Mario’s first foray into mobile gaming has been an interesting one, with Super Mario Run (Free) briefly becoming number one top grossing game in the US before slipping down the charts. Many players and analysts were surprised by Nintendo’s decision to go with a paid rather than free-to-play model because that would translate into much less revenue. Indeed, according to market research firm Newzoo, Super Mario Run has generated more than $30 million in gross revenue, which translates to about 3 million players buying the full game. When compared to the estimated 90 million total downloads of the game, the number of paying players comes to a little over 3%.
It’s hard to know whether that revenue is acceptable for Nintendo because we have no idea what the projections were. What that 3% does show is the challenges of paid mobile games. Imagine if the game was indeed F2P – after all, many of its mechanics seem perfectly suited for that model – and around 90 million people downloaded it. With that number of players, it’s hard to imagine Super Mario Run not making lots more money and, more importantly, not making money over the long run. The current monetization model ensures that any future revenue will be a trickle compared to the initial numbers.
I do have to wonder whether Nintendo is regretting its decision or whether the company is perfectly fine with Super Mario Run‘s numbers. Keep in mind that Nintendo has repeatedly said it wants its mobile games to turn players into Nintendo console and handheld users, so revenue probably wasn’t the company’s main consideration.