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Nintendo's huge bet on Mario for smartphones still hasn't paid off

October 31, 2017 1:46 PM
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The biggest phone game of 2017, "Super Mario Run," has been downloaded over 200 million times. Even with that huge number of downloads, Nintendo says it still hasn't "reached an acceptable profit point."

The game is available on Apple iOS devices, like the iPhone and the iPad, as well as Android devices. It costs nothing to download, and the first few levels are available to play, but anything beyond that requires a one-time $10 unlock fee.

Though "Super Mario Run" has been downloaded over 200 million times, it sounds like only a fraction of those free downloads users turned into paying customers. That's not a huge surprise — the mobile gaming market is notorious for low "conversion" rates (non-paying players converting into paying customers).

Nintendo has even spoken about this problem in the past with "Super Mario Run."

As of January, the game was converting about 5% of its players. Even if we're being generous and saying that number rose to 10%, that would mean just 20 million people paid $10 apiece for "Super Mario Run." After Apple takes its cut, and taxes come out, Nintendo's looking at a relatively paltry return. Instead of looking at this solely from a product perspective, Nintendo's looking at "Super Mario Run" as a learning experience.

"We have learned a lot in terms of game development and deployment that we want to take advantage of moving forward," Nintendo president Tatsumi Kimishima said.

The change in approach can already be seen in Nintendo's next mobile game, "Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp" — it costs nothing to download and play, and follows a free-to-play model where users can pay to speed up in-game actions.


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