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Super Mario Run broke download records — but it's not making as much money as you'd think

Super Mario Run broke download records — but it’s not making as much money as you’d think

Nintendo’s long-awaited iPhone game, Super Mario Run, was downloaded almost 5 million times on its launch day Friday. That’s more than three times as many downloads as Pokémon Go earned when it premiered over the summer.

But even though Nintendo’s first mobile game jumped to the top of the App Store, that doesn’t mean it’ll be a big moneymaker. Even investors suspect that: Nintendo stock was down more than 7 percent on Monday. Instead, Super Mario Run looks more like a test for how traditional videogame makers can break into mobile gaming.

A report from SuperData Research released just before Super Mario Run’s launch estimated the game would get downloaded 30 million times by the end of the first month. SuperData initially anticipated the game would generate between $40 million and $60 million in revenue over that time. But after the game was released, the analysts revised their revenue estimate significantly downward to between $12 million and $15 million.

The “pricing of [Super Mario Run] is a little off,” SuperData CEO Joost van Dreunen told VICE News. While the game is free to download, users have to pay $10 to access the full features of the game.

Despite all the downloads in the first few days, “the revenue is lagging. That’s because $10 is a high paywall for most people,” van Dreunen said.

No doubt the game will still be popular because people like Mario and other Nintendo characters; brand value like that is also what turned Pokémon Go into a surprise hit. As van Dreunen put it, Nintendo has created “the Mickey Mouse of this generation.” But the trouble is in the execution, not the content.

Major game publishers like Nintendo, TakeTwo, and Electronic Arts (EA) have traditionally been hesitant to get into mobile gaming, because the sector works by using free downloads to fuel organic growth. Higher-tier game-makers don’t like giving stuff away for free. That’s why Activision bought “Candy Crush”-maker King last year: to have a dedicated unit focused on mobile gaming apart from its traditional offerings.

So for Nintendo, promoting Super Mario Run with glitzy TV spots and heavy promotion with Apple is a test of the idea that companies can sell a premium video game on mobile platforms. Although Nintendo’s competitors are watching closely, van Dreunen thinks they’ll remain “hesitant” to follow suit.

“Super Mario Run seems excessively expensive compared to mother mobile offerings, even if it’s worth the number of hours people play,” van Dreunen said. “Nintendo is, in fact, as old and as mature as any other company, and it’s is kind of an innovator here. It’s trying out this model, and seeing if it will stick.”

A representative for Nintendo did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Cover: Flickr/Bagogames

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