I ran into this article over at Kotaku this morning. For those of who are unfamiliar with the situation, Nintendo recently announced their quarterly earnings and it was bad, really bad. So bad that the media blew a comment made by President Iwata about mobile devices way out of proportion leading some to speculate that Nintendo may be developing games for iOS. All of this lead up to the investor call that Nintendo had last night where Iwata outlined plans for their future. One tidbit in particular stood out to me.
Also, we are planning to utilize Nintendo's abundance of character IP more actively. I think the reason that Nintendo is now considered to have this "abundance of character IP" is perhaps because of our passive approach toward the character IP licensing business, which tends to have a high risk of damaging the value of the character. In other words, we think that spending time to develop our approach of having our characters appear mainly in our carefully selected games has created our current fortunate circumstances. However, we are going to change our policy going forward.
To be more precise, we will actively expand our character licensing business, including proactively finding appropriate partners. In fact, we have been actively selling character merchandise for about a year in the U.S.
Also, we will be flexible about forming licensing relationships in areas we did not license in the past, such as digital fields, provided we are not in direct competition and we can form win-win relationships.
By moving forward with such activities globally, we aim to increase consumer exposure to Nintendo characters by making them appear in places other than on video game platforms.
So, what could this possibly mean? Could LEGO and Nintendo form a licensing agreement to produce sets based on some of their characters and/or games? It's not unheard of as an inside source has once told me that LEGO did try to obtain a license a long time ago, but the two companies could not come to agreeable terms. With Nintendo's earnings in the tank and the new direction Iwata wants to take character licensing, maybe it's time for both companies to come back to the negotiating table and hammer something out.
There is one potential hiccup: K'NEX. They currently have a line of construction toys based on Nintendo properties but does anyone actually buy that stuff? Even if they do, it's not unprecedented for a construction toy company to find one of their licenses suddenly expired and given to another.
I've been daydreaming pretty much all day on what LEGO Mario Kart sets would be like. Or Samus' Gunship. Or Starfox ships. Everything 8-bit. There are so many possibilities. It's a bit of a stretch to even assume that the people at LEGO and Nintendo who can make this happen have even thought about approaching the other. But with LEGO's success in licensed brands, and Nintendo's financial needs, it would be stupid for them not to.