How Nintendo Is Learning From Super Mario Run

"Although no single model is clearly superior, we have been able to learn a lot."

47 Comments
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Nintendo's smartphone game Super Mario Run was a huge hit in terms of downloads, passing 150 million worldwide. However, the company has acknowledged the game has not brought in as much money as it had hoped. In an investor briefing recently, Nintendo president Tatsumi Kimishima acknowledged that Nintendo is "still a newcomer in the smart-devices business," and added that the company is still deciding what is best when it comes to payment models.

Super Mario Run, for example, is free to start but you need to pay $10 to unlock all the courses. Fire Emblem Heroes and Miitomo, on the other hand, are free and supported by microtransactions.

"Although no single model is clearly superior, we have been able to learn a lot," Kimishima said. "We want to keep thinking about how consumers would want to pay for content in our future smart-device applications."

Of the 150 million downloads for Super Mario Run, less than 10 percent of players paid to buy all the courses. Kimishima did not say anything about whether or not this was in line with the company's expectations. He did mention, however, that while the total number of Fire Emblem Heroes downloads is "less than a tenth" of Super Mario Run, the game has actually brought in more revenue than Super Mario Run.

"The number of downloads of Fire Emblem Heroes is less than a tenth of the number for Super Mario Run, but the total figure that consumers have spent on this title is more than on Super Mario Run," he explained.

Kimishima stressed that Nintendo sees a "wide variety" of usage from its mobile games among users, including those who spend money on microtransactions. Nintendo's next big smartphone game is based on Animal Crossing, and you can expect the game's monetisation systems to reflect what the company has learned from its past games.

We are planning to release an application using the characters from Animal Crossing," Kimishima said. "The composition and size of the target audience varies based on the IP characters and game content, so we want to take what we have learned and consider all of these elements to provide a smart-device application that consumers will want to play for a long time."

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Avatar image for Xentarim
Xentarim

A lot of hate on Nintendo from this article's comments, but I seem to recall that this plan to go mobile was born from the slump post-Wii-U/Pre-Switch? At that point everyone was saying Nintendo was foolish to try to stick to its own platform and should give up on hardware.

Avatar image for ExoticCharm
ExoticCharm

I wonder how long it will be until Nintendo starts making all of their stuff into freemium games. I bet the day will come where in a Mario game mushrooms won't appear out of '?' blocks unless you have the season pass.

Avatar image for MHzBurglar
MHzBurglar

Why not ditch the mobile crap and focus all development resources on the Switch? The smartphone is not a platform that can deliver compelling, engaging content like Nintendo is accustomed to producing. Mobile's bread and butter lies shallow, microtransaction-laden skinner box games you play for 5-10 minutes at a time.

As Super Mario Run proved, When Nintendo tries to chase that market, the quality of the product suffers greatly. IMO this kind of exposure could hurt their brand more than help it. Since the entire point of going into mobile games was for brand image/exposure, it seems to be somewhat counter-productive.

Avatar image for doubtless1
doubtless1

See we're gonna end up getting freemium bullshit from them now because no one supports a pay once model on smartphones/tablets. If nintendo goes freemium from here on out its everyone's fault. This is why we cant have nice things. I'd much rather be charged once op front and never again unless its for additional content like several new stages/worlds/areas. **** having to dump hundreds into a fucking app slot machine game to maybe get something good and maybe progress. /sigh

Avatar image for angerawr
angerawr

right?

Staff
Avatar image for barcaazul
BarcaAzul

I think they charged too much. It was fun, but not 10€ fun. Better games for much less. 2/3€ and I would have downloaded it

Avatar image for Bread_or_Decide
Bread_or_Decide

Shame. I bought mario run and paid the ten bucks to unlock the whole game. I think at 3.99 more people would have unlocked all the extra content.

But once you beat the game the rally mode was pretty lame. I think a more traditional runner would have done better. I applaud them for trying something different but perhaps a simpler concept would have been more successful.

Avatar image for atherworld
atherworld

Could it be when customers say it's too much money, they're right? Could it be Nintendo should listen to it's customers when e say what we want and how much? Is the customer truly right?

Avatar image for dark_hound20
dark_hound20

@atherworld: if you dont listen to the consumer then who's gonna buy your product

Avatar image for Amnesiac23
Amnesiac23

I would rather be charged up front instead of having to deal with micro transactions. I don't consider anything that relies on microtransactions to be a game. Those "games" all feel the same because they are completely built around the MT system and the devs don't have much in the way of creative freedom.

Avatar image for Sindred
Sindred

Fu^%. Now they're going to make Zelda into a freeware shovelcrap where you have to pay extra for Link's health.

It's simple, and it works on your consoles. We will pay for full good games.

Avatar image for dillydadally
dillydadally

Well duh. This seems like a no brainier to me. Of course super Mario run isn't going to sell well when you only have like 25 total levels and are asking $10 for the game. It sold poorly simple because it was a horrible value. Give players a lot more levels or reduce the price to something more reasonable and you'd see a lot more sales. I know I didn't buy the game just because I felt i'd be done with it in a day or two and that wasn't worth $10.

Avatar image for doubtless1
doubtless1

@dillydadally: If you did everything its more like 75 levels. A lot of them completely changed for the coin challenges. There's also no way you'd beat them all in a day without looking up optimum coin routes like a fool.

Avatar image for tevic
tevic

10% x 150m x $10 = around $150m in revenues for Super Mario Run. Let's say $120m because "less than 10%" paid full.

Not bad for a game that would I guess cost around $5m to develop.

Avatar image for zmanbarzel
ZmanBarzel

@tevic: That $120 million estimate drops down to $84 million, though, once you've subtracted Apple's 30 percent.

Avatar image for yukushi
yukushi

I started to play the mario game on my phone but its not the same as mario on nintendo something is missing, mario on nintendo is so much better.

Avatar image for sirdood18
sirdood18

Don't screw the Animal Crossing Mobile game please

Avatar image for jimclirad
JimClirad

Wasn't the reason IWATA did a stock swap agreement with DeNA to get more people exposed to Nintendo IP so it'd translate to sales of SWITCH??? The whole reason he even did that was to show how their IP was fun, but bite-sized, and if you wanted to full meal, would have to get a Nintendo system. Kimishima is truly a businessman, not knowing, and realizing how one, 3DS and Switch do in fact compete with each other in the mobile games market, and two that the app was to only introduce their game franchises to those who wouldn't ordinarily buy it... Oh well, Iwata's dream is dead too...

Avatar image for Redsyrup
Redsyrup

@jimclirad: Nintendo has a long history of refusing to acknowledge their competition. I think they started the practice with Yamauchi publicly denying Sony and the PS1 as 'direct' competitors and like you said it's continued to this day. Back then I'm pretty sure Yamauchi-san meant it as an insult. Today it's to intentionally avoid negative press and Shareholder reaction. Despite Nintendo saying they're not in a three-way race they show up at E3 almost every year.

Avatar image for beardymcbeard2
beardymcbeard2

I had no problem paying $10 for Super Mario Run. I really enjoyed it for like 3 weeks. I'd rather pay for a good game than deal with microtransaction pay to win crap.

Avatar image for jimclirad
JimClirad

@beardymcbeard2: This, this right here is why I hated them even going into the mobile market. They only know how to do games on their own devices, they start jacking around on mobile, it's going to be screwy! The whole reason Iwata even did the merger and move was to expand their declining market (both Wii U and 3DS are far from their predecessors in sales). Now, Kimishima is trying to make that profitable, ignoring the whole reason Iwata wanted to do the move in the first place! It's supposed to introduce Nintendo franchises to mobile players in hopes they'd then move to Nintendo systems, which is why Switch is perfect for that, it's portable, AND offers bigger games. Oh well...

Avatar image for Redsyrup
Redsyrup

I'd rather play New Super Mario Bros. with physical buttons. If only Mighty N bothered to produce their own gaming phone. A lost opportunity like none other.

Avatar image for Thanatos2k
Thanatos2k

@Redsyrup: "Gaming phone" is an oxymoron

Avatar image for beardymcbeard2
beardymcbeard2

@Redsyrup: I agree, it wasn't quite the same as a true Mario experience, but it was Nintendo quality in a mobile game which is really rare.

Avatar image for jimclirad
JimClirad

@beardymcbeard2: same here, but then they'd have to replace their handheld line with a phone, or try to effectively manage 3 different hardware devices all playing different games. They're already having problems trying to keep 3DS alive during Switch's big thunder, imagine if mobile was there, and Switch AND 3DS!

Avatar image for newbpwnr
newbpwnr

any game built around freemium will be flawed to its core.

Avatar image for jimclirad
JimClirad

@newbpwnr: Don't look now, but that's the latest rumor about the Animal Crossing app, and given how Animal Crossing is generally, is a very likely true rumor!

Avatar image for alissa914
alissa914

I played the game for maybe 2 minutes. It was good graphically, but it really wasn't any fun. And definitely not worth 10 when all I'd be doing is just tapping a screen.

Avatar image for Thanatos2k
Thanatos2k

"We've got to really find that scam spot and hit it hard."

Avatar image for doctor_mg
Doctor_MG

@Thanatos2k:

I wonder if your life is as negative as your posts. If so, I feel really bad for you :/

Avatar image for Thanatos2k
Thanatos2k

@doctor_mg: We all know my life is going great, and I know that bothers you.

Avatar image for doctor_mg
Doctor_MG

@Thanatos2k:

I'd prefer if your life was doing fantastic, but your posts indicate otherwise. You are so incredibly pessimistic and cynical in almost every post I see of yours here. You just don't strike me as the type of person that actually enjoys life, and it makes me feel bad for you.

Avatar image for xgalacticax
xgalacticax

@doctor_mg: He's only 'pessimistic' on Nintendo matters. I think we call that 'fanboy'...I'm guessing Sony [as usual]...always negative on Nintendo actions...until Sony does the same thing, then it becomes the most amazing thing ever.

Avatar image for Thanatos2k
Thanatos2k

@xgalacticax: It appears you have selective reading abilities. I bash Sony when they deserve it.

Avatar image for doctor_mg
Doctor_MG

@xgalacticax:

He is also pessimistic in regards to Microsoft, EA, Activision, etc. For the most part at least. I'd say 80% of gaming companies he appears to have some vendetta against.

Avatar image for Thanatos2k
Thanatos2k

@doctor_mg: Sucks that you're wrong, and I *know* that bothers you more than anything.

Avatar image for doctor_mg
Doctor_MG

@Thanatos2k:

What you know and what you *think* you know are two vastly different things. Again, I'd prefer that you have a fantastic life...I just don't think you do.

Avatar image for Thanatos2k
Thanatos2k

@doctor_mg: You're absolutely correct! I know my life - you *think* you know my life. Two vastly different things. Time for your last post.

Avatar image for doctor_mg
Doctor_MG

@Thanatos2k:

I never stated I did *know*. I said "wonder", "think", and "indicate". You are the only one here who claimed you knew anything, so why you are trying to use what I said against me I've no idea.

I think its funny that every time you are backed into a corner you attempt to antagonize me by saying "time for your last post" or "post just one more time, I know you want to". It shows that you probably think that getting the last word is important, therefore you think that it's important to me. It's not, I don't care. If you want the last word take it. If you want me to have it, fine. It's not about who speaks last, its about what they say overall. Really, it just speaks for your lack of maturity and inability to respectfully disagree.

I hope you have a pleasant day though.

Avatar image for Thanatos2k
Thanatos2k

@doctor_mg: "It shows that you probably think that getting the last word is important, therefore you think that it's important to me."

As you say, the evidence indicates it is. Actions keep speaking louder than your words. Watch.

Avatar image for newbpwnr
newbpwnr

@doctor_mg: you must have never played mobile games.

Avatar image for ECH71
ECH71

Always-online DRM garbage.

Avatar image for catsimboy
catsimboy

I think an insidious higher up at Nintendo convinced the others to overprice it on purpose so they could go "Oh well, looks like that doesn't work. MICROTRANSACTION CRAP EVERYWHERE!"

Avatar image for Brettsky128
Brettsky128

$10 is too much for a phone game. $5 would have made a huge difference.

Avatar image for totoko
Totoko

@Brettsky128: People pay more than that just to get few gacha from Fire Emblem Heroes instead of a full game, that could tell a lots about smartphone gamer.

Avatar image for jimclirad
JimClirad

@totoko: sad thing is, these newcomers into the 3DS aren't getting what they bargained for. These apps aren't even close to what the full game is, and I'm already seeing new New 3DS systems (gotta love Nintendo's naming) resold in just a few months after buying!