Did Nintendo Really Think Super Mario Run Would be its Savior?
The products to come out of the Fall 2016 Apple press conference may go down as some of the most disappointing of all time, and that extends to some of the non-Apple products announced during the event.
You’ll remember that Super Mario creator Shigeru Miyamoto was invited on stage during the September event where he announced Super Mario Run, a new app from Nintendo that was slated to be the next big release after the surprise summer smash hit in Pokémon Go. Super Mario Run as a mobile-friendly take on the classic Nintendo game, where the player can simply tap their screen to make the tiny-Italian-plumber-super-hero-guy jump. It feels a bit like an advanced version of Flappy Bird in that Mario is constantly moving forward and you control his ability to progress through the various levels.
The game finally hit the App Store this week, after a number of delays.
As expected, Nintendo’s game shot to the top of the U.S. App Store charts with more than 40 million downloads in the first four days. But early returns from those 40 million players have garnered the app just a 2.5-out-of-5 star rating in the app store. More than half of users who’ve taken the time to give the app a review have rated it with just one or two stars (i.e. not good). And the result has been devastating for Nintendo, financially. The company has seen its shares in the Tokyo Stock Exchange fall more than 16 percent since the app became available—nearly wiping out everything the company gained in the month leading up to launch day.
And Nintendo only has itself to blame.
The app is a total failure. Sure, running through the levels as Mario is enjoyable and nostalgic, albeit a little over simplified. But the way in which the app is constructed is horrifically frustrating, if not blatantly misleading. Nintendo coaxes users into downloading their app by advertising it as free in the App Store. If you watched the Apple keynote or even read up on Super Mario Run at all, you’d know that Nintendo planned to charge users something in order to get full access to the game. But instead of being up front about it when downloading the app, Nintendo waits until you’re ready to head into the first castle to slap the $10 charge on you. That's essentially click bait in app form.
Just a little off putting, if you ask me.
Other game modes in Super Mario Run require the purchase of tickets and coins, which is not unlike other games that you’d find in any app store, but cutting off access from the full story mode and putting it behind a pay wall just sucks. And I’m not the only one that feels that way. According to estimates from App Annie, only 4 percent of users who’ve downloaded the app have actually forked over the $10.
It’s so difficult to comprehend how the same company who helped put out Pokémon Go just five months ago could fail so badly on their very next attempt to create a hit. What made Pokémon Go such a hit so quickly is that it allowed users to advance through the game without the need to purchase anything. That said, purchasing items in-game allowed you to advance much more quickly than if you were someone like me and wandered around from Pokéstop to Pokéstop just to restock.
To be clear, I’m not mad about the fact that Nintendo opted to go the premium pricing route with Super Mario Go. I’m actually a fan of it, because it means they’ll be able to attract the right kind of user, bring in some revenue, and use that revenue to continue to improve the app over time. What I don’t like—at all—is the way they went about it. It’s shady and not upfront at all. The game might be worth the 10 bucks (it is), but hiding the costs from the user is in incredibly poor taste, and Nintendo ought to realize that right about now.