Why Super Mario Run was a flop and we should've seen it coming

This article may contain personal views and opinion from the author.

“Super Mario Run is no longer the highest grossing app anywhere”. This is the headline Nintendo woke up to less than two weeks after the game's release. Nintendo's shares plummeted hours after the game was launched, due to bad user reviews and slow sales that resulted in disappointed investors. It is safe to say that “Super Mario Run” was not the smash hit everyone expected it to be.

If I have to describe the entire game in one word, it would have to be “trainwreck”. It just failed to deliver on all fronts. It disappointed gamers, it drove investors away and it had a bad impact on Nintendo's shares. No one won in this run (pun completely intended), and there are several reasons for that.

Quality of the game

Don't get me wrong. “Super Mario Run” is not a bad game. It's polished, bug-free and well put together. But it's also generic, short and becomes repetitive easily.

The levels are not infinite or procedurally generated, which drives the replay value way down. What you get is a total of 24 levels, which you can replay several times before you have done all you can do on them. To put this in perspective, the original "Super Mario Bros." had 32 levels. That's not a lot of content for a one-touch runner, so we naturally assumed that there will be more levels added in a future update. Nintendo dismissed the idea, though.

When it comes to the other two game modes – Toad Rally and Kingdom Builder – they simply disappoint. Toad Rally pits you against a semi-transparent ghost of a friend, which completely destroys the feeling that you're racing someone, and Kingdom Builder provides no more than half an hour of additional content.

Overall, I'd say that the 2.5 stars “Super Mario Run” got in the App Store are well deserved. Anything more would be overrating.

The business model is correct for the game, but wrong for the genre

The game provides a free demo that lets you replay the first three levels as much as you like. The full game can be access for a one-time fee of $9.99. Do you see where the problem is already?

“One-time” is the keyword here. People pay once, then never again. And they have complete access to all the content of the game. So, even if the small percentage of users that actually bought the game after trying the demo continue to play for months after the initial purchase, this will not result in additional revenue for Nintendo.

But let's look at the other business models Nintendo could've chosen for “Super Mario Run”. There is a grand total of two that could work, and let me explain why neither of them would fit Nintedo's vision for the Italian plumber.

If “Super Mario Run” was free with microtransactions, it should've chosen a completely different structure. A finite number of 24 levels that can be replayed three or four times until you explore them fully wouldn't drive enough interest in purchasing additional lives. Users would beat the game for a week or two, and then completely ignore it. Think about it, how many people would keep investing in a game that they've explored completely already? Especially one that doesn't offer any extra benefits after being beaten. I, for one, wouldn't pay money to be bored by the same old levels over and over again.

So, in order for the microtransactions business model to work, you need some content to make users come back. This could come in the form of weekly updates, new levels every few weeks, or simply procedurally generated levels. If there is new content, far more people would be willing to pay the few extra cents for a lives refill.

The other way Nintendo could've gone in order to generate a steadier revenue stream would be to make the game free with in-app ads. I don't think it's necessary to explain why this would be a very bad choice for the legendary Japanese company.

Including annoying ads or forcing users to view video ads for an extra life would completely ruin the over-excited plumber's image. Nintendo aims to deliver premium experiences with its games. Stuffing them with ads will only create the feeling that the game is cheap and generic. And it will definitely drive away the users that play the game due to nostalgia.

So, to summarize, Nintendo charges us $9.99 for a runner game that brings nothing new to the table, and offers pretty limited gameplay time for its genre. What we get with “Super Mario Run” can be found in most free runners out there, with some of them offering real-time multiplayer races, infinite worlds and levels, and huge replayability.

What made the game so popular was the fact that it's a Super Mario game, and it's the first title from the franchise on mobile. Which brings us to the next point.

Over-hyping the game turned around to bite Nintendo

There was so much hype around the game's release. Fans went wild all over social media the moment Miyamoto announced it. Everyone was looking for information on release dates, availability, gameplay mechanics, and whatnot. “Super Mario Run” was the main focus of the mobile gaming industry for the past several months.

And it's not really our fault that we were hyped. Shigeru Miyamoto came back from retirement for this title. This was the first Super Mario game he has actively worked on for years. It was bound to be great. Except, it wasn't.

The mediocre game, paired with the insane amounts of hype around the title resulted in more disappointed fans than any of us expected. When you add the unreasonable price tag to the mix, the picture is complete.

And since everyone had very high expectations for a product that failed to deliver on them, investors backed away. Nintendo's shares soared the day “Super Mario Run” was announced, and crashed the day it was released. Despite the $5 million in revenue at launch day, Nintendo seems to have lost the faith of investors and fans alike.

We should've seen it coming

We had all the clues right in front of us. Official gameplay videos, release dates, pricing, everything was available weeks ahead of release. When I look back at the info that was available in the middle of November, I can actually see that the flaws were already uncovered. Why did we fail to realize that “Super Mario Run” will not be that good, then?

There are several factors that mislead us, really, the first one being that this is Nintendo. We've seen our fair share of not-so-hot games on the Wii, but none of them were that bad either.

In addition to the pristine reputation of the Japanese developers, we had the success of Pokemon GO. Sure, things slowed down a bit after the initial euphoria around the game's release, but it's still among the top apps on both Android and iOS.

And last, but not least, was the price. For ten bucks, we expected the premium quality of a true Super Mario game. We wanted the genuine experience. What we got instead was a dumbed down version of it, that sort of captures the spirit of the original, but not quite.


We expected more, and our favorite plumber deserved more. “Super Mario Run” is nothing but a disappointment for everyone. Users received a sub-par game, investors felt cheated, and Nintendo will have to deal with the consequences.

My guess is that the game was not costly to develop. It's small, simple and comes with graphics that look like they're refurbished from the Wii line of consoles. So, if we look at the app alone, despite all the controversy, it will probably be quite profitable for Nintendo.

What makes “Super Mario Run” a flop is the impact it will have on Nintendo in the long run. Will users be that open to another Super Mario game on their phones? Will investors be that confident about Nintendo's future mobile titles? I honestly doubt that the answer to any of the two questions is “yes”, but as a Nintendo fan myself, I sincerely hope I'm wrong.



1. Settings

Posts: 2943; Member since: Jul 02, 2014

2016 is the year for publishing rushed techs. Note 7, Pixel, Mario, iOS10 which turned out sour.

3. bucky

Posts: 3794; Member since: Sep 30, 2009

iOS 10 is sour? I think it's the best update in a while.

6. Arch_Fiend

Posts: 3951; Member since: Oct 03, 2015

I agree, he said rushed tech and then threw in iOS 10 which is software and was in no way rushed and Super Mario run is also software and being rushed isn't why it sucks lol.

25. xocomaox

Posts: 201; Member since: Dec 14, 2015

"Tech" isn't limited to hardware. What's wrong with you?

30. Arch_Fiend

Posts: 3951; Member since: Oct 03, 2015

I don't like calling software tech is all. Sure it does include software I suppose but It just doesn't sound right lol.

12. sissy246

Posts: 7129; Member since: Mar 04, 2015

He is right, IOS 10 has had problems, Google it

13. kiko007

Posts: 7520; Member since: Feb 17, 2016

Google what a period is......

15. Darkkracker

Posts: 255; Member since: Jun 11, 2016

its what your mother has each month when she looks at your picture. tard.

16. kiko007

Posts: 7520; Member since: Feb 17, 2016

.......Speaking from experience?

28. Unordinary unregistered

I think every OS release has problem, and hardware. For example: Google Pixel is having a widespread issue right now where their phones shut down at 30% battery. s**t happens.

31. Arch_Fiend

Posts: 3951; Member since: Oct 03, 2015

No need to google anything, I do own an iPhone after all and I haven't had any problems so sever that I would say I don't like iOS 10 and that it was rushed. The only problem I have is that stupid bug that accrues when clearing suspended apps in landscape mode(I know I don't have to clear them), it is super annoying.

17. ph00ny

Posts: 2067; Member since: May 26, 2011

I've been having quite a few issues with iOS10 more notably occasional freezes when accessing the phone app either during pick up or dialing out

33. jonartpop

Posts: 199; Member since: Oct 25, 2012

True. I have been having it too on my iPhone 7.

20. Subie

Posts: 2415; Member since: Aug 01, 2015

Yes, the Note 7 was a failed venture for Samsung, but please explain how a one year product release cycle is "Rushed" as you say. And Mario wasn't rushed, it's just overpriced for the content on offer IMO.

2. bucky

Posts: 3794; Member since: Sep 30, 2009

Because it's just a temple run. Give me the n64 full game

4. Tizo101

Posts: 597; Member since: Jun 05, 2015

that's mostly what I've been saying about the game while it was being over hyped.

5. dnomadic

Posts: 437; Member since: Feb 20, 2015

I thought it was a pretty good game. Sure it was a little Short and PRICEY as a Lambo... But the game itself was well executed. If they forego the 4 board demo and the $9.99 price, I'm sure the ratings would have been higher... the initial 4 board demo really had me upset, then the price sent me over the edge. When my son purchased it and I played it I realized that Nintendo had actually done a nice job with the game.

7. Enddo

Posts: 53; Member since: May 26, 2014

I love how people claim this game was a flop for Nintendo, yet it has made them over 14 million dollars on iOS alone. This game was a huge success for their first in-house mobile game, so expect more of the same in the future

8. cmdacos

Posts: 4313; Member since: Nov 01, 2016

Less then 10% of people are paying for it. That's a flop as it was intended to bring in tens of millions.

27. Unordinary unregistered

What a bunch of cucks. You morons would rather have "watch 60 second ad to continue" or "pay .99¢ for extra hearts" or "unlock first world for $3.99" ($16 total) or other s**t to pay for instead of just an ad free, premium experience game that you only toss 10 bucks for??? It's the cost of a fkn sandwich lol. All the circle jerk on how this game is overpriced is a complete joke lmao. Maybe people need to stop asking their parents to use their credit card.

32. cmdacos

Posts: 4313; Member since: Nov 01, 2016

Pet rocks are $10 too but I'm not buying that crap either. Just because something is relatively cheap does not make it a value.

34. Unordinary unregistered

That was cringeworthy to read.

18. Acdc1a

Posts: 475; Member since: Jan 21, 2016

How much did it cost them in lost share value?

24. EclipseGSX

Posts: 1777; Member since: Oct 18, 2011

Only 14 Million is a flop considering Pokemon Go made 500 Million in 60 days and Clash of Clans still makes 10+ Million a month by releasing new content. And yes they are on both platforms but 14 Mil is just sad for iOS only

9. NarutoKage14

Posts: 1345; Member since: Aug 31, 2016

Such a long article just to say the game sucked and was a near total disappointment.

10. combatmedic870

Posts: 986; Member since: Sep 02, 2015

I just want most of the n64 marios

11. aegislash

Posts: 1528; Member since: Jan 27, 2015

As long as Nintendo sticks with this module of buying the game outright with no IAPs, I'll be very happy. In App Purchases, while great for developers, have ruined mobile gaming in my eyes, and the fact that they're starting to trickle their way into console games as well is just truly a shame. /rant over I thoroughly enjoyed Super Mario Run and felt that it was well worth the $10 price tag. It wasn't perfect by any means, but it was a decent first attempt for a company who once said they'd never get into mobile gaming. (not counting Miitomo since that was barely a true *game* per say)

14. krystian

Posts: 423; Member since: Mar 16, 2016

Give mobile users real games. The short tapping games are silly to try to capitalize on moments of free time. But if console gaming and the huge money it brings it says anything, people will make time for good games. There are a lot of good games with analog controls done right. Create new game mechanics. You can have mario jump with a virtual button and then shaking screen quickly will make him spin. I want to play real games on mobile not these time wasters. I don't want to waste my time, I want to enjoy it.


Posts: 63; Member since: Oct 11, 2016

''We expected more, and our favorite plumber deserved more. “Super Mario Run” is nothing but a disappointment for everyone. Users received a sub-par game, investors felt cheated, and Nintendo will have to deal with the consequences'' If you waited a full Super Mario experience like the ones you get in Nintendo consoles you are a complete moron Damian. Mario didn't cost a dime . All the graphic assets are from previous Mario games. As for the consequences seriously you overeacting. Nothing will happen. Nintendo survived through the N64 , gamecube and wii U era . If you or mobile users want a full Mario experience go buy a 3ds or the upcoming Switch . If not, buzz off. Keep playing candy crush till the day you die.....happy Xmass btw

21. hitmantb

Posts: 79; Member since: Jul 26, 2012

We are talking about a year where mobile games brought in 41 billion dollars and smashed console/PC. Five billion dollar games in one year (and no, Pokemon GO was not one of them). Yet Nintendo pocketed maybe 20-30 million dollars from their flagship and that is it. The fact that Niantic kept Pokemon Go at top of the chart for 3 months and scored $700 million, shows how out of touch Nintendo is with mobile games. They have no idea how to make a smash hit, they are better off lending their IP's to companies who can build a proper game.

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