Exclusive: Nokia Nintendo phone went through R&D at Nintendo HQ

Dreams of what could have been

Exclusive: Nokia Nintendo phone went through R&D at Nintendo HQ
DS + Java

There have been plenty of rumours over the years concerning Nintendo and mobile phones.

After all, the Japanese mobile phone market is huge, while Nintendo is the oldest and most profitable Japanese games company, with dozens of iconic characters and a massive global audience. Surely it would be a match made in heaven?

But like many bar room discussions that seem to make sense, for some reason it's never happened.

Pocket Gamer has discovered, however, that Nintendo has done more than just sit around and talk about the concept. It's seriously investigated it.

Japan meets Finland

A development source, who preferred to remain anonymous, has revealed that there was a skunkworks R&D project run by Nokia and Nintendo in the early 2000s - about the same time Nokia was working on its original N-Gage phone.

The R&D efforts, which were located at Nintendo's Japanese HQ, were successful enough that the concept of a Nintendo phone was taken to the company's board of directors for approval. It was rejected.

At the time, Nintendo was starting work on what became the DS, and presumably thought a dedicated portable console made more sense.

In light of the N-Gage's failure and the success of the DS - four hardware redesigns and 120 million sales down the line - you'd be hard pressed to prove Nintendo wrong.

Look before you leap

"You have to remember Nintendo is a very conservative company," our source told us. "It always has various R&D projects on the go, but most of them are eventually rejected. It's just how it operates."

Since then, the massive success of Wii and DS means that Nintendo hasn't really had to worry about the potential of mobile games.

However, it's clear that the subject of the mobile sector - and connectivity in particular - occasionally comes up at Nintendo HQ.

Last year, president Satoru Iwata talked about how the requirement of a monthly subscription was a barrier for Nintendo's youthful audience.

And more recently, the always-on connectivity of the 3DS (the CrossPass system) has been compared to a cellular connection, even though it seems likely to be based on wi-fi networks, with the addition of adhoc connections which will automatically pass data between 3DS devices.

So, while the likelihood of a badged Nintendo phone seems as remote as ever, what's clear is that as technology converges the mobile phone is slowly embedding itself everywhere in one form or another - even in Nintendo portables.

Jon Jordan
Jon Jordan
A Pocket Gamer co-founder, Jon can turn his hand to anything except hand turning. He is editor-at-large at which means he can arrive anywhere in the world, acting like a slightly confused uncle looking for the way out. He likes letters, cameras, imaginary numbers and legumes.