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Nintendo announces plans for smartphone games, NX console

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Akio Kon/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Those angry birds and candy crushers may want to watch out—Nintendo is moving into the mobile gaming world.

Nintendo and DeNA, a mobile company based in Japan, announced plans today to make new games for smartphones utilizing Nintendo’s vast and historic stable of characters. But fear not, this doesn’t mean Nintendo is abandoning its home console plans—far from it, as the company also discussed its upcoming plans for a new system.

In a press release, the two companies outlined the basics of this plan, which will see Nintendo and DeNA jointly producing mobile games that Nintendo also “expects to benefit from new business opportunities as more consumers encounter Nintendo IP.” Essentially they hope these games will make players more inclined to buy other Nintendo products.

Nintendo games made for smartphones will be specifically created for that system rather than ported from already existing titles. The companies also announced a “new core system” is in development that will be compatible with many types of devices from tablets to smartphones to PCs in addition to Nintendo’s video game-specific systems.

Either way, this announcement marks a change in policy from the company’s previous stance of keeping Mario and his Nintendo cohorts off mobile platforms. It will open up the already recognizable stable of Nintendo characters to an even greater audience who will have near-constant access to these games on their iPhones and Android phones.

These details were also revealed during a press conference held by Nintendo and DeNA, during which Nintendo’s president Satoru Iwata also mentioned that Nintendo is hard at work on a new home console with “a brand-new concept.” Currently codenamed the NX, Iwata promised more details would come in 2016, which likely means the system is at least two years away from launch. 

Iwata mentioned the NX “as proof that Nintendo maintains strong enthusiasm for the dedicated game system business,” a space where Nintendo has seen sales struggles in recent years. After the booming success of the Wii, the Wii U has floundered in comparison, having sold only 9.2 million units since it launched in 2012 as of reports in January.

The company’s current handheld, the 3DS, is still selling well, but the company would certainly like to improve its standing in the home console space. The Wii U still has some life left in it, however, with Star Fox and The Legend of Zelda games in development for the console.

A less flashy but perhaps just as important announcement for players who already use one of Nintendo’s current handheld or home systems is the news that the two companies will also work to produce a membership service that spans multiple devices. Think the PlayStation Network, which spans all Sony platforms, or the iOS Game Center, which can unite multiple Apple devices with gaming apps under one membership, but connecting your 3DS to your Wii U to the mobile Nintendo games. 

Users of Nintendo will know this was a long time coming. Nintendo’s current user ID system is tied more to individual systems, which has held the company’s systems back from being unified in the same way Sony and Microsoft’s platforms have been for years. This membership service is expected to launch in fall 2015.

This announcement also lines up with Nintendo’s announcement earlier this year that Club Nintendo, its loyalty reward system, would be shut down in favor of a new service.

Few specifics have been given about Nintendo’s mobile initative, but expect the company to unveil more in the months to come through its online Nintendo Direct video series or at major events like E3.