Fire Emblem becomes the latest Nintendo franchise to get a mobile game

Source: Nintendo

First came the flurry of colorful monsters in the augmented reality hit game Pokemon Go.

Then came the world famous plumber Mario, who made his smartphone debut in Super Mario Run, which saw 40 million downloads in the first four days on the iOS platform.

On Thursday, Nintendo flexed its massive intellectual property muscles further to announce the imminent arrival of a mobile game from another one of its long-running franchises: Fire Emblem.

While the franchise does not have the same international clout as Pokemon and Mario, it has been around since the early 1990s, when the first game - Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon and the Blade of Light - was released in Japan.

Shareholders had a lukewarm response to the announcement on Thursday, with Nintendo shares closing up 1.43 percent at 23,800 yen.

Fire Emblem Heroes is a tactical role-playing strategy game about two warring kingdoms locked in a bitter clash. Users can build their army by summoning popular characters from the Fire Emblem series, and lead them using touch-and-drag controls on maps designed to fit smartphone screens.

The goal of the game will be to defeat every enemy on a given map in order to progress. There will also be a player-versus-player mode, where users can fight one another in what Nintendo defined as Arena Duels on the game's Google Play page.

The game will be available on Android and iOS platforms starting Feb. 2.

It will be free-to-play, with regular updates introducing new characters, content and additional hours of gameplay, and the option to make certain in-app purchases.

This could turn out to be a key feature for investors as it can theoretically attract more casual gamers to the game. Super Mario Run, on the other hand, is available for free for the first few levels before users have to shell out $9.99 for the rest of the game on the App store.

Unlike its competitors, Nintendo's foray into the mobile gaming space came as late as 2015, when it partnered with DeNA to develop several gaming titles.

But success in the mobile space has been visible. In the first 30 days of its launch, Pokemon Go bagged $143 million in worldwide gross revenue, while the in-house developed Super Mario Run is set to garner more than $71 million for the same period, according to forecasts made in December by analytics firm SensorTower, which tracks app data. Nintendo is set to release its nine months earnings on Jan. 31, 2017.

Analysts believe Nintendo's vast intellectual property library is a competitive advantage, and one that the company can benefit from if it is able to convert it into successful mobile games.

But the gaming giant is not ditching its legacy console business, despite struggling in recent years with the disappointing run of the Wii U consoles, which sold only 13.36 million units as of September 2016 since its launch in late 2012, compared to the original Wii's lifetime sales of 101.63 million units between 2006 and September 2016.

Earlier this month, Nintendo unveiled more details about its next-generation hybrid console, the Nintendo Switch. It is part gaming console, part handheld device and part tablet, and will be released on March 3, costing $300.

On Thursday, Nintendo also announced several Fire Emblem titles for the Switch and the existing 3DS console. It also said that Super Mario Run will be available on the Android platform in March.

Based on Nintendo's previously reported plans, it is likely the next title to make its smartphone debut will be the anthropomorphic animal-themed game, Animal Crossing.

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