Nintendo smartphone game delayed to March, won't have Mario

The company's first smartphone game will be a 'free-to-start' title called Miitomo

Nintendo will roll out its first smartphone game in March rather than this year as originally planned, delaying the company's plans to cash in on the growing market for games on smartphones.

The company's president Tatsumi Kimishima said during an investor presentation that the first game to be released would be Miitomo, which he described as a "friendly conversation starter." It allows users to create their own avatars, called Mii, which will converse with the user and share the information with  avatars created by other persons registered as friends.

The game is likely to be a disappointment for gamers who had expected the popular character Mario to figure in the first smartphone game from Nintendo.

"The Mii asks you a variety of questions and communicates your answers with your Friends’ Mii," according to a copy of Kimishima's presentation on the company's website.

Kimishima took over as president from Satoru Iwata after his death earlier this year. Iwata spearheaded Nintendo's moves into smartphone games, but expected that the new games, built in partnership with Japanese mobile gaming company DeNA, would help boost sales of its consoles, as users "become familiar with the charms of video games."

The first smartphone game from the alliance between Nintendo and DeNA was scheduled to be available later this year, with about five titles in all planned to be released by March 2017.

Kimishima on Thursday also said the company was setting up a membership service, called “My Nintendo,” which would connect users through a cloud across a variety of devices including consoles and smartphones. "My Nintendo will work as a bridge between dedicated game systems and smart devices," Kimishima said.

Under a new point program to be launched, users can earn points across both consoles and smart devices allowing users to carry points from one device to another. Points will be earned not only for buying software but also from playing the games, unlike an earlier plan that ended in September.

In the six-months ended Sept. 30, Nintendo posted revenue of 204 billion yen (US$1.7 billion), up 19 percent from the same period last year but net profit dropped 20 percent to 11.4 billion yen.

Besides its core consoles business, Nintendo is aiming to cash in on its intellectual property through smartphone games, theme parks, visual content and merchandise. "We are planning to maximize the value of Nintendo IP, which has traditionally been used mainly for our dedicated video game systems," Kimishima said.

Nintendo aims to make profits from the smart devices business, maximize access to its intellectual property among a variety users, while building synergies with its console business, he added, indicating a continuation of Iwata's game plan.

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