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Is Pokémon Go Proof That Nintendo Should Go Third Party?

Pokémon Go

Pokémon Go hasn’t even been officially released here in the UK yet, but still my Facebook feed is full of friends’ screenshots of their captured little critters on their mobile phones. A simple mobile game based on a 20 year old franchise has taken the world by storm… but why?

The answer? People simply love the iconic nature of Nintendo’s franchises. Even people who aren’t really into playing games recognise and love the likes of Mario, Link and Pikachu.

The trouble is, those familiar faces aren’t usually available outside of Nintendo’s niche market of console owners. Their recent break into mobile gaming – with Pokémon Go following on from Miitomo that we saw earlier in the year – proves that Nintendo is still relevant, and has a massive untapped fanbase.

Nintendo have always been very exclusive and insular with their IPs. Mario et al have never seen light of day outside the confines of a Nintendo console – and Pokémon was much the same, until now. What the success of Pokémon Go has proved though, is that Nintendo has a phenomenal fanbase – but outside of their consoles. If so many people are excited to play Pokémon on their phones, then the likes of Super Mario Bros. or Legend of Zelda would undoubtedly get an even bigger reaction would they ever be available on other formats.

So just what is Pokémon Go?

Developed by Niantic, it’s a free-to-play augmented reality game that hides Pokémon in the real world. Similar to the geocaching trend that hit a few years back, Pokémon Go encourages players to go out into their local environment and use a map (based on Google’s mapping technologies) to locate Pokémon that are nearby. Once you’ve captured them, you can battle and train them. As always, the lure is to catch and own the rarest and most desirable creatures.

Pokemon Go 2

The success of the game has seen a massive spike in Nintendo’s share value in the last few days – Fox Business reports that a $7.5 billion increase has been added to Nintendo’s market value since the release of Pokémon Go.

If a free game can add so much value to the company – a company that has suffered poor sales of its last major console release, Wii U, and declining sales figures over the last few years – surely the craze accompanying Pokémon Go should make them realise that their focus on hardware may not be the right thing to do?

Nintendo’s new, and somewhat secretive console, codenamed “NX”, is set to release in March 2017. Some third party developers have jumped on board – as they did with the launch of the Wii U – but largely, as always with Nintendo products, the main draw is their first party IPs.

IGN reported earlier this week that Pokémon Go has more active users on Android than Twitter – the eighth most popular website in the world. And it’s not even released globally yet. That’s potentially hundreds of millions of people that are playing Pokémon Go daily. Hundreds of millions of people that are fans of Nintendo products – but not owners of Nintendo consoles. Why haven’t Nintendo tapped into this unreached fan base before?

Sure, Pokémon Go is free – and everyone loves a good freebie, right? – but thousands of other apps are free, and they don’t skyrocket market values by billions. In my opinion, the widespread appeal of Pokémon Go just demonstrates how appealing Nintendo IPs are to the general public… just not enough to warrant them spending several hundred dollars on a console that they’ll use for little else.

Who knows, perhaps the NX will prove everyone wrong and make Nintendo a valid contender in the console market – but it seems unlikely. Should the NX go the same way as Wii U, I hope that Nintendo look to the success of Pokémon Go as a realisation that their appeal as a games developer is much wider than their appeal as a hardware manufacturer. Should their killer IPs such as Mario and Zelda be made available as third party titles on other formats, Nintendo would see a phenomenal change in their player base.

Editor in chief // Kim's been into video games since playing Dizzy on her brother's Commodore 64 as a nipper. She'll give just about anything a go, but she's got a particular soft spot for indie adventures. If she's not gaming, she'll be building Lego, reading a thriller, watching something spooky or... asleep. She does love to sleep.