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Et Tu, Pikachu? App-Basher Nintendo Releases Its First Pokemon App

Nintendo (NTYDO) spent most of last year dissing the "superficial" iPhone gaming market to make way for its expensive 3DS handheld, but it seems to have had a change of heart. Later this summer it is releasing the first app for its popular Pokemon series on the Apple (APPL) iPhone and Google (GOOG) Android phones. About time.

Here's Kotaku's Brian Ashcraft with the scoop:

The app, Pokémon Say Tap? BW, uses music and on screen Pokémon cards in a timing game. The free app is slated to be out this summer, making it the first Pokémon game to appear on non-Nintendo hardware.

Essentially, this is a free, promotional app for the Pokemon games. Smart move, Nintendo. There are a few reasons this is important.
  1. Nintendo is tapping into a huge audience. Apple has sold 200 million iOS devices (iPhone apps can be used on iPads, too) and Google Android devices are well into the millions.
  2. The company is finally accepting the smartphone market. Just a few months ago, Nintendo CEO Satoru Iwata called smartphone games superficial, cheap, and low in value. What he didn't say was that smartphones have a very low barrier to entry, since now more than half the phones sold in America are smartphones. (Just a year earlier, Iwata had also declared Apple to be Nintendo's number one enemy.) It's both naïve and foolish to not accept that Apple is a force to be reckoned with. And, as Nintendo now acknowledges, low cost or free software can be just as effective as more expensive software.
  3. Nintendo knows it needs as much promotion as it can get. The company's Q1 net profits were down a whopping 66 percent. Worse, even after its hyped 3D portable was released this Spring, both the Nintendo 3DS and the Wii had the lowest sales ever in the company's home country of Japan. As TechnoBuffalo notes, the numbers were weak compared to even other video game devices -- falling behind the Sony (SNE) PSP and PlayStation 3, respectively.
So why not use the two biggest smartphone platforms to promote Pokemon, its highest selling game series? Gamers know that the limited Pokemon app is just a preview of the much deeper games available exclusively on the Nintendo game systems. The only damage that is being done here is to Nintendo's pride.

Photo courtesy of FHKE