Nintendo’s inevitable entrance into the mobile market brings new changes, business strategies, and a wider global recognition for the company. On September 21, Nintendo expanded its presence by opening an official LINE account.
Chances are, many of you reading this are unfamiliar with what LINE is. Some of you may have never even heard of it before. Hey, that’s totally fine because I wasn’t entirely sure what it was either until reading more about it yesterday evening. This article is intended to provide readers with a basic understanding of LINE, and how it relates to Nintendo and the person using it.
What is LINE?
In its simplest form, LINE is a free social network application that allows friends and family members to stay connected by exchanging text messages, photos, and audio and video. Users are also able to call one another or create video conferences. While the app has yet to find its place among the western audience, it’s gaining ground at an exponential rate.
Food for thought: LINE debuted in Japan on Android and iOS smartphone devices in 2011. The application has since expanded to BlackBerry, Windows Phone, Windows, MAC, and many others. By 2013, LINE became Japan’s single largest social network; industry analysts expect more than 700 million global users to be on LINE by year’s end.
Hook, LINE, and Sinker
As with many other mobile applications, LINE offers in-app content that can be purchased using real money. One of its selling points is the variety of supplemental features and games on offer, all under the “LINE” moniker. A Theme Shop even lets users re-skin the appearance of their app. For example, Square Enix recently published their “Dragon Quest” theme that features familiar enemies such as Slimes, Drakees, and Goldmen; it costs 150 LINE Coins or $2.99.
Here’s where Nintendo comes in.
The Sticker Shop lets users collect popular sticker sets based on a wide variety of anime, manga, video games, etc. As with the Theme Shop, stickers can be redeemed via LINE Coins or cash payment. Nintendo’s first set of stickers (announced last Wednesday) were Animal Crossing-themed and included 24 animated designs based popular villagers such as Isabelle, K.K. Slider, Lottie, and more; it costs 100 LINE Coins or $1.99. Stickers can be used in text message conversations (similar to emoticons or emoji) to convey a point or supplement a typed message with a fun or decorative design. Worth noting, there are a few options available for users on Android devices to score free Coins. For example, I watched the 30-second “Free Coins Promotion Video” and earned 30 Coins.
Fact: Out of the hundreds of sticker sets currently available, the Animal Crossing set is the most popular worldwide — ahead of sets released by The Walt Disney Company (Japan), TV Tokyo, and LINE themselves.
To further establish their presence, Nintendo today released a limited-time free Splatoon sticker set based on popular characters from Inkopolis such as Marie and Callie, Judd, an Inkling Girl and Inkling Boy, and a few others. It’s currently only available on Japanese devices, but should be coming to the West very soon. The Animal Crossing sticker set became available in the United States shortly after it was released in Japan, after all.
How Does LINE Affect You?
LINE may not affect you directly, but as a Nintendo fan, consumer, or investor, being aware of Nintendo’s efforts in a growing, competitive mobile market is important. Nintendo has already committed to its mobile business strategy, promising at least five mobile games by March 2017; the first one is still scheduled to launch later this year, and Pokémon GO will not be part of that effort. In general, any mobile-based decision Nintendo makes will impact its audience in one way or another.
Even if you don’t plan on using LINE, it could be worthwhile to give the application a fair shot. I downloaded it earlier and was rather surprised at how easy it was to setup and use.
Nintendo’s venture into LINE isn’t about collecting silly and cute stickers; it’s about bringing global awareness to their name and IP — through silly and cute stickers, among other potential digital offerings.