Super Mario Run has amassed more than 150 million downloads across Android and iOS making it one of the most successful mobile titles ever. It has more than ten times that of Nintendo’s other homegrown title Fire Emblem Heroes, but apparently it’s still lagging behind it in profits.
The news arrives via a series of tweets from The Wall Street Journal’s Takashi Mochizuki, who also said that Nintendo’s goal of converting 10% of those who download Run to buying the full game hadn’t yet been reached. Takashi didn’t get into specifics about the actual amount of revenue generated, but a look at analytics store App Annie reveals that Fire Emblem Heroes is regularly listed among the highest grossing Android and iOS titles, and Mario Run is not.
Nintendo chief: # of Fire Emblem downloads less than 1/10 of Mario, but revenue is bigger than Mario.
— Takashi Mochizuki (@mochi_wsj) April 27, 2017
One of the main reasons for this has to lie in the difference between Mario Run and Fire Emblem’s business models. Both games are free to download, but Run asks players to shell out $9.99 to unlock the full game after completing the first few levels, whereas Fire Emblem makes the whole game available and generates money through microtransactions.
This news highlights comments made by DS FishLabs (Galaxy on Fire, Sports Car Challenge) Studio Head Michael Krach in our recent interview about the success of free-to-play and paid-for mobile games. Having a flat fee to play a game, even if it comes a little later as in Mario Run’s case, is a barrier for consumers: throwing 10 bucks at Mario Run just doesn’t seem like a good deal when there are literally thousands of other mobile games available completely for free.
Nintendo’s next mobile game, due before the end of this year, is expected to be an Animal Crossing title. It seems likely that Nintendo will launch it with a free-to-play structure more similar to Fire Emblem than Mario Run.