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Nintendo missing out on Android success?

by Kristen Nicole

News of Pokemon’s decision to create an Android game has brought attention to Nintendo, as many wonder whether the game device maker will follow Pokemon developers’ trek into Android territory. Nintendo has responded in kind, telling Bloomberg in an interview that they have no intention to develop for mobile platforms, including Android or iOS. Noting their independence as a game maker, Nintendo says Pokemon’s decisions do not affect its own strategies.

But perhaps Nintendo should consider the popular mobile platforms, particularly Android. A recent Nielsen study showed that mobile gaming is a top activity for smartphone users, taking up an average of 9.3 hours of game time for Android users over a 30-day period. Mobile gaming has a 64 percent market share as far as categorized downloads go, with smartphones actually increasing a gamer’s likelihood of making game-related purchases. The Android OS is becoming an important game distribution platform, following iOS in terms of attracting developers and appealing to consumer interests. With such high activity around mobile gaming, there’s been a console game revival in the form of mobile games, and many game publishers are taking interest.

Console game revival goes mobile

Sony and its PlayStation brand has fewer qualms about developing for Android’s open source platform, seeing an opportunity to diversify its access to consumers. Sony’s even released a game-centric smartphone, the Xperia PLAY, to give users the best of both worlds. Rumors are already emerging around a future Sony tablet, code-named the S1, giving some insight into the mobile version of the PlayStation Suite designed for Android use. It’s certainly something Nintendo should think about. Yesterday’s buzz around Pokemon’s Android launch sent Nintendo shares up, as the company faces pressure to compete in an increasingly mobilized world.

But Nintendo would like to keep close control over its mobile devices, operating system and distribution, centralizing around the handheld devices it manufactures. Nintendo already has a good hold on the market, and the legacy console makers generally steer clear of direct Android integration. Sony’s support has validated Android to a certain extent, but it’s also prompted Google to tighten the reigns on its Android Market, banning emulators from distributing third party console game hubs to Android users.

While Nintendo denies any interest in Android development, some game companies are taking the lead in mobile gaming. Gameloft, for instance, has fared well with its Android stake, integrating deeper into the Android Market for extended access to this new generation of gamers. Their latest release, BackStab HD, is an action game of vengeance, where a man fights to gain justice after his family was murdered. The game takes full advantage of high-end Android devices’ graphic capabilities.