Nintendo bets on Super Mario game for iPhone

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Nintendo bets on Super Mario game for iPhone

Tokyo (AFP) – Nintendo’s tie-up with Apple on a Super Mario app for iPhone is more proof the console-maker could score big in mobile gaming, analysts said Thursday, as its stock skyrocketed.

The deal, announced in the United States Wednesday, will see “Super Mario Run” available exclusively for the Apple smartphone from later this year and follows Nintendo’s huge hit with the Pokemon Go app this summer.

Investors cheered the deal as they pushed the Tokyo-listed stock up 18 percent in early trade before it finished at 27,955 yen ($275), up 13.2 percent. 

Nintendo shares have been on a tear since the July release of Pokemon Go — making the company more valuable than Sony at one stage — as markets embraced the game as vindication for its long-awaited move into mobile gaming.

After years of pressure, Nintendo — which also created the Donkey Kong and Legend of Zelda brands — abandoned a consoles-only policy and opened the door to licensing some of its characters for mobile game use.

“It is a big deal,” Neil Campling, an analyst at Northern Trust Capital Markets, said of the Nintendo-Apple announcement.

“This venture is perhaps the biggest endorsement we could possibly have imagined that Nintendo’s strategy to monetise their huge franchise IP (intellectual property) on mobile and ex-platform reliant technology is the right one,” he said in a commentary, according to Bloomberg News.

The deal comes after Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe last month appeared at the Rio Olympics’ closing ceremony in the mustachioed plumber’s red hat and blue overalls to promote the Tokyo 2020 Games.

– Late visionary –

In March, Kyoto-based Nintendo released its first mobile game “Miitomo” — a free-to-play and interactive game that allows users to create avatars — as it tries to compete in an industry that has increasingly moved online.

That followed the firm’s announcement last year that it was teaming up with Japanese mobile specialist DeNA to develop games for smartphones based on its host of popular characters.

Analysts said much of the credit belongs to Nintendo’s late president Satoru Iwata, a charismatic visionary who died last year at age 55.

In a dramatic U-turn, Iwata acknowledged in 2014 that Nintendo could no longer afford to stand on the sidelines of the booming mobile games market.

But the company’s mobile moves since Iwata’s death appear to go well beyond the conservative steps he had envisioned.

“The rails were laid by Mr Iwata,” said Ace Securities analyst Hideki Yasuda.

“Nintendo realised there was a limit to what it could do on its own. They wanted to expand the business and now we’re seeing the fruits of those efforts.”

The firm is also seeing an uptick in advance orders for a Pokemon game for its 3DS handheld console and it’s also developing a new home-based system, set for release next year.

Nintendo stands to profit more directly from the Apple venture than Pokemon Go, which has now been downloaded more than half a billion times.

Nintendo did not create Pokemon Go, but it holds a stake in its US maker Niantic Labs. It also owns about one-third of the Pokemon Company, which will get licensing fees for loaning out the cuddly monsters’ brand.

The app sparked a worldwide frenzy among millions of users who took to the streets with their smartphones in a bid to capture and train mythical creatures for battles.

“Super Mario Run” will hit Apple’s App Store later this year
Copyright AFP/File Kazuhiro Nogi
Nintendo shares
Copyright AFP Laurence CHU

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