If Mario can’t leap the £8 hurdle, how will he clear the £200 Switch flagpole?

Katharine Byrne
If Mario can’t leap the £8 hurdle, how will he clear the £200 Switch flagpole?

Super Mario Run has had a bit of a bumpy start on iOS. It might have been downloaded over 37 million times worldwide over its opening weekend according to analyst AppAnnie (almost 2 million of which occurred in the UK alone), but it seems the wider market isn't so confident. After a 4 per cent drop in market value on Friday, a day after the game launched, Nintendo's share price fell a further 7 per cent in Tokyo yesterday, that's a total drop of 11 per cent since Thursday.

Analysts have put this bearish reception down to a number of factors. As MCV reported last week, many users have been complaining about the game's price of 7.99 and the requirement to be always online in order to play it. While regular Nintendo purchasers are happy to pay for the game upfront (after playing the first three levels for free), it seems the wider mobile market, many of whom aren't used to paying more than a couple of pounds for a game, if anything at all, aren't quite so keen.

Of course, we don't yet know what Nintendo's targets were for Super Mario Run, and it's not yet clear how many conversions Nintendo's seen from free downloads to paid-up players. Nevertheless, this puts Nintendo in a rather difficult situation, particularly when it's been positioning Super Mario Run as a potential gateway to the rest of its software and hardware line-up ever since it announced its entry into the mobile market back in March 2015.

Nintendo will utilize smart devices as communication media for Nintendo IP,” the late former Nintendo president Satoru Iwata said at the time.

As a result, we will aim to expand the gaming population,” he later added in a Q&A. We will make use of smart devices, jointly develop the new membership service and release the new game platform, all for this objective. All of these activities are connected with one another. In other words, we aim to reach an increasing number of people with Nintendo IP. We aim to make it so that they will become not only familiar with but also fully satisfied with our IP. If we can successfully satisfy them and they become fans of our IP, we should be able to expand the number of people who want to continue playing Nintendo games forever. We will try to bring this to fruition.”

Likewise, in October this year current Nintendo president Tatsumi Kimishima stated in an interview with Bloomberg that its smartphone business has […] really proved our original thesis: by releasing our software on the smartphone, it positively impacts our existing hardware and software business. And that's precisely the synergy effect we were expecting. And as that has been proven correct, we have more confidence.”

Nintendo took the same approach with its recent Nintendo Classic Mini: NES console as well.

[The Classic Mini: NES] was a great way to re-engage [our audience],” Nintendo of America boos Fils-Aime said in an interview with CNET. Our belief is that by re-engaging them, it creates an opportunity for Super Mario Run, it creates an opportunity for our 3DS business, it creates an opportunity for Nintendo Switch, because all of a sudden they're recognizing what they knew 20 or 25 years ago: they love Mario. They love Zelda. They love all of our classic IP, and they're re-engaging with it right now."

COIN-OPERATED

Re-engagement is all well and good, but only, it seems, when the price is right. It begs the question, then, that if Nintendo's struggling to get consumers to pay 7.99 for an app featuring its most recognisable mascot in one of his most iconic 2D settings, how will it fare at trying to transform those users into fully-paid up Switch owners?

We don't yet have an official price for Nintendo's upcoming Switch console, of course, but current rumours have suggested there will be a 200 base unit as well as a premium model for 249 that comes with more storage. Needless to say, that's a considerable jump up from a mere 8.

It's not just a question of money, either, as Nintendo also faces the challenge of convincing its wider audience to buy bespoke hardware for all those beloved IPs they've just re-engaged with. Super Mario Run might have been downloaded over 37 million times on devices people already use everyday, but how many of those will be willing to carry around another device just to play the latest Mario game?

It's certainly a big challenge, but it seems Nintendo's already working hard to promote the Switch beyond its traditional core audience. In a clever move at the beginning of December, the Switch made a surprise appearance on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon, one of the biggest late-night talk shows currently on mainstream US TV. The show had the largest chunk of 18-49 year olds watching that week, beating both The Late Show with Stephen Colbert and Jimmy Kimmel Live, according to data from The Nielsen Company, and the YouTube clip alone has been watched over 4.7m times.

During its appearance, not only was there a live demo of the console in action, but it also showed The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild running on the Switch for the first time ever. Moments earlier, Nintendo's Reggie Fils-Aime was on stage promoting Super Mario Run, further cementing the relationship between the app and the Switch in consumers' minds.

There's also Nintendo's upcoming Switch hands-on event taking place in January. While the press will be getting its hands on the console on the 13th, anyone in the UK with a My Nintendo account can currently register to win a place at one of its two public showings taking place the following weekend.

GO, GO, MARIO

Let's not forget the success Nintendo's seen with Pokemon Sun and Moon as well. Buoyed by the success of Pokemon Go earlier in the year, which released on iOS and Android over the summer, Pokemon Sun and Moon quickly became Nintendo's biggest-ever launch in Europe. This was no doubt helped by the 3DS' large, pre-existing install base, but even if potential Pokemon owners didn't already own a 3DS, the fact you can pick up a 2DS for as little as 80 from some retailers almost certainly made the jump to dedicated hardware more palatable.

Only time will tell if Nintendo's synergy strategy is a success, of course, but this is an issue the entire console industry will need to address if it hopes to translate any kind of mobile expansion into console and full-priced software sales. With initial downloads for Super Mario Run

super mario run (20)

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