Super Mario Run got off to a running start, amassing more downloads than Pokemon GO on the first day. According to information provided to The Wall Street Journal by market research firm Newzoo, the iOS game has since been downloaded 90 million times in less than four weeks – and we’re still waiting on an Android launch.
Yet despite this remarkable feat, Nintendo’s mobile game has received harsh criticism since its release. Our very own Patrick Murphy, a die-hard Nintendo fan, gave it a lukewarm review saying that the core experience of Super Mario Run is the main draw, however, and though it looks good and offers some average Mario-style gaming, it’s also definitely more a sprint than a marathon. Putting aside how fun the game is to play, perhaps the biggest reason why so many people are disappointed is because, in order to play it, you’ll need an active internet connection. That means no using the game on a subway or plane — unless you’re above ground or connected to Wi-Fi. Mario creator Shigeru Miyamoto confirmed this detail in an interview with Mashable, saying that because the game is releasing in a limited number of countries, and each of those countries has different network environments, it was important for Nintendo to be able to have it secure for all users. In other words, Nintendo’s polite way of saying they are trying to avoid piracy.
We’ve already written about why users shouldn’t be complaining about the price, given that nobody is forcing you to buy the game, not to mention that there are no micro-transactions, no expiring demos, and no strings attached. The question on my mind, however, is whether or not Super Mario Run is actually a flop?
The data provided states that although the game has been downloaded 90 million times, only about 3% of users have actually purchased the full version. Apart from the average (at best) reviews, the mobile market is known for free-to-play, making the price point a barrier of entry from the outset. That said, if we do our math, Super Mario Run has most likely earned $30 million in gross revenue since it was released on December 15. That’s a lot of money considering we are still awaiting the Android release, which holds an estimated 86.2% worldwide market share compared to 12.9% for iOS. And surely there are millions of Android users out there wanting to not only try the game out, but possibly buy it as well.
Some suggest that Nintendo is out of touch with the mobile market and perhaps that is true, but while Nintendo doesn’t seem to fully understand the app store, the stats show that Nintendo is still raking in tons of cash. Thirty million dollars in sales isn’t so bad when compared to most mobile games, and Nintendo will surely improve moving forward. The challenges of the premium business model in mobile are well-documented. In terms of generating revenue, there has not yet been a massive breakout success for premium games on mobile, and over 90% of iOS mobile game, revenue is generated by free games. Pokémon Go, for instance, was the largest breakout success of 2016, generating revenues of over $600 million in its first 90 days – but it was technically free to play. All of the money made was from users purchasing additional inventory, such as pokeballs and lures. So technically, when compared to other premium games, Super Mario Run is somewhat of a success, even if not the success we hoped it would be.
Players can spend thousands of dollars on in-app purchases over the course of many months when playing many free-to-play games, yet many players have a problem with a one-time purchase that in the end amounts to little when compared to how much you spend on other titles. Perhaps the problem is how we gamers choose to spend, or not spend our money? But our problem is Nintendo’s problem. Nintendo should understand that people don’t want to be told they have to buy something; they instead want the option to choose if they want to spend their hard-earned money or not.
The makers of Candy Crush Saga made $1.88 billion in revenue in 2013, and the company has stated that only 4% of its users have made purchases through the game, not too far away from the 3% ratio of Super Mario Run‘s users. The difference is that those users, on average, have each paid over $150 while playing. Did Nintendo miss out on a golden opportunity by not making Super Mario Run free to play, and adding in-game purchases as an option? We would assume the answer to this question is yes. But regardless if you or even Nintendo think Super Mario Run is a hit or not, the game does provide a strong boost of awareness for Nintendo as a company. This is likely where Nintendo has at least walked away a winner. After all, there’s no such thing as bad publicity.
– Ricky D