What went wrong?
After the huge success of Pokémon Go, Nintendo hoped to pull off something similar with its Super Mario franchise.
It all started so promisingly. The game was downloaded over 10 million times during its first week, becoming the most downloaded app by far in the USA and Japan. But as soon as the first reviews came in, many of which were negative, downloads decreased dramatically.
Although the game made four million dollars during the first week, that was a long way from the 35 million dollars that Pokémon Go generated in a single weekend – an achievement that Nintendo had hoped to emulate. Nintendo’s shares fell in the Tokyo Stock Exchange as a result of its comparatively poor performance.
So why has Super Mario Run proved such a disappointment?
The main criticism the game has received is that to gain complete access to what is being offered as a free app, you must pay $10. Players were not warned about this in advance and many felt like they’d been duped.
Although Nintendo have reasons for justifying the price of their game, it’s still far more expensive than most apps. Very few people are willing to pay such a high price for a mobile game, even if it does feature the most popular videogame character of all time.
Even though it’s offered as a free app, you must pay $10 if you want complete access to the game.
The strategy adopted by most companies is that of micropayments for upgrades: complete access to the game is usually free, but if you want a better character, a more powerful weapon, or a bigger kingdom you can buy them for very small fee.
A lot of people don’t bother with these micropayments, but the so-called ‘whales’ – the big spenders – are the ones who put food on the programmers’ tables. Whales only make up around 2% of all players, but they routinely spend thousands of dollars on a game.
By plumping for a traditional business model, Nintendo condemned Super Mario Run to failure.
Nintendo plumped for a more traditional business model. Super Mario Run is free to download, but after completing the first three levels, players must pay $10 dollars to unlock the rest of the game. This approach has turned out to be a disaster.
But the failure of Super Mario Run is down to more than just the business model.
Older fans of the Super Mario franchise have complained about the new game’s playability. They criticise the fact that Mario automatically runs from left to right, meaning that the player is restricted to merely jumping. The requirement for an internet connection play has also put off players; only the most committed are willing to use up their monthly mobile data on a videogame.
Nintendo’s first attempt at breaking into the mobile gaming market hasn’t exactly gone according to plan. It might not be too late for the company to make a big impact in the industry, but it looks like they’ll have to update their strategy if they want to recover some of the millions of dollars they’ve lost this time round.