossing: New Horizons, also led to a bump in demand for the Switch. Additionally, Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp, Nintendo's mobile entry in the series, actually saw an increase in revenue over the same period as the aforementioned mobile titles. Still, New Horizons' impressive performance may have top decision-makers questioning the idea that Nintendo should maintain focus on mobile instead of its own console, which has far outsold the Wii U.
Furthermore, Sensor Tower data presented by Bloomberg shows that even Fire Emblem Heroes, Nintendo's top-performing mobile title, was dwarfed in terms of 2019 revenue ($154 million) when compared to heavy-hitters like Fortnite ($407.1 million) or Tencent's Honor of Kings ($1.7 billion). Added together, Nintendo's mobile titles only comprise a small sliver of the mobile market despite the company's well-established branding.
It appears that Nintendo doesn't have any mobile titles planned for release in the near future. Last year's Mario Kart Tour, Nintendo's major mobile release for 2019, saw impressive day one downloads but still lagged far behind titles like Fire Emblem Heroes in terms of revenue at launch.
Meanwhile, Nintendo partners The Pokemon Company continue to pursue expansion in the mobile space (previous reporting indicates that the two don't align on how to best monetize mobile titles). With 2019 marking Pokemon Go's most successful year since launch, The Pokemon Company recently announced two more mobile titles: Pokemon Smile, a game designed to help children brush their teeth, and Pokemon Cafe Mix, a new take on the kind of puzzle and character collecting gameplay popularized on mobile by Disney Tsum Tsum.