Where did it all go wrong?

I spent years arguing that Nintendo would never sully itself with half-hearted attempts to infiltrate the mobile gaming ecosystem, but earlier this year, I was proven wrong when former CEO Satoru Iwata revealed that the company was partnering with games publisher DeNA to bring its popular IP to smartphones and tablets.

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Admittedly, I was skeptical, but when I began to discuss the possibilities of this partnership with colleagues and friends, I realized there was real potential for Nintendo to make an impact in an unexplored arena.

Who wouldn’t spend countless hours playing a mobile Mario Kart entry on modern hardware? It’s not hard to imagine something along the lines of 2011’s Mario Kart 7 running on the powerful phones and tablets being released in 2015. In fact, even a direct port with touch and gyroscope controls would almost certainly be a best-seller.

But we’re not getting Mario Kart Mobile — not yet anyway.

On Wednesday evening, Nintendo held a briefing in Japan to further detail its plans for its upcoming mobile game lineup, which The Wall Street Journal was on hand to cover. The first game was scheduled to launch before the end of the year, but after discussing software sales, amiibo sales and a new membership service called Nintendo Account, the bad news dropped.

Nintendo has delayed the launch of its first mobile game to March 2016.

You might think that the delay would be the worst news of the night, but then Nintendo decided to unveil the delayed mobile game: Miitomo. It isn’t exactly a game though — more of a social app in which players create Mii characters and communicate with their friends. It’ll be free to download, but there will be paid DLC within the app.

Miitomo Screen

What’s so astounding is that the mobile chat app segment is unthinkably crowded at the moment, with far more failures than successes. I can’t fathom why Nintendo would want to take on Kik, WhatsApp or Line when each of those apps already have millions of active users. Additionally, knowing Nintendo, it’s not going to be nearly as simple to add a friend on Miitomo as it is on any of those other social apps — another barrier to entry.

I can’t imagine a worse scenario. According to Nintendo, the mobile games had to be delayed so that the company could focus on promoting its holiday lineup, but if you read my recent piece about this holiday season, you know that Nintendo doesn’t exactly have the most robust lineup waiting in the wings for the Wii U and 3DS.

Nintendo attempted to downplay the significance of the delay, but the market reacted swiftly. Within minutes, Nintendo’s stock price dropped 10%, inching it’s way back up to -8.97% before the market closed.

Having struggled to make a dent with the Wii U this console generation, you might expect Nintendo to go all out on mobile to make up some ground. Instead, the IP that we’re getting on mobile devices (in five months!) is one of the least valuable in Nintendo’s arsenal.

We’ll be on the lookout for more news regarding the four other mobile titles Nintendo plans to release before March 2017, but at this point, our expectations have been significantly lowered.

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