Last week’s news of Nintendo’s partnership to enter the world of smartphone gaming stirred up a wide range of reactions, from anticipation to bewilderment. But the one reaction that seemed to come up more often than not was “can Nintendo enter the world of free-to-play mobile games without tarnishing their stellar reputation?”
Enter Pokemon Shuffle.
While not a mobile game (Pokemon Shuffle launched on the 3DS on Feb. 18), it plays like a mobile game. And when played from a mobile gamer’s perspective, it works quite well. TouchArcade even speculated (prior to the DeNA announcement) that this might just be the first game Nintendo is making for mobile.
Here’s where things get strange, though. While Pokemon Shuffle seems like a great fit for smartphones, the critical reception among non-mobile gaming sites has been downright dismal. Destructoid said that “any way you slice it it’s not good,” finding fault with the game’s micro-transaction nature. The Verge’s headline reads “Nintendo has started making bad free-to-play games like everybody else.”
Despite how much the mainstream press has insisted Pokemon Shuffle is a flop, Nintendo has just revealed a mighty big number: the game has been downloaded 2.5 million times in just a month. To put that into perspective, that’s twice as many installs as Animal Crossing: New Leaf did in its first month according to VGChartz, who also claim that New Leaf is the 6th highest selling 3DS game to date.
Of course, there’s a big difference in the barrier to entry between Pokemon Shuffle and Animal Crossing: New Leaf. One is free and one will set you back $30 — but isn’t that the point? If Nintendo can get 2.5 million people to download a free game on the 3DS, just imagine what they can do on iOS and Android.
This ultimately doesn’t answer the big question of whether or not Nintendo can enter the world of free-to-play mobile games without tarnishing their reputation, but it seems like gamers are willing to give them the benefit of the doubt. At the very least, 2.5 million of them have so far.