Comment & Opinion

Super Mario Run will be great, but Animal Crossing Mobile is even more exciting

Playing it safe versus adapting to the platform

Super Mario Run will be great, but Animal Crossing Mobile is even more exciting

There is no doubt that Super Mario Run will be a tightly-executed, well-presented and extremely fun game.

It will have Nintendo charm bursting through its pores, Charles Martinet's sweet voice singing in your ears and all the fun of the Mushroom Kingdom in the palm of your hand.

Yet there's something slightly annoying about Nintendo's shift from the weird, experimental chat app Miitomo, to a slightly more obvious auto-runner starring its moustachioed mascot.

It means that titles that have the potential to be far more interesting – namely the upcoming Animal Crossing and Fire Emblem adaptations DeNA had planned to be the next releases – have been pushed back to 2017.

Please the masses

There are obviously many, many reasons why Mario should come first ahead of two admittedly niche franchises.

For one, if Nintendo is going to even begin to replicate the mega success of Niantic Labs' Pokemon GO, it needs another brand with huge star power.

Pokemon GO proved that you can have a huge success on mobile if you tap into people's nostalgia, both with brand appeal and actual gameplay, and update it for the modern player.

From what we've seen of Super Mario Run, it looks to be doing just that, but adding in new features and updating the game for a mobile audience.

It's not the same as a typical Mario game by a long stretch, but it looks close enough.

Animal Crossing and Fire Emblem, by that merit, may have a tougher time reaching their audiences.

Both series are, while critically acclaimed, more niche than their bigger Italian brother and lack the true star power to draw in a big audience.

That might be under-selling them - Animal Crossing: New Leaf managed to sell 10 million copies, for example - but they lack the same meteoric brand power of Mario, a decades-old franchise recognised by hundreds of millions around the world.

To put it simply: everyone knows Mario, but not everyone knows Tom Nook.

Hard sell

Mario is an easy sell. Animal Crossing and Fire Emblem aren't.

Secondly, with a Mario game, you know exactly what you're getting.

When you see Mario on a 2D plane, you can assume he's going to be running from left to right, jumping on enemies, and defeating Bowser to save Princess Peach.

When you see Animal Crossing, you could be getting into a life simulation, a home designer, a digital board game, or whatever else the developer might have thrown at the ideas wall.

Mario is an easy sell. Animal Crossing and Fire Emblem aren't.

Trying new things

Yet while all of these are valid points, and it makes perfect business sense for both Nintendo and DeNA to push forward its Mario game, I can't help but feel slightly miffed.

It's a very safe option that doesn't really push any boundaries or try anything that hasn't been done before, which feels very un-Nintendo.

Animal Crossing is one of our most anticipated games for a reason – it could literally be any game at all, since we know nothing about it.

Fire Emblem will most likely be a strategy RPG, but its main series is so high quality that with a clever design, its mobile adaptation could be one of the strongest of the genre available.

There's so much that could be done with these games, and so many exciting prospects, but instead Nintendo have gone for a safe approach with an auto-runner.

Pay up

There's also now a precedent set for DeNA's much-touted "free-to-start" model, which began as simply free-to-play with Miitomo, but is now more like classic premium releases on mobile.

Everything following Super Mario Run will now be compared to it - which can only be a bad thing.

If this is their definition of free-to-start, will we end up with short trials of Animal Crossing and Fire Emblem, locked off until you pay the full price?

I was genuinely interested to see what kind of monetisation model DeNA would implement in Animal Crossing in particular.

There would be the obvious IAP to give yourself more Bells, Animal Crossing's currency, but how generous would their initial rewards be?

Could players earn Bells in-game through interacting with the animals, as in the main game, or will they have to take part in mini-games like in Miitomo?

Might there even have be rewarded video ads involved, where players could opt-in to viewing an ad for a new piece of furniture or a Bell boost? Could players still earn Bells by selling items?

There's so many questions, and so many ways a free-to-play model could be implemented in a way the benefits the player, makes it more accessible, and keeps the fun, while still generating revenue for DeNA, without the need for a premium price point.

And there's still the point that its Animal Crossing mobile game could be literally anything - who knows what monetisation tricks the developer may have up its sleeve?

All fun and games

This is, of course, the complaints of but one man in a minority of players.

And it is important to remember than Super Mario Run does look lovely, and is certain to be the best of its genre, and a tonne of fun to play.

But following on from Miitomo with a well-established genre starring a hugely known character limits the chance for more experimentation with other franchises, as now everything following Super Mario Run will be compared to it.

How well an experimental Animal Crossing title will fare against Super Mario Run is not something I want to consider.

In the end, it only means additional time spent developing both Animal Crossing and Fire Emblem, which could lead to higher quality titles from both franchises.

But really, a bizarre, half-baked experiment would be a lot more interesting to play than an auto-runner.


Ric is the Editor of, having started out as a Staff Writer on the site back in 2015. He received an honourable mention in both the MCV and Develop 30 Under 30 lists in 2016 and refuses to let anyone forget about it.