Mobile Mavens

What do mobile developers think of Super Mario Run's premium $9.99 price?

What do mobile developers think of Super Mario Run's premium $9.99 price?

It has now officially been revealed that Super Mario Run will cost $9.99 on the App Store.

Many were shocked to see that Nintendo is set to make Mario's mobile debut not just a paid game, but a very expensive one by mobile standards.

It's a bold move, but is it a wise one? Can Super Mario Run help spur on the premium marketor will it struggle in a world where free-to-play reigns?

We put it to our Mobile Mavens and asked:

  • What are your thoughts on Nintendo charging $9.99 for Super Mario Run?
  • Will it make consumers any more willing to spend this kind of money on other games?
Torulf Jernström CEO Tribeflame

I think $9.99 makes good sense for Nintendo. They have an amazing brand, and I fully expect Super Mario Run to shoot up the top grossing ranks.

It might set an anchor for other premium games, but very few have anything like that brand, and thus hardly anyone else can price theirs at $9.99.

At best, it slightly nudges the premium price points upwards. Shame, of course, that hardly anyone makes any serious money on premium mobile games anymore.

I also expect Super Mario Run to be only quite briefly high up on the top grossing chart.

Christopher Kassulke CEO / Owner HandyGames

If this game didn't have the Mario brand, at that price point no one would care about it.

This game has the Mario brand and with the backing from Apple it will be promoted everywhere. The press will write about it and the fanboys will buy it.

What do you want to hear? Is it innovative, is it a masterpiece?

Iwata said in 2011: Nintendo won't make mobile games.

But Nintendo would make "profits" if it did.

Personally, I am more puzzled by the decision to launch Super Mario Run as "free-to-start", and then charging $9.99 to unlock the full game.

Charging up-front may have worked out better.
Nicolas Godement-Berline

Financially speaking, with such a strong IP attached, charging up-front may have worked out better than letting everyone have a quick go at the game and potentially not convert afterwards.

The free-to-start model clearly favours the players so it is a commendable decision from Nintendo and one that I applaud.

As for the price, I suspect there is more price elasticity in the $4.99-$9.99 bracket than in $0.99-$4.99 so perhaps a $4.99 price-point may have been better? Who knows. It's going to sell like cupcakes either way.

I think it is definitely going to help make consumers more willing to spend upfront or on game unlocks.

There is some free-to-play fatigue with some players that I think may ultimately create opportunities for charging a fixed price on mobile, especially with a strong brand attached.

Wilhelm Taht Executive Vice President, Games Rovio

I think it's super interesting. It will probably work very well and be heralded as a great example for premium return - i.e. significantly simplified and misunderstood.

John Ozimek Co-founder Big Ideas Machine

John is co-founder of PR and marketing company Big Ideas Machine. Also an all-round nice guy...

The 'free-to-start' approach reminds me of the Java days, where free-to-play demo versions of games became quite common as a way to up-sell to the £5 full version.

This also carried over to the first year or so of iOS, before in-game transactions were enabled.

The sheer awareness of the game will overcome many issues that affect premium games.
John Ozimek

I don't think we can apply conventional thinking to a game like this, as it is probably the best-known gaming IP on the planet.

The sheer awareness of the game will overcome many of the issues that affect premium games - namely, discovery and price sensitivity.

For all that it may be statistically better to look at a slightly lower price-point, it's a Mario game, and people will buy it whatever the price.

I'm more interested in seeing the quality and longevity of the game.

Considering that Nintendo remains committed to its own handheld platforms and first-party games, I want to see how a £7.99 mobile game compares to a £34.99 3DS game.

Will one cannibalise the other, or has Nintendo managed to make them distinct enough to co-exist?

The other thing I'm interested in is the rate of piracy.

Limiting the game to iOS will do something to limit this, but as the data shared by Ustwo showed for Monument Valley, piracy amounted for the vast majority of downloads.

Monument Valley was a premium success, but suffered from piracy

Will a high price increase the rate of piracy, and if so, will this affect Nintendo's thinking? It is famously protective of both its IP and profit margins.

As a gamer myself, £7.99 is more than I would want to pay, so I wait to be completely blown away by its brilliance - or see if they do a price promotion.


Harry Holmwood European CEO Marvelous Entertainment

A 20-year veteran of video games and online space, Harry is European CEO of Marvelous AQL, a Japanese developer and publisher of social, mobile and console games, known for console games like No More Heroes and Harvest Moon, but now highly successful in the free-to-play mobile and web space in Japan and Asia.

A games programmer before joining Sony’s early PlayStation team in 1994, he then founded developer Pure Entertainment, which IPO’d and launched a free-to-play online gaming service way back in 1999.

He was also a director of pioneering motion gaming startup In2Games, which was sold to a US group in 2008.

Along the way, he’s been a corporate VP, troubleshooter, and non-exec to a variety of companies and investors in and around the games sector.

I think it's going to get a huge number of downloads and should, in theory, get a load of conversions to paying players.

There's been evidence on console that demos can damage, rather than encourage sales.
Harry Holmwood

Mario/Nintendo fans are happy to buy the console and 3DS games for $30+ and get huge value from the games at that price.

The question, really, is how fun is this game, and is it comparable to its console brothers?

There's been evidence in the console business that demos can damage, rather than encourage sales, although that doesn't seem to be a factor with truly great games.

If this is a truly great game, it should do well, despite the price. It would be great to see it succeed, and demonstrate that the right products can command a premium one-off price on mobile.

I'm looking forward to seeing how Nintendo limit the game for non-payers. I'd imagine something more sophisticated than just gating by content or time, which have been shown to be flawed models on mobile.


Torulf Jernström CEO Tribeflame

I also think that they might have made more money without the free teaser involved.

However, I think the purpose of that free teaser is not (only) to make money, but for them to stay relevant with a new generation of players.

Remember that a lot of kids these days are growing up with smartphones as their first gaming devices.

To make this really obvious: Tribeflame's most popular game, Benji Bananas, that I honestly assume most of you have not heard much about, has been downloaded some 85 to 90 million times.

For comparison, the current generation of consoles has, according to VG Chartz, sold 13.5 (Wii U), 23.5 (Xbox One) and 45.3 (PS4) million units.

That means that even getting every single current generation console owner to try our game would still come up short compared to the volumes we are getting on mobile.

And, as I said, that's just for a random, medium hit on mobile.

Nintendo is likely scared of losing the attention of a whole generation if they lose the war for sheer volume.


Nick Malaperiman Head of Marketing TopHouse Media

Nick Malaperiman has launched Console, PC or Mobile games since '95. Nick first started at EA, launching multiple FIFA, NBA and NHL franchises, during 7 years. Nick then started Nokia's Games marketing division, launching 300+ games/apps in 7 years. Nick was previously GM of Yummi Games, in China and Founder of Chunky Pig Marketing - now part of Roadhouse Interactive.

In my opinion, fanboys (and girls) and old-school Nintendo fans will pay whatever it takes to get Super Mario Run on their phone.

And who's to say that Nintendo doesn't initiate a series of intelligent price drops in the coming months, if $9.99 doesn't work. I have a feeling they'll be fine though.


Shintaro Kanaoya CEO Chorus Worldwide

Founder and CEO of Chorus Worldwide, a publisher for Western mobile developers seeking success in the Asian markets, Shintaro has over 20 years' experience within the gaming industry.

He has worked in various roles from game production, localisation, marketing and business development at companies such as EA, SCEE, Rare and Microsoft.

Super Mario Run is a unicorn, much like Minecraft.

The level of brand awareness, affinity, platform support are off the charts, and there is no doubt in my mind that the quality will be extremely high.

As an industry, I suspect we will learn nothing from this in terms of pricing.
Shintaro Kanaoya

As an industry, I suspect we will learn nothing from this in terms of pricing. What works for a unicorn doesn’t necessarily apply to those of us who are running mere horses.

For Nintendo however, this will calibrate their internal expectations/validate their current forecasts.

If their number one IP achieves X on mobile using this model at this price point, Zelda/Metroid/Pikmin/Smash Brothers/Mario Kart/Kirby/Fire Emblem/Donkey Kong/Animal Crossing/Star Fox - take a second to digest that stable of IP - will achieve Y.

This could have profound implications for them as a company - do they start to prioritise mobile going forward if the rewards are so great that they (and investors) simply can’t ignore them?

To paraphrase the incoming POTUS, “it’s gonna be huge!"

Features Editor

Matt is really bad at playing games, but hopefully a little better at writing about them. He's Features Editor for PocketGamer.biz, and has also written for lesser publications such as IGN, VICE, and Paste Magazine.

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