Iwata says Nintendo was not cornered into joining the smartphone market

Nintendo President Satoru Iwata Earnings News Conference

Nintendo’s CEO Satoru Iwata has gone on the offensive, arguing that the company was not forced to backtrack on its plans concerning the mobile market, as reported by some outlets. Iwata had long been a hold out when investors asked about Nintendo’s mobile plans, but after the surprise announcement of his company forming a partnership with Japanese mobile firm DeNA, many felt as though Iwata was backtracking on previously made statements. In a chat with investors that has now been translated, Iwata stated that he doesn’t feel as though Nintendo is backtracking from its original goals.

A variety of media have written that Nintendo is cornered a number of times, but I do not think we were cornered at all. Needless to say, we are also aware that unless a company can deal with the rapidly changing world, it will face decline. But I would like to emphasise here that our alliance [with DeNA] is not the result of a lack of better options for a cornered company.

Instead of seeking out a company, Nintendo says the DeNA CEO spoke with him about remaining in the background, while being able to utilize Nintendo’s intellectual property to create new experiences on mobile. According to Iwata, this is exactly the type of arrangement Nintendo needed in order to get its feet wet in the mobile pool.

When I first met with [DeNA president and CEO] Mr. Moriyasu I started to wonder if there was anything we could work on together. After that, the more we discussed, the more I realized that DeNA knew so many things that Nintendo did not. Mr Moriyasu even said that DeNA did not mind remaining in the background as long as it could collaborate with Nintendo, and I came to realize that this could be a very productive opportunity as in comparison to what Nintendo might have been able to achieve by itself.

According to Iwata, the DeNA firm presented the right amount of knowledge and willingness to work with Nintendo that provided the right time to step into the market. He was careful to reiterate that Nintendo has received several offers from other companies, but it hadn’t found the pitch to join mobile until DeNA came along.

We have finally found a clear way to achieve a win-win relationship both for the dedicated video game and smart device businesses by deploying Nintendo IP raised in dedicated video game systems to smart devices,” Iwata said, implying that a smartphone strategy was previously rejected only because Nintendo was yet to identify a satisfactory solution.

One of the many statements thrown around by press after the announcement was that Nintendo was too late to join the mobile market, that firmly established companies have already been taking advantage of the boom in mobile for years now. Iwata doesn’t see it that way however, as he says the products they produce in the future will be the determining factor of whether or not the company was late to the boom.

As for your criticism that the decision is late, I think that whether it is late or not will be decided by what we produce in the coming years, and it could rather be described as the best timing.

Obviously there has been a certain amount of flip-flopping from Iwata on the issue as we’ve highlighted statements he’s made in the past where he reaffirmed the company was not committing to mobile. But as he stated here, it’s definitely possible for the company to change its mind, once the right partner and right strategy are found. The only thing that remains to be seen is whether or not this strategy will pay off for both Nintendo and DeNA.