Nintendaily considers Nintendo’s current mobile output, and plays around with some tentative predictions for the upcoming Zelda mobile game.
Unless you’ve been sleeping under a rock this week, you probably heard about the new Zelda mobile game being developed by Japanese studio DeNA. This comes as no surprise, as Nintendo will of course want to get their biggest IPs in on the mobile scene, but the question still remains how exactly a sprawling action-RPG can transition itself to mobile?
To answer this, it’s useful to examine Nintendo’s current crop of mobile games, which while not always successful, have at least been fairly inventive. Social media app Miitomo soft launched in January 2016 alongside Nintendo’s new loyalty programme My Nintendo, and was quickly lost to obscurity. Mario Run was an inspired take on the endless runner, yet despite a warm critical response, a (relatively) high price point meant only 5% of the 75 million who downloaded the trial went on to purchase the full game. Fire Emblem Heroes was pretty much a stripped-down version of the main series, and despite being competent, was marred with irritating gacha microtransactions.
So, what have we learned so far? Well first, we know Nintendo dislikes Fire Emblem’s method of monetization, with a senior official reportedly saying “Heroes is an outlier. We honestly prefer the Super Mario Run model”. Secondly, going on from this comment, I get the feeling Nintendo prefers to offer standalone experiences, rather than a stripped back version of an existing franchise. In essence, Fire Emblem Heroes is nothing but a Fire Emblem demo, exposing the IP to new audiences, but not offering enough to make it a real meaty experience.
With this in mind, Nintendo have assuaged two of my fears that 1) they are going to adopt an extortionate microtransaction model on their big mobile IPs, and 2) they are going to use their mobile offering merely as a marketing tool, creating thin, shallow content with an objective to upsell profitable console counterparts of their mobile games. Both of which, considering their financial misfortunes last year, Nintendo are perfectly entitled to do.
In short, all the evidence points to Nintendo treating mobile devices just like any other gaming platform, and accordingly are planning on carrying on creating experiences that make unique use of the hardware.
So what does this mean for the Zelda mobile game? Well firstly, I’m pretty confident the “10p a Bombchu” meme won’t become a thing. I’m expecting a game created and priced in the traditional way – perhaps a touch cheaper considering the Mario Run backlash, but not enough to compromise Nintendo’s integrity as a world-leading developer. This approach may not net Nintendo a fortune and is sure to raise the odd eyebrow in Bloomsberg, but as we saw with Pokémon Go, the added exposure adds to the bottom line through a franchise Halo effect. The value of not alienating long time fans by not soiling beloved franchises is also incredibly important.
I also don’t expect the game try and replicate the experience of Breath Of the Wild in any way. While Nintendo will of course want new friends to try the console games, the mobile game will likely stand on its own two feet, using Zelda characters, items, and to some extent graphical assets to create a brand new Zelda experience.
In terms of more concrete gameplay predictions, it’s impossible to make any realistic guesses outside the main tenets I’ve already mentioned. As Zelda has so many gameplay mechanics, I think it makes sense to take just one, and form a mobile experience around it. So for example, how about something akin to Link’s Crossbow Training, where you can use the phone’s gyro to refine your bow and arrow aim and shoot targets? Or perhaps a horse racing game similar to Temple Run where you can swipe to turn, and tap to give yourself a burst of speed? Even something more abstract like an Angry Birds physics-based demolisher where you have to strategically place Bombchus to destroy buildings could be a lot of fun.
Another idea I’ve heard shooting around forums is a companion app rather than a game. I don’t think this is too likely, but Nintendo have been pushing their Zelda lore over the last few years, so a digitised/interactive version of Hyrule Historia to read alongside the console games could work. A more likely idea would be an app that would allow you to accomplish tasks on the go that would benefit your progress in Breath of the Wild – for example tap-based mini-games that allows you to earn new equipment and rupees. This will certainly help Nintendo prolong the life of Breath of the Wild, which is something they’ll be wanting to do once people are tired of the DLC.
Whatever the Zelda mobile game will be, it seems Nintendo are steadfast for the moment in their determination to not sell out to the dark side of mobile gaming. It won’t be until next year we’ll find out for sure what the big N has planned (and we still have the Animal Crossing mobile game to be released first), but for the moment there’s nothing to suggest Zelda will prove to be anything other but extremely fertile ground for an interesting new mobile experience.