Nintendo disappointed by Super Mario Run revenues

However, company says it still prefers pay-once model to free-to-play formulas like the one used in Fire Emblem Heroes

While most mobile game developers would be happy to have their games perform as well as Super Mario Run, Nintendo isn't most mobile developers. With the game making its debut on Android this week, Nintendo president Tatsumi Kimishima was quoted in the Nikkei Asia Review saying that revenue from the iOS edition "did not meet our expectations."

Much of that is likely down to the game's business model. Where typical mobile free-to-play games are designed to allow users to spend unlimited amounts of money, Super Mario Run had a single $10 in-app purchase to unlock the bulk of the game's content, and no opportunity to spend more.

Since the launch of Super Mario Run, Nintendo has also released Fire Emblem Heroes, a mobile adaptation of its strategy RPG series that uses a more standard free-to-play model where players can pay money for randomized in-game items or characters. As of this writing, Fire Emblem Heroes is 48 on the US App Store top grossing charts, while Super Mario Run is 117.

Despite the relative performance of the two games (especially given the relative popularity of their brands), Nintendo isn't fully embracing the free-to-play model. As a senior company official told Nikkei, "Heroes is an outlier. We honestly prefer the Super Mario Run model."

Next up on Nintendo's mobile slate is an Animal Crossing game. Like Super Mario Run and Fire Emblem Heroes, the game will be free-to-start, but it's unclear exactly what form its monetization will take.

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Latest comments (4)

Doug McFarlane Co-Owner, KodeSource5 years ago
I wonder why? They're practically giving it away for only $10USD ($14CAD!). :)
That price is perceived way too steep for an impulse buy for a mobile game.
(While other games make way more per player over time with IAP - it's a strange system!)

Maybe they should have sold individual Worlds for $2 each, and make more money from the players who purchase all of the Worlds, but still get a couple of bucks from people that wouldn't otherwise consider paying $10.
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Nicholas Lovell Founder, Gamesbrief5 years ago
@Doug McFarlane: I don;t think that model would work. You need to have much more than $10 as the maximum spend to make that work, and I think that's what Nintendo are saying that is not what they want to do.

More broadly, on mobile we are moving away from people paying for ACCESS to game content (with notable exceptions The Room, Monument Valley etc) and instead they expect to get the content for free and pay for other things (depending on the game: progress, self-expression, power, social cachet and so on).
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Doug McFarlane Co-Owner, KodeSource5 years ago
Ok, here's what they should have done. Fully F2P with all levels unlocked. Each level you get say three lives / attempts. After you have exhausted your three attempts, you IAP extra lives to continue on a level without restarting from the beginning. Ha, this would probably hook me into buying some extra lives. They could also have offered different characters to play via IAP. Plus maybe unlock Special abilities (triple jump anyone?).

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Doug McFarlane on 27th March 2017 8:27pm

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Robin Clarke Producer, AppyNation Ltd5 years ago
Nintendo's projections for SMR obviously took into account the size of the iOS player base, the $10 per user revenue cap and the fact that SMR is a comparatively hardcore game. What they didn't anticipate was the level of confusion that the non-standard model they'd adopted would cause.

SMR has still outperformed virtually any premium mobile game in the short time it's been out, without damaging/diluting the brand, and I can easily understand why Nintendo would use the same model again in future.
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