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Nintendo and their Pay to Start Initiative

Updated: May 27, 2021

The winter of 2016 was considered a historical moment in gaming history as Nintendo debut it’s beloved cornerstone franchise “Mario” first on the Apple platform back in December 2016 and just recently to the Android Platform. Mario remains the protagonist of Nintendo’s overall arching mobile strategy as a ‘Free to Start’ game, These games are offered for free on the App store, but players are required to unlock the rest of the game for 1200 Yen or $9.99 in the U.S.

The game was greeted with much fanfare during the Apple conference. Mario Run experienced a strong start as it topped the grossing charts in most of the Tier 1 markets. (US. Japan etc). Although Super Mario Run lifted Nintendo’s profits, the results were less than what was initially projected, the game had a difficult time maintaining its top grossing position due to the nature of the business model. (Free to Start) Nintendo’s President Tatsumi Kimishima was quoted saying

“The revenue for the game did not meet our expectations”

Looking at the Mario Runs grossing chart, you can see that their is a clear resistance line that is determining the fate of the game, as the game has difficulty maintaining a certain position in the gross charts.

The pop in rank was due to a pretty significant update in the game where different color Yoshi’s were included in the patch along with some extra levels. Unfortunately without any significant design changes or feature offering Mario Run will continue its downward trend in gross the ranking chart.

Its not all downhill for Nintendo (Fire Emblem)

Nintendo is not completely neglecting the current profitable business model for the mobile market. In January 2017, Nintendo followed up with their second title Fire Emblem. Fire Emblem is a freemium game that is designed very similar to what is popular in the market today. Fire Emblem is currently Nintendo’s cash cow app as the game hovers around Top 20 – 50 in the US market consistently, where as Mario is struggling in the 125 – 175 range. This is the difference between a $100 Million dollar yearly revenue product versus a $10 – $20 million dollar product.

Even though Fire Emblem is considered a huge success, Nintendo’s agenda on the mobile market is not ‘all’ about making money. Nintendo seeks to bring games and characters to a wider audience and create synergy with their other product.

I’ve stated this in my previous posts, “Apple goes gaming through Japan” but Nintendo not entering the smartphone market for over 10 + years has in turn neglected their core market, ‘the youth’. Which ultimately forced their hand to team up with DeNa and release a game on a platform that wasn’t their own.

The ripples of Free to Start

A senior company official was quoted saying, “ We honestly prefer the “Super Mario Run Model.”

This is an important stance for Nintendo and many Indie and Mid level companies should take note on Nintendo’s initiative very closely. The current mobile market is going through a power move where all the major players are pricing out each other in the battle for User Acquisition, within the freemium model. This has pushed out all the indies and mid level companies to either fold or look for other business model to stay a float until the revolutionary platform. Nintendo is effectively attempting to change the development landscape of the mobile market so that constant updates and boat loads of cash is not required to be considered a success story.

Lets all give Nintendo a big round of applause for what they are trying to do. Change the game Nintendo, i’m drowning over here. (mini rant over)

Community Building

The current mobile landscape focus’ toward content driven operation and this is where Nintendo draws their line. Content driven games has the possibility of devaluing this IP and this is something they aren’t willing to compromise. Nintendo has no interest in damaging their core business model to earn some extra dollars on the mobile market. Although this means missed revenue opportunity in the short run, Nintendo’s focus is purely branding and regain the interest of the new generation.

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