Nintendo. File photo: Reuters
Nintendo. File photo: Reuters

Tokyo — Nintendo has made its biggest move in mobile gaming so far with plans to add Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp as its third smartphone title.

The game will be available on both Apple’s iOS and Android from late November and is the first smartphone iteration of a popular series about anthropomorphic animals. It will be free to download but allow in-game purchases to speed up progress, a key to making money from such titles.

Analysts have high expectations for the new game, with Goldman Sachs estimating an Animal Crossing title could generate twice as much revenue as the combined sales of Nintendo’s two previous smartphone games — Super Mario Run and Fire Emblem Heroes. In the June quarter, Nintendo reaped ¥9.1bn ($79 million) from its smartphone business. The company is due to report earnings for the September quarter on Monday.

"The intellectual property is often underestimated, but chances are Animal Crossing on mobile can become a big hit," said Serkan Toto, founder of consultant Kantan Games. "The game seems to offer high production value, mobile-optimised gameplay, and depth to make sure people keep coming back over and over."

Shares of Nintendo rose 0.1% to ¥44,140 at the close of trade in Tokyo after earlier gaining as much as 2.7%. The stock has surged 80% this year and its market value has swelled to about $55bn. DeNA, Nintendo’s partner in smartphone games, dropped 3.5% after gaining 7.8% yesterday.

The Animal Crossing series debuted in 2001 on the Nintendo 64 console, with subsequent versions appearing on the company’s DS and 3DS handheld devices, where they sold more than 20-million copies. The title has gained a strong following by giving animals memorable personalities and creating a community with various activities to complete.

The new mobile game involves players befriending animals and completing errands for them to collect rewards, which can then be used to build a customised camp site. To save time, players can choose to spend real money instead of completing tasks.

For example, Nintendo’s video showed it could take five hours to build a drum set for a camp site. Players could skip the wait by spending 30 "leaf tickets". Prices start from $0.99 for 20 tickets.

Players can also earn free leaf tickets by completing in-game tasks, such as harvesting apples or catching fish. But some tasks are limited to how many times they can be performed each day, in effect, bringing players back to choosing whether to wait or spend real money on leaf tickets.

"The monetisation seems to be more aggressive than the casual appeal the title suggests," said Toto. "A high-quality mobile version of Animal Crossing can become a long-term cash machine for Nintendo."

Players can also buy in-game items with real money, such as clothes to customise their characters or paint jobs for their camper cars. In April, Citigroup estimated the game would generate ¥14bn in sales in the current fiscal year, on the assumption it will attract 18-million users.

Animal Crossing was originally expected to be released by March 2017. Nintendo president Tatsumi Kimishima has said the company will release about two to three3 smartphone games a year, implying at least one more title could be released by March 2018.