For years, Nintendo refused to make games for smart phones and tablets. The video game giant preferred to release games on their own proprietary handheld and home consoles, while sales for those devices slip. At the same time, millions of people put down their Nintendo 3DS and opted to play games on their iPhones and Android devices instead, causing investors and consumers alike to worry about the future of the company.
So on December 15, Nintendo finally released Super Mario Run, their first smartphone game. After a previous experiment with social app Miitomo and licensing their Pokémon to create the super-successful Pokémon Go, the big N worked closely with Apple to make a game that smartphone gamers and Mario fans alike would enjoy, all while pricing the full, unlocked game at an affordable $9.99.
Though 40 million people downloaded Super Mario Run in the first four days of its existence, consumers and analysts spoke out against the company’s confusing sales tactics and flooded Apple’s App Store with negative reviews. While no one knows exactly how many of those 40 million people spent $9.99 on the game, one thing’s for sure: the consumer backlash is cutting into the company’s stock price, and it’s hurting them pretty badly.
Super Mario Run was announced earlier this year as a time-released iOS exclusive.
Nintendo announced the game’s existence at Apple’s iPhone keynote, a high-profile event in the tech industry. They demonstrated the game, spoke about working with Apple, and even introduced a new mechanism that let people sign up to be notified about the game’s release.
Super Mario Run costs $9.99, though the method of paying for the game is pretty confusing.
When the game was announced, Nintendo said the game would be available to try or buy in full. When Super Mario Run arrived at the app store, however, only a free demo version was available. This demo later prompts users to unlock the full version of the game for $9.99.
This confusion of paid and free content confused users, leading many to leave low reviews on the App Store.
At the end of the demo, people are suddenly asked to fork over $9.99 after thinking they’re playing a free game. Users find this tactic misleading, as many are used to full ad-supported games for free on their mobile platform of choice. Nintendo didn’t specify that they were essentially downloading a demo, angering users who expected to play as Mario without forking over cash.
The overwhelmingly negative feedback is having an adverse effect on Nintendo’s stock price.
The company’s stock ($NTDOY) decreased by over 15% since the 15th. While the company is up 49.12% since the beginning of the year, this backlash against Super Mario Run caused the company’s market capitalization to decrease, along with the value of their shares. Nintendo is essentially worth less since the game’s release. The company doesn’t need this kind of negative impact after struggling to keep up with Sony and Microsoft on the traditional video game market.
Nintendo could have avoided negative fan and investor reaction if they chose to release Super Mario Run differently. If they released it as a paid game without a demo, then they would certainly receive less than 40 million downloads, but hypothetically make more than whatever they’re taking in right now and avoid the backlash entirely. If they released the game as a free-to-play game with ad support or incentivized payments, they could potentially make even more money over time due to continuous income.
Super Mario Run was a failed experiment in releasing the company’s first mobile game. While they’ll likely retool the game to make the $9.99 payment more apparent, the company needs to avoid this mistake for future mobile game releases — or risk devaluing their stock.