Great overview by Bryan Finch, writing for Nintendo Wire, on the state of Nintendo's high-profile mobile titles:
With the recent release of Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp, Nintendo has now delivered all of its previously announced smartphone games. The shocking change in company policy that lead to the development of these titles was one of the final projects that Nintendo’s former president, Satoru Iwata, managed before his untimely passing.
These games have been a mixed bag of success for Nintendo, both in terms of quality and profits, and since all of the known games are now out in the wild, it’s a good time to check in and see where each Nintendo mobile game stands at the end of 2017.
My goal here is to examine what the games set out to achieve, how successful they were with those goals on launch, where they are today and where they can go from here.
Finch is spot-on about Super Mario Run and what went wrong with the game, and I agree with his assessment of Animal Crossing's future potential. I wonder what Nintendo could do with a future mobile Zelda game.
See also: rumors of Nintendo looking for another mobile development partner, and Pocket Camp's performance thus far.
Nerial undoubtedly has another hit on its hands with Reigns: Her Majesty. The iOS game, which is published by Devolver Digital, will be familiar to anyone who played its forerunner, Reigns. The game mechanics and art style are largely the same, but there’s greater depth and nuance to Her Majesty, which takes it beyond a dull retread of a hit formula.
Feral Interactive has brought Codemasters’ GRID Autosport to iOS, and it’s gorgeous. Codemasters is no stranger to racing games. The developer’s F1 2016 game was featured during Apple’s iPhone 7 keynote in 2016 and set a new standard for racing games on iOS when it debuted in November that year. Just over one year later, GRID Autosport is pushing those boundaries again.
This past Friday, Nintendo America announced via Twitter that Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp would be available on iOS worldwide on November 22nd.
Instead, the game showed up unexpectedly early on November 21st. This isn’t the first time Nintendo has surprised fans with an early release. In September, after announcing a release date for a major update to Super Mario Run on the App Store, Nintendo released that game a day early too.
In a move that may be in response to complaints that some levels of Super Mario Run required an in-app purchase, Animal Crossing is up front about its pricing, imposing a popup during the setup process that explains that Leaf Tickets, which are an in-game currency, can be purchased, but are optional. Before you can get started, there are also other instructions and a 99 MB update to download. It’s a laborious process but doesn’t take long if you have a good Internet connection.
Animal Crossing is based on Nintendo’s 3DS title Animal Crossing: New Leaf - Welcome amiibo and includes some of the same characters. You play as the manager of a campground, building your campsite and interacting with animals you meet. As you play, you collect items and complete tasks for the animals you meet. The materials you collect are used to craft items to decorate your campsite. Leaf Tickets, which you can earn in-game or purchase as an In-App Purchase can be used to purchase accessories for your campsite or speed up the construction of items.
I have only just scratched the surface of Animal Crossing, but it looks great, especially on an iPhone X. The game’s colors are vivid, and it takes full advantage of the iPhone X’s display. While not as deep as the Animal Crossing games available on Nintendo’s hardware, Pocket Camp looks like a fun way to spend some time over the long Thanksgiving weekend in the US. I’m also looking forward to connecting with friends who have Nintendo accounts to see what kinds of campsites they build.
Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp is available on the App Store as a free download.
Zach Gage has a reputation for messing with the rules of classic games with releases like Bad Chess and Sage Solitaire. With Flipflop Solitaire, Gage is back with another take on solitaire that’s simultaneously familiar and disorienting. The result is a fun, addictive game that breathes new life into the traditional card game.
Monument Valley 2 was announced and released during the WWDC keynote this past June. Andrew Webster at The Verge talked to the team behind the game about keeping the sequel a secret and the success the game has enjoyed in the subsequent months.
Since WWDC, the follow-on to one of the biggest App Store hits in recent years is selling well, including in China where sales are greater than in the US. Still, it remains to be seen whether ustwo’s latest release can match the original, which did even better in its second year on the App Store. Asked about how that kind of success can be replicated, ustwo head Dan Gray said:
“Your game needs to operate on a number of levels — at least that’s how we work,” he says. “When we think about how kids interact with Monument Valley, they treat it like a toy. There are these amazing structures, and it’s very tactile, there’s a lot of audiovisual feedback. That’s the most simple form of interaction. And then there are the people who understand the basic premise. In Monument Valley 2, that is a mother and child trying to solve problems together. Then there are the people who talk on internet forums and Twitter, and have really high-level, deep discussion.”
The Verge’s profile coincides with the release of a behind-the-scenes video created by ustwo that follows its team as they fly to San Jose and reveal Monument Valley 2 to the world.
As part of its earnings report, Nintendo announced today that its iOS game, Super Mario Run, has not yet reached ‘acceptable profits.’ At this point, nearly a year after the game’s debut, it’s hard to imagine when, if ever, that point will be reached barring a major shift in the game’s business model.
Super Mario Run took the App Store by storm in December 2016 breaking download records and topping the charts around the globe. But the game, which is free to download costs $9.99 to unlock all the levels. That’s a steep price by App Store standards for games. About a month later, the Wall Street Journal reported that Super Mario Run had been downloaded 78 million times and earned $53 million in revenue.
In contrast, Nintendo says that Fire Emblem, which was released in February and features a free-to-play model, has met its profit objectives. The same in-game consumables model has been adopted for Animal Crossing: Pocket Park, which is available in Australia and New Zealand but won’t debut in the rest of the world until late November.
I’m not a fan of free-to-play games in general, although they can be done tastefully. Perhaps Nintendo’s profit expectations for Super Mario Run were too optimistic from the start, but it’s hard to argue against free-to-play for a company like Nintendo when even its most beloved franchise is perceived a failure on mobile platforms.
Most of the world has to wait until late November for Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp to arrive on iOS, but if you live in Australia or New Zealand, you can play the game now. Jed Whitaker has an early review at Motherboard where he provides additional details about the game’s free-to-play mechanic and stacks it up against Animal Crossing: New Leaf, a 3DS game on which Pocket Camp is based.
According to Whitaker:
One major change to the Animal Crossing formula here is that almost all items must be crafted instead of simply purchased, and the time it takes to craft something passes in real time. The game starts out by having every item only take one minute to craft, but three hours in, wait times get much longer, and you can pay real world money to purchase the premium currency, Leaf Tickets. These can be used to craft items instantly and to basically speed up every facet of the game.
Wait times in Pocket Camp are three hours. By comparison, New Leaf wait times are three days, which Whitaker points out should make Pocket Camp more tolerable to fans of the franchise. Still, if you simply must have an item right away and can’t wait a few hours, you can buy Leaf Tickets as an In-App Purchase.
Fans of the Animal Crossing series may also need to lower their expectations a little. At launch, there are only 40 animals to befriend in Pocket Camp, a small number compared to the over 300 available in New Leaf. Still, even if it’s not as deep as other incarnations of the series, Pocket Camp looks as though it strikes a good balance that should make the free-to-play aspects of it tolerable.
Nintendo has announced that Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp will be released on iOS and Android. The game, which follows a free-to-play model like Fire Emblem Heroes that debuted earlier this year, will be familiar to anyone who has played other titles of Nintendo’s Animal Crossing franchise. Originally expected by March 2017 along with three other games, Nintendo’s latest iOS game will be released in late November 2017, although it is already available in Australia.