Super Mario Run is a major hit, no question. Years after balking on the notion of releasing smartphone games, Nintendo eventually jumped aboard the trend, outing the iconic Italian plumber onto our tiny screens and to wide fanfare.
The figures prove Super Mario Run's rousing success: the first-ever Mario game Nintendo released for smartphones has now been downloaded 150 million times, taking both iOS and Android numbers into account.
The popularity of the game is unquestionable and so is its gameplay. In our review of the app, we called it a faithful Super Mario incarnation, one that uses the endless runner format to its merit. The game still has flaws, to be clear, but it packs the top-rank caliber of Nintendo's genius level design, among other things.
Nintendo: Mario Run, iOS and Android together, almost there to reach 150 million downloads.
— Takashi Mochizuki (@mochi_wsj) April 27, 2017
Still, the profitability of the game is another discussion altogether.
Super Mario Run: Downloads vs Profits
It appears Nintendo might not have made significant dough from the game.
For those who don't know, Super Mario Run is free to download, but users need to actually pay up $9.99 to unlock the full Super Mario Run experience.
Nintendo has confirmed that it struggled to convince users to pay the said amount, but that's no secret. The company has been vocal about its difficulty in pushing Super Mario Run's premium tier to audiences.
In fact, to keep players interested, Nintendo even extended the game's trial period, adding new tricks and extras into the mix, including World 1-4, which brought the total number of free levels from three to four. Even so, majority of players are still unwilling to drop $9.99 for the full game.
So it's no wonder that Super Mario Run sales are declining, as the company confirmed during its financial earnings briefing.
Nintendo originally had a goal of convincing at least 10 percent of Super Mario Run players to pay for the full game. That still hasn't been met.
Nintendo's Mobile Revenue
Between Japan and the United States, Nintendo earned more than 20 billion JPY, or about $180 million, according to the Wall Street Journal's Takashi Mochizuki.
A big contributor to Nintendo's stellar mobile figures is Fire Emblem Heroes, another one of its mobile games. In fact, while that game has barely managed to reach one-tenth of Super Mario Run's total downloads, it recorded a bigger revenue than Nintendo's endless runner.
The disparity is quite significant, although not at all surprising. The two games employ entirely different pricing models. Super Mario Run operates on a one-time-purchase principle, while Fire Emblem Heroes offers players in-app purchases, a model used by majority of apps. Many developers have found success in this microtransaction model, chiefly because it lets players who care about acquiring certain in-game elements to pay up.
Forthcoming Mobile Games From Nintendo
Even with Super Mario Run's failure to render solid profits and revenue, Nintendo is still set to unveil more titles for smartphones, including an iteration of Animal Crossing, its popular simulation series about living in a village with animals. The game was actually delayed to make room for the Android release of Super Mario Run. It's still not clear how the smartphone version of Animal Crossing will differ from its mainline counterparts, but expect due coverage when we learn more.