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Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp, based on Nintendo’s popular Animal Crossing game franchise, was revealed yesterday in the latest edition of Nintendo Direct, the company’s popular series of updates and game previews. Despite Nintendo’s troubled history with mobile gaming, the announcement has received positive feedback from most early access players and reviewers. While the cutesy game series may seem like an obvious fit for a social mobile app for some fans, others are worried about the transfer from console to device. Even so, it’s possible everything we’ve seen so far of Nintendo’s newest app could point to their first major long-term mobile success.
A Flash in the Pan
It’s no secret that Nintendo’s known for its mobile games starting off with a strong base but lose public interest as quickly as it came. Their self-contained mobile games, like Super Mario Run and Fire Emblem Heroes, fared better financially and continue to generate revenue in in-game purchases for the company. Miitomo, Nintendo’s earliest attempt as a social, interactive mobile experience, received initial praise for its customization possibilities and unique question-and-answer sharing platform, but quickly fell out of favor with players who grew bored of a social interaction format that proved to be limiting. Arguably Nintendo’s biggest mobile success so far has been Pokémon Go, an augmented reality mobile game that motivated players to visit real-world locations to capture in-game Pokémon (if you don’t know what a Pokémon is, sorry, I can’t help you), but even a game that motivated thousands of people to congregate in parks and cities around the world lost public interest after a few months. It’s interesting to see how games with origins in beloved intellectual properties achieved varying success in the mobile marketplace, and it’s even more interesting to see how Nintendo fans will eagerly await each new mobile app, despite the company’s many missteps.
Lost in Translation
There are a handful of dangers possible during the transition from full-fledged console game to a mobile experience. For many companies, it’s tempting to generate revenue through extensive in-app purchases, becoming one of the first roadblocks mobile games face to retaining long-term players. Games making the jump from console to mobile often involve simplification of the game’s original concept, turning away old fans who may find the new experience watered-down. Additionally, traditional gaming experiences contention between fans of active, action-based games versus “casual” gamers interested in a more passive experience, like the minimal conflict format of the Animal Crossing series and a good chunk of mobile games aimed at women Retaining players on a mobile gaming platform is difficult, and unfortunately there’s no clear formula on this new market to keep a strong initial fan base from fizzling out, leaving your mobile game to lose players (and money).
Will It Be Good?
It’s hard to say from first glance how Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp will fare after its late-November North America release. Based on early previews, the newest addition to the beloved intellectual property appears to keep many of the classic game elements that keep fans invested. It’s also worth noting that the majority of Animal Crossing fans are female, a demographic that plays mobile games daily. Still, some in-game once free in the console game now include in-app purchases and time-sensitive actions that require the player to either wait or spend money may turn away old fans wary of change. Still, many early players hail Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp as hitting a “sweet spot” of old and new, and may prove to be Nintendo’s first big social mobile hit.