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Investors want Nintendo to make iPhone games

by Phil Hornshaw

The disappointing sales of video game maker Nintendo’s newest handheld gaming system, the Nintendo 3DS, have driven the company’s shares to a six-year low, and now it seems some investors want Nintendo to add the iPhone to its strategy.

Bloomberg has the story. It details what would be a significant change in the way Nintendo operates, given that the company only makes games for its own hardware. President of the company, Satoru Iwata, has said that as long as he’s in charge, that’s all Nintendo will do. But Nintendo has suffered greatly in the last three months since its 3DS, a glasses-free stereoscopic and updated version of the company’s extremely popular Nintendo DS system, was launched. It has already slashed the price of the device 32 percent in the U.S. and 40 percent in Japan in hopes of driving more sales.

But at least one fund manager recommends that Apple start to expand, and the iOS platform is where he’s focusing his sights. Of course, he’s just one fund manager – but consider the fact that when it was announced that a title in the Pokemon franchise, long a huge moneymaker for Nintendo, would be headed to Google’s Android platform, that Nintendo stocks jumped the most they had in four months. After Nintendo explained that it wasn’t a game it was making, but that the former Nintendo unit Pokemon Co. was behind the title, its stocks lost those gains. It seems investors like the idea of Nintendo moving to mobile.

It wouldn’t be a bad move, necessarily, for Nintendo to consider iOS, given how things have been going for other companies using the platform. Apple has enjoyed some pretty insane profits of late, setting revenue records with its earnings last quarter largely on the backs of the iPhone and the iPad. And then there are the major app makers, like Rovio Mobile, the maker of Angry Birds. A new report as written up by Mashable puts the valuation of that company at $1.2 billion after new funds.

Nintendo’s games would fit nicely on the platform. Many independent developers are building games highly similar to Nintendo’s franchises like Super Mario Bros. anyway, and the Nintendo name and its brands have huge selling power. Other game makers, such as Sega and Electronic Arts, are seeing success on the platform. Nintendo carries much more brand recognition than both, and is known for innovating with new technology (the DS introduced a dual-screen format, while the 3DS went for 3-D, and the Nintendo Wii was the first to introduce motion control to a major console). It could likely do quite a bit with smartphones and tablets if it would embrace them as a platform.

As Bloomberg points out, though, smartphones aren’t Nintendo’s only option. The company has been hugely successful in the last six years with its Wii console and DS line, and it has banked something like $10 billion in cash and short-term investments that it could use to do whatever it wants, including acquire other developers and expand business that way.

But it seems that if Nintendo finally does decide to come to iOS, it could be a huge force to be reckoned with.