Mobile Mavens

What impact will Super Mario Run have on mobile indie game developers?

Our Indie Mavens weigh in

What impact will Super Mario Run have on mobile indie game developers?

Apple's most recent keynote event revealed more than a few exciting new releases from the tech giant.

On top of a new iPhone and a new series of Apple Watches, Apple showed off some of its upcoming games - one of which was Super Mario Run.

An auto-runner with a huge brand attached to it, Super Mario Run could well be yet another megahit for Nintendo, as well as a potential huge boost for diverse business models on the App Store in general.

But that's just our opinion - to find out more about the potential effects of the game's release, we turned to our Indie Mavens to get their thoughts on what might happen in a post-Super Mario Run world.

More specificially, we asked:

  • How big do you think Super Mario Run will be for mobile games as a whole, and what impact do you think it will have on business for indies?
Aaron Fothergill Co-founder Strange Flavour

I'm definitely putting it in the "This is a very good thing (TM)" category, as it has the potential to be a huge draw, and re-introduces gamers to the classic shareware concept of "try a bit of the game then pay to unlock the whole thing".

So, hopefully, the hardcore anti-IAP gamers will actually see this format for what it is, which is a fair way of try before you buy, and not some sort of way of constantly gouging money out of them.

Being a free game and single purchase, it's not really taking downloads or money away from other titles.
Aaron Fothergill

Long-term this is great for indies, as the shareware concept has always been a mainstay of indie game sales.

My brother Adam (who's the other half of Strange Flavour) had to be persuaded on this positivity, as his initial thought was that we could end up with Nintendo dominating the whole mobile platform and nobody else getting a look in, as it typically is on Nintendo's platforms, where the balance is very much in favour of Nintendo first-party games.

As it’s not on a Nintendo platform though, and the App Store ecosystem is so large already, I don't think this will be an issue.

Yes, it will be 90% of the casual game coverage for a while, and it'll be #1 probably for years, but being a free game and single purchase, it's not really taking downloads or money away from other titles. Compared to the positive changes it could have on the market, that's a fair trade.

It’s also yet to be seen just how good a product it is, given it's not being developed directly by Nintendo but by DeNA, who are primarily known for F2P games with on-going consumable purchases, rather than a premium-style, pay once for the game format (even if it’s as an IAP so you pay once after a free download to try it).

It says a lot about what Nintendo want for their gamers that they pushed DeNA to do that.

Tanya X. Short Creative Director Kitfox Games

Super Mario Run is yet another big brand making something uninspiring in order to keep up a steady cash flow.

It's smart in the most boring way. There are fringe benefits, but overall it's just another business day. Heck, even making Mario GO (where you collect coins and stomp Koopas in your local neighbourhood) would have been a more interesting decision.

I was much more impressed by the risks taken by Telltale in developing Mr. Robot:1.51exfiltrati0n.apk.

They could have taken the safe route and made a Mr. Robot match-3, but instead not only delivered an interesting interactive narrative experiment, but also funded development from a smaller studio (Night School).

This feels much more like a business venture that has a chance of building a healthy ecosystem.

Travis Ryan Studio Head Dumpling Design


Seeing Miyamoto take to the stage with his infectious playfulness (hamburgers indeed!) felt like a real inflection point.

At a time when the mobile industry is ready to eat its face off, it needed a Nintendo to come in and reset expectations of value.
Travis Ryan

It was Apple (finally!) acknowledging gaming as kind of a big deal, and it was Nintendo embracing a wider audience and executing an important shift in strategy; gaming meals on NX, snacks on Mobile, cross-promoted and connected via a unified 'My Nintendo' account.

Sure, it’s a 'runner' (hold on, isn't Mario the original runner?) but that fact that it's 'just a runner' is vital to its success - they just need to make an incredibly solid and surprising Super Mario game, that’s a joy to play and proves Nintendo on mobile 'works'.

Fusing 'classic Mario' with 'classic mobile' shows Nintendo perfectly understand their audience, while bringing their development A-team - mainly comprised of members of the original Super Mario team - shows their commitment to quality.

(As I understand it Nintendo EAD are working on the 'game bit', while DeNA are working on the 'Kingdom Building' bit of the game.)

At a time when the mobile industry is ready to eat its face off, it needed a Nintendo to come in and reset expectations of value, and to reinvigorate the premium price-point (clearly something Apple also has a vested interest in).

If the bespoke 'Notify' function for Super Mario Run on the app store is anything to go by, it'll be a fascinating relationship.

We’ll certainly see more 'Only on the App Store' as they establish a go-to platform for your Nintendo snacks, but let's imagine Nintendo-designed controllers on iOS for a moment?

What does this mean for us lil' game devs?

Stronger support from Apple for games and premium content for starters, a ripple effect of better publishing support and investment would be nice (rather than the cynical low-fruit picking of today).

The cost? Increased quality and polish to meet premium expectations and the risk of premium brands further pushing smaller games out of the spotlight, perhaps into their own tiers as we see with console.

Matthew Annal MD Nitrome

I think any Mario game is going to sell like hotcakes on mobile, and we'll see many 'it prints money' memes in comment boxes for a while after.

Being able to properly label a game as premium but with a free demo would be much clearer.
Mat Annal

The important thing though from an indie standpoint is that it could kick-start a business model which so far has not been a widely accepted.

As I understand it, the game will be offered free so users can try the game and a paywall with a single payment will unlock the rest of the game. This model on mobile has until now resulted in angry downloaders claiming the 'free' game is only a demo.

What I hope and believe will happen is that Mario is a big enough brand to let consumers see past this and understand it as a fair business model.

If this happens, I believe the door would be open for indies to follow this model. It won't change anything for the bigger players, but indies like to make premium-style games and this supports that.

If it takes off, I'd also love to see more support of this model from Apple. Being able to properly label a game as premium but with a free demo would be much clearer.

Maybe instead of 'Free' with the words 'in-app purchases' underneath we could have 'Free' with the words 'demo with paid unlock' beneath it.

Pierre-Luc Vettier CEO Zero Games Studios

Well well well...

When you asked the question of Pokemon GO's impact on indies, I was not worried at all. Pokemon was a very particular and special game, and I don't think it has changed anything.

On Nintendo DS, every time Nintendo released a game, all other games of the same genre stopped selling.
Pierre-Luc Vettier

In fact, I'm usually not worried for indies when a very special game with a strong licence is released as most of the time, it's not changing anything.

But for Super Mario Run, my thoughts are different...

I don't think it will change everything, but the fact that Nintendo is coming to mobile to compete on more classic game styles is a bit more worrisome, as I'm pretty sure that if a far better indie runner is released at the same time, it will just disappear quickly and go to the list of "very good games that never had a chance to perform well".

I know it very well - this happens every day on the stores - but I think that there's a risk (even if it's a very small risk) to see the Nintendo DS story repeat again on mobile.

The fact is, Nintendo have a lot of cool licenses in all classic game styles - Mario Kart for racing, Mario for platformers/runners, the Advance Wars series for strategy, etc...

And on Nintendo DS, every time Nintendo released a game, all other games of the same genre stopped selling, as people always preferred to buy the big N licensed games.

And that's why developers finally stopped working on this system, letting Nintendo be the master of the console.

Maybe we are at the beginning of a similar strategy - Nintendo releasing their biggest licenses in the most popular game genres on mobile and crushing competition, indies included.

I don't say that it will happen, but I think it could happen, and it would be a smart strategy from them as no-one can compete on casual gaming against them.

And mobile is the perfect market since handheld consoles are now useless.

Henrik Johansson Designer and artist Mediocre

Regarding Super Mario Run, I barely feel qualified to say, as I've never known much about the world of Nintendo, which seems to be a world of its own with its own logic.

There is obviously a huge audience for this game considering how many people who already love the IP, but I'm not sure how appealing the game will be for new players who didn't grow up playing Nintendo games, though even that is difficult to say since I haven't yet played the game myself.

In any case, I doubt it will have anything near the impact Pokemon GO had (which was pretty crazy), considering it looks to be little more than a very casual version of the original.

I don't see any reason this game will change anything for indies though.


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.