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New Nintendo president targets ¥100bn mobile business

Incoming chief Shuntaro Furukawa believes a Pokémon Go-style hit will transform the platform holder's fortunes on smart devices

Nintendo has struggled to make the impact people expected on mobile so far, but the firm's next president is still confident it can achieve this.

In an interview with Nikkei, Shuntaro Furukawa hopes to build Nintendo's mobile games into a business worth ¥100 billion ($910 million). In fact, of all the platform holder's operations, he says smartphone games "are the ones I want to expand the most."

Furukawa will takeover leadership of Nintendo next month as its new president, following news that current boss Tatsumi Kimishima is retiring. Furukawa currently heads up the firm's global marketing department and is a director of its corporate planning division.

His comments follow a strong financial year for Nintendo, where sales more than doubled to $9.7 billion thanks to the success of Nintendo Switch. However, within its fiscal report, Kimishima reiterated that Nintendo's performance on mobile has "not reached a satsifactory profit point."

This has been an ongoing narrative for the firm since it first entered the smart device market in March 2016. While titles such as free-to-play Fire Emblem Heroes and 'free-to-start' Super Mario Run have accrued healthy downloads, their revenues have not met expectations. Even Nintendo's debut mobile game Miitomo is due to be scrapped this month, just two years after release.

Furukawa believes the key to overcoming these struggles lies in a single world-conquering title, much like Niantic's Pokémon Go. The incoming president was quick to reign in expectations by adding "I can't say there are any that are like that" among games Nintendo currently has in development for mobile, but remains optimistic that such a hit could be built in future.

"The idea that something will emerge that transforms into something big, in the same manner as game consoles, is the defining motive of the Nintendo business," he said.

Kimishima, also talking to Nikkei, added: "Pokémon Go, which transformed the story and gameplay for the smartphone, became a huge realization."

So far Nintendo's efforts on mobile have centred around previously established IP, but it recently announced plans for a new property, Dragalia Lost, which will be developed with Cygames exclusively for smart devices.

The platform holder's partnership with DeNA will continue, with mobile racer Mario Kart Tour due for release by the end of the current financial year.

With Nintendo back on form thanks to the Switch, it will be interesting to see the impact Furukawa will have on the company. Yesterday we reported he plans to run the firm "under a next-generation collective leadership."

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James Batchelor

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James Batchelor has been a journalist in the games industry since 2006, joining GamesIndustry in 2016, and also runs Non-Violent Game of the Day (@NVGOTD). He does play violent games, but always on Story/Easy mode.