Nintendo is doubling down on its mobile gaming strategy with a new title called “Dr. Mario World.”
The firm said Friday it was joining forces with messaging app Line and game developer NHN Entertainment to develop the game, the latest entry to its “Dr. Mario” tile-matching puzzle game series.
Details about the game are scant, but the company says it will be free to download with in-app purchases, hinting that users will probably have to purchase add-ons if they want to progress through the game.
Nintendo’s 2016 mobile game “Super Mario Run” followed a similar model — the side-scrolling game was free to download but required players to pay for additional levels. At the time the move was met with a mixed reception from gamers, with only a small portion of users opting for the pay-to-play option.
Rhys Elliott, content writer for gaming research firm Newzoo, said Nintendo’s tie-up with Line makes sense as the instant messaging firm has had previous successes in the mobile gaming market like “Line Bubble” and the Disney-themed game “Line: Disney Tsum Tsum.”
“Nintendo’s choice to get them on board for a Dr. Mario game is no surprise,” Elliott told CNBC by email. “If it is a success, we expect to see similar collaborations with other genre-specialist companies in the future.”
The game will be available for Android and iOS users in countries including the U.S. and Japan by the early summer, Nintendo said.
The announcement comes on the heels of the Japanese gaming giant’searnings report, in which it slashed its forecast for sales of the hybrid console Switch. Conversely, the firm also bumped up its guidance for Switch software sales.
“To maximize the expansion of the installed base Nintendo must attract outside software developers,” Jon Erensen, senior research director at Gartner, told CNBC by email late Thursday. “Without that support it will limit overall adoption of the platform.”
Prior to Nintendo’s partnership with Line and NHN Entertainment, the company collaborated with the $4 billion U.S. gaming start-up Niantic on “Pokemon Go,” an augmented reality app based on the Pokemon franchise.
Quite notably, Nintendo’s share price got a short-lived boost following the game’s release — despite the fact that it only owned a 32 percent stake in The Pokemon Company — as investors speculated on its potential to be an increasingly significant player in the mobile games market.
Shares of Nintendo fell 9 percent by the close of trade in Tokyo Friday, with market players rattled over the cut in its Switch hardware sales target.
A report published in the Nikkei on Thursday claimed that the company wasplanning on releasing a smaller version of the Switch that prioritizes portability and cuts out some features to reduce the price of the console. If true, the move could help boost the firm’s hardware sales.
On Friday, Nintendo also dropped news that it would be opening its first official store in Japan. The brick and mortar retail store will be built in a new shopping center in Tokyo, and will showcase the firm’s consoles, game and character-based merchandise.
“Nintendo doubling down on its brick-and-mortar presence in its home country of Japan is also a logical move for the company,” Newzoo’s Elliott told CNBC. “The Pokemon Company has already had major success with brick-and-mortar stores, of which there are currently 11 locations in Japan.”
The company has a huge store dedicated to the Pokemon series in Tokyo, which has become a popular tourist attraction for gamers and fans of the franchise.
“With hugely popular characters like Mario, Yoshi, Link, and Donkey Kong, Nintendo can similarly capitalize on its fandom with physical stores,” Elliott said.