While Nintendo may be best known for its storied history of console games, the Japanese company has, of course, recently dipped its toes into mobile gaming, with varying degrees of success.
Pokémon Go, its collaboration with Niantic, was arguably the gaming phenomenon of 2016, yet the company’s first attempt to bring Mario to tablets and smartphones didn’t set the world alight in a similar way. Originally launched exclusively on iOS, Super Mario Run enjoyed a strong start in terms of revenues but this soon tailed off.
Why? Well, the implementation of a one-off payment model may have had something to do with it, with gamers being able to download and sample the title for free before unlocking the entire game and subsequent updates with a single, one-off payment. This meant sales – and revenues – spiked early on as fans rushed to sample the action, but then tailed off significantly after that initial burst of interest.
The game has now launched on Android and, despite the performance on iOS, no changes have been made to the payment model used on the game – despite the Nintendo president himself, Tatsumi Kimishima, describing Super Mario Run’s performance as “below expectations”.
So has Nintendo made the right decision, or is the company failing to think outside the box when it comes to the way people choose to pay for games in the 21st century? After all, the world of mobile gaming is littered with examples of companies taking different approaches in order to encourage people to part with their cash.
For example, the Casino Quest review of Royal Vegas – a mobile-friendly online casino – shows how visitors to the site can use traditional card payments, e-wallets or even a specialised online payment system called InstaDebit to put deposits in their account. Going a step further, there are even now iGaming and video game sites such as Humble Bundle which accept payments in bitcoin, the much-hyped cryptocurrency which many believe could replace traditional money down the line.
So in this age of payment innovation, is it perhaps surprising to see such an old-school approach being taken to Super Mario Run, with it essentially being treated like a console game?
To be fair to Nintendo, the company has stressed in recent weeks that at this point it is merely “experimenting with different types of monetization” in mobile gaming and this has been shown with its approach to another title.
Another way to pay and play
The company’s second mobile game, Fire Emblem Heroes, launched in February on both Android and iOS and takes the free-to-play approach, with gamers being able to buy a host of items as they play. This route is, of course, more traditional in mobile gaming and also perhaps has the potential to be more lucrative than simply asking gamers to cough up once for a raft of content. However, the question remains as to why Nintendo would take this approach with this game and not with one featuring their most famous creation and a global gaming icon.
Ultimately, Nintendo are only just getting started in mobile gaming and are highly likely to be releasing more games on the iOS and Android platforms across the coming months and years. However, the debate and discussion around Super Mario Run means that the payment options they utilize are likely to be scrutinised for a long time to come.