2017/01/03

What counts as success for “Super Mario Run”

Nintendo learns to walk before it can run
WHEN it was finally released on December 15th, “Super Mario Run” quickly became the most downloaded free game in Apple’s app stores in 138 countries. At last count well over 50m people had downloaded it. In contrast, all Super Mario titles released over the past three decades have together sold some 558m copies. The numbers were not surprising: “Super Mario Run” is the pudgy plumber’s first outing for smartphones, which over the past decade have become the prefered choice of device for casual gamers. (More dedicated gaming enthusiasts are still happy to pay several hundred dollars for standalone consoles.) The enormous interest in the game reflects pent up demand from part-time gamers who wanted to play Mario but did not want to shell out for a gaming console. And there is more to come; on December 29th Nintendo, Mario's maker, started accepting registrations for downloads on Android devices, which suggests that the game will soon be available to the bulk of the world's smartphone users.
Yet the launch-day hurrahs conceal a niggling problem for Nintendo. Fans complained that the free download had only limited gameplay, and that the $10 tag for the full version was exorbitant. By one estimate only 1-2% of users will pay the full sum. But that is to miss the point. Nintendo’s aim in releasing Mario on mobile is not so much to make money as to introduce a new generation of gamers to the company’s flagship character. Even if the tens of millions of people who downloaded the game don't cough up to play the full version, their introduction to Mario—and a hoped-for uptick in console sales—may be enough for Nintendo to call its first proper mobile game a success. 
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