Pocket change: Nintendo's latest foray into mobile gaming may be a financial boon
Tom Nook is a money-making machine, both in-game and out. Nintendo’s latest mobile release, Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp, has become wildly popular. The game was downloaded over 15 million times since its release last week, according to a report from Sensor Tower. This marks the Nintendo’s fourth major release on iOS and Android and has already met with success.
The game, which follows the Animal Crossing tradition of making a home in a virtual town populated with anthropomorphic animals, is a “freemium” title that is free to download and features microtransactions to advance gameplay or collect in-game items at a faster pace. Nintendo has tried a few different revenue models in their previous releases. Super Mario Run, which was released late last year, allowed players to experience the first levels for free before prompting them to unlock the rest of the game for a one-time purchase of USD $9.99. That model failed to generate the cashflow Nintendo had hoped for, so their subsequent game, Fire Emblem: Heroes, returned to the freemium model used in their first smartphone title, Miitomo. Both Fire Emblem: Heroes and Miitomo have met with modest financial success but have struggled with user retention due to a lack of content (according to user reviews).
Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp echoes Miitomo in several ways; there is a lot of charm here, but gameplay is limited. However, where Miitomo was more akin to a social experience rather than a traditional game, Pocket Camp retains the core essence of an Animal Crossing game: meet the animal inhabitants of your town, complete tasks for them to earn bells (the game’s currency), and use the bells to buy items and decorations for your dwelling (in this case, a campsite). The gameplay can get repetitive, but as any Animal Crossing fan will tell you, the draw of these titles lies in the charm and the collectathon that ensues from the desire to fully flesh out your virtual home.
That’s where the microtransactions come in. Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp is unapologetically a freemium game. There are timer locks for certain items with the option to purchase bulk packs in order to speed things along. While game companies have recently come under heavy fire for an over-reliance on microtransactions (see: EA’s Battlefront 2 debacle), the practice is almost an expectation in the mobile sphere, especially since the game is free to download and can be played without making a single purchase. Microtransactions don’t appear to be a sore point for players; the app is currently enjoying a near 5-star rating on the iOS App Store (out of 179,000 ratings) and and 4.5/5 on the Google Play Store (out of 215,000 ratings)
Investors seem to think there’s promise in the title. While Nintendo’s shares slumped 1.3% yesterday in Japan, the company’s stock is up 4.2% over this past week, largely thanks to a major spike over the past weekend. While it was slow to start out, mobile may be a nice complement for the de facto patriarch of gaming; the company’s shares are up 92.3% year-to-date. While this is very likely due to the wild success of the Switch and the SNES Classic, mobile may have had a helping hand in this rapid climb. Last quarter alone, their mobile games were responsible for USD $157.52 million in revenue, a 426% increase over the same timeframe in 2016.