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Nintendo’s mobile games are so successful it’s impossible to know what works

Nintendo’s mobile games are so successful it’s impossible to know what works

Nintendo's mobile games are so successful it's impossible to know what works

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With two mobile games taking two very different approaches to monetization, it looks like Nintendo is trying to calibrate its offerings to find out what works best for mobile apps. The runaway success of both games, however, means that it will be some time before Nintendo has clear answers.

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For years after smartphones became a true gaming platform, major game studios kept their distance. That’s changed now, as everyone from EA to Ubisoft and 2K has their mobile offerings, from ports to entirely new games made for smartphones, but despite that Nintendo held on for a long time. Everything changed last year, first with the launch of Pokemon Go. The game was phenomenally successful, and for a while you saw people from all walks of life buried in their phones looking for Pikachu, even before the game actually launched in India.

Pokemon Go was not a Nintendo game, although it was very closely associated with the Japanese game company. However, a few months later this was followed by Super Mario Run. The game has its fair share of issues, including an always-online requirement that has annoyed many, but it was especially great for the pricing that Nintendo chose to follow. Although Super Mario Run is free to download and play, you can only access a very small part of the game. The app is more like a free demo, and to unlock the full game, you need to pay $9.99 ( now Rs. 800 in India). Leaving aside the fact that it’s a pretty steep price for what was, minus Mario’s attributes, a fairly ordinary auto-runner, the price also seemed to give a clue as to how Nintendo planned to monetize its mobile games.

It’s not that different from the shareware era of PC gaming (if you remember that far back), where you got free demos that were passed around and gave you a good chunk of the game; in theory, if you liked it, you could pay the developers and they’d send you the rest of the game. In practice, most people would find pirated versions, but that’s another story for another day.

The thing is, Nintendo identified what they thought was a reasonable price for their software and asked for that up front, which also happens with Nintendo games on their own platform. You buy the game, then you play the game.

With Fire Emblem Heroes, which released in select regions earlier this month, the company took a diametrically opposite stance. The game is free to download and the full game is available immediately. You still won’t be able to access all of this right away, but that’s not because of a money-gate; instead, it’s locked behind difficulty levels.

Fire Emblem heroes embrace the Free to Play mechanics that so many people dislike in mobile games, and have multiple currencies that are used in different ways. You’ll end up running out of orbs, stamina, feathers, you’ll end up with a hero you really want that’s running out of stars, so you’re forced to use a lesser hero just because they’re at a higher level. The game continues to hold out the promise of improvements through persistence, as it offers rewards through a random drop that rarely gives you everything you really want.

nintendo fire emblem characters

Fire Emblem Heroes tips and tricks for beginners

Until you decide to spend some money. After all, it’s a great game and you can see yourself enjoying it for hours; days or even weeks could even pass. Surely the developers deserve something for all their hard work? And then you see someone else whose roster of heroes is way better than yours, and you think it probably won’t hurt to spend a little more, then a little more. Or maybe you quit after the first spend. Either way, as long as you’re comfortable spending money, there’s nothing wrong with that either.

But the question you have to ask yourself is why Nintendo takes such opposite approaches to making money from mobile apps? Leaving aside the specifics of the two games for a minute, and focusing only on monetization, the conclusion could be that Nintendo wants to figure out which mode would be more profitable – making every user pay for the game, or having a few users subsidize it. rest.

In the F2P model that Nintendo follows, usually a few “whales” (paying customers) will subsidize all free players, and that’s a well-established pattern at this point. On Reddit, a user shared a photo showing barracks maxed out and wrote that it involved spending $1,000. In other words, this user made as much money as 100 people buying Super Mario Run. If both games had 100 users and 99 people didn’t pay Nintendo a dime for Fire Emblem Heroes, they would still pull the tier.

fire emblem heroes cover

It seems to work. According to a report by VG247, Fire Emblem Heroes grossed over $5 million (roughly Rs. 33 crore) in its first week. But App Annie reported that Super Mario Run grossed $14 million (roughly Rs. 93.5 lakh) in its first three days.

The thing is, both games were huge hits. They come with huge built-in audiences for their respective brands, and the Nintendo brand is nothing to scoff at either. As a result, fairly ordinary mobile games that don’t deviate from established conventions are currently printing money.

The problem is that they also don’t provide specific information on monetization modes and what will work best in the long run. For these reasons, we expect Nintendo to continue releasing mobile games in the near future and to continue experimenting with different monetization strategies until it can actually generate useful data on what gamers expect from them. the company. Hopefully it will also try to bring more innovative games, and not just repeat basic mobile games, in future iterations, otherwise the hype around the Nintendo brand on mobile is sure to die down over time. .

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