Super Mario Run is poised to be Nintendo’s second big mobile game of 2016.
While Pokemon Go isn’t technically a Nintendo game — the company invested in developer, Niantic, and released the game in partnership with the studio and The Pokemon Company — it will be joined by Super Mario Run this Thursday in being yet another game that has — in some way, shape or form — found its way through Nintendo HQ.
Certainly, Super Mario Run has been influenced far more by Nintendo stalwarts than Pokemon Go was.
That includes, of course, Shigeru Miyamoto, who has played a pretty important role in shaping Nintendo into the company it is today. He is the brains behind Mario, Zelda, Donkey Kong, and the Wii, after all.
December 15 stands to be a very important day for Apple, the App Store, and Nintendo. It will be the latter’s first mobile game developed and published in-house, so, as expected, it will face far more scrutiny and attention than Pokemon Go did.
This is a franchise and a character with a broad reach across generations, and while Pokemon is similar in how it appeals to a diverse demographic of player, Mario is a household name dating back to the ’80s, and continues to be an important role model and mascot, not just for Nintendo, but for video games more broadly.
The unparalleled success of Pokemon Go, which broke all sorts of records upon release on its way to having the highest grossing 30-day launch period of any iOS game ever, makes the release of Super Mario Run all the more interesting.
One insights team predicts the game could earn more than $70 million worldwide in its first month of availability, and that doesn’t include China.
Not only would that propel it to the top of the charts as one of the best ever launches on iOS, but it would easily place it in the top five for highest grossing games of all time.
So, what is it about Super Mario Run, the character, Nintendo and the platform that stands to make this one of the most downloaded and played games of all time?
It’s a bonafide Super Mario game
There are countless examples of major games franchises making the transition to mobile, and being absolutely butchered in the process. Call Of Duty are Mass Effect are two that come to mind.
Super Mario Run is different, however, having being built from the ground up for iOS by some of Nintendo’s — and gaming’s — most revered game designers and producers. Safe to say that Super Mario Run will be a Mario game that is as detailed, balanced, tight and challenging as pretty much every other game in the series.
Miyamoto himself produced it, and has been on the promotional trail talking the game up ahead of launch. It’s been directed by Takashi Tezuka, who has been with Nintendo since 1984 and has worked as either a producer, director or supervisor on pretty much every great Nintendo game over the past three decades.
Most promising about Super Mario Run is that it doesn’t appear to have sacrificed gameplay fundamentals — the things that make Mario games great — for the sake of incorporating mobile game gimmicks. It does have touch-screen controls, but as an endless runner, it has incorporated simple mechanics that, balanced next to Mario’s new moves and the game’s automatic and constant movement, make the game super accessible yet tough to master.
It’s portable Mario for a different — but knowing — audience
Pokemon Go‘s appeal came in many different forms. Being a Pokemon game obviously helped, but the craze and hype that surrounded its release made for a social juggernaut the world simply hadn’t seen in the smartphone era.
It probably attracted an otherwise unknowing audience, a demographic that either didn’t play Pokemon, or were too old to care when it was first released. There’s still a sizeable audience that grew up with it, however, that fits within that 18-35 age bracket, and they were the ones more likely to invest both time and money into it.
Mario will be different, because it involves less of a time investment than Pokemon games do. There’s also the mainstream factor in that Mario is a household name, one that is used loosely to explain and/or define both classic and modern video games.
Everyone born into, around or before the 80s would know Mario, and would probably appreciate and recognise the character when they see it. Are my parents more likely to download Super Mario Run than they are Pokemon Go? Definitely.
I’m sure there are baby boomers out there downloading and playing Pokemon Go, but I doubt it’s a figure anywhere close to the type of reaction and attention Mario generates from an audience otherwise unengaged with video games.
And someone looking for a new game is going to automatically shift towards an app with a big, grinning picture of Super Mario because, well, it’s Mario. Who wouldn’t?
There are concerns about the pricing factor — it’s $14 in Australia, and $9.99 US in most other regions) — but the free demo should do enough to both tide over people looking for a quick bash, and those looking to determine just how worthwhile the game is.
Nintendo reportedly believes one-third — or seven million — of the predicted 20 million downloads of Super Mario Run will be paying customers in the first month. That alone is mightily impressive.
It reinvigorates Mario basics
Perhaps the most appealing aspect of Super Mario Run for me personally is the game’s adaptability to mobile, and its comfort in embracing the refined and unique gameplay that’s suited to the platform.
Miyamoto has said in interviews that Nintendo had thought about an endless-runner for Mario for a while, but in typical Nintendo fashion, the company wanted to make sure it was done absolutely right without compromising the integrity of the character.
Simply taking Mario, making him run automatically and then hoping people will embrace it probably wouldn’t have sufficed. I play Monster Dash quite a bit on my iPad, and while it’s mindless, simplistic fun, it can actually be frustrating in its simplicity, because sometimes failure is unavoidable due to the shallowness of the gameplay.
Super Mario Run throws in some subtle gameplay changes that take the standard, classic platformer gameplay that has defined Super Mario games for decades, and balances it out next to the increasingly challenging auto-runner gameplay we know all too well on the smartphone platform.
We’ll of course have to wait and see just how well this all blends together, but the idea behind “stylish” moves sets Super Mario Run up to be a successful smartphone debut for Nintendo.
Super Mario Run launches December 15 on iOS devices. For information about price in your region, device compatibility, and more, check out our Super Mario Run guide.