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Nintendo is planning a smartphone game membership service

Nintendo Mobile games
Nintendo is at long last leaping into the mobile space, and it’s doing so with no less a partner than DeNA, gatekeeper of the Mobage gaming service and app publishing giant. The goal of the deal is to deliver new games for “smart devices” as well as — and this is important, so take note — “build a new multi-device membership service for consumers worldwide.”

The games part is easy. Nintendo’s always held back from bringing its beloved stable of characters, like Mario and Zelda, to anything other than first-party consoles and handhelds. This deal effectively changes that stance. The announcement carefully notes that “all Nintendo IP will be eligible for development and exploration by this alliance.” So it’s more than just Mario and Zelda; everything’s on the table, from the classic franchises like Metroid, Kid Icarus, and F-Zero to more recent favorites like Pokemon.

While there’s no word on what specifically is in development right now, those details are forthcoming, and it’s a safe bet that we’ll hear more before or at E3 2015. One thing that is clear, however: Existing games that are out right now for the Nintendo 3DS or Wii U won’t be ported. As a whole, this won’t be a porting operation. The goal is to create new games, all built on Nintendo’s unique sense of style and play, but optimized for smart devices.

Then there’s the other part of the news, the multi-device membership service. Among the “big three” console makers, Nintendo has lagged behind Microsoft and Sony in more recent years due to a reluctance to embrace the sort of unified account system that services like Xbox Live and PlayStation Network offer. Now, with DeNA, the plan is to correct that.

DeNA brings its experiences building the Mobage platform, a mobile social network for games, to Nintendo. The idea is to build a membership service that can be accessed from computers, smart devices, and Nintendo systems (the 3DS and Wii U are specifically named). The news raises many questions — such as whether or not this will finally make it easier for Nintendo customers to access their game licenses for downloaded games on multiple platform — but we’ll have answers soon. The plan is to launch in fall 2015.

This deal, termed as a “business and capital alliance,” represents a titanic shift in the way Nintendo operates its gaming business. Whether or not it addresses long-stated criticisms relating to the company’s reluctance to embrace the modern age of gaming remains to be seen, but it is inarguably a step in the right direction.

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