Nintendo made a crucial mistake when launching Super Mario Run, and their stock is suffering for it, having fallen by 11 percent since the game hit the App Store last week, likely thanks to inflated investor expectations and a streak of some seriously negative user reviews.
DeNA, Nintendo’s mobile partner, has seen a 14 percent stock decline as well. All this is despite the popularity of the game, having been downloaded millions of times in the first day, even passing Pokemon GO’s record.
So what happened?
When an app goes live, the developer has a few options about how to recoup costs: They can charge for the application right out of the gate, depending on their name and its inherent value to users, they can give it away for free, they can drop some ads into the application to keep it free while they continue to pay rent, or, finally, they can take the “first one’s free” approach.
Nintendo decided on the last option, offering up the first few levels before requiring a purchase. In this world of free-to-play games that ask for your time (while dangling the stick of microtransactions in the corner of your eye the whole time), many of those who downloaded the game saw the tactic not as a demo with a link to the full game but as a betrayal. They’d committed their time to it only to find out that no amount of time spent was going to get them past the price tag. Not to mention that even once you purchase it, you need an internet connection to play it thanks to rampant mobile game piracy.
From the investor point of view, Nintendo should be going fully toward mobile, using their beloved name to back microtransaction-fueled games that pull in endless money for the company. Even if it’s a nightmare scenario for gamers, it’s easy to see how such a scenario could work in the short term. Nintendo’s announcement of going mobile was a hint at this. But, as usual, Nintendo’s gonna Nintendo, and that’s exactly what they’ve done so far – their own weird thing done their own weird way.
Super Mario Run is the second of four games in their partnership with DeNA – Pokemon GO is entirely Niantic and the Pokemon Company’s thing. It remains to be seen whether investors will go through the same rollercoaster of monetary feelings with the next two games or whether expectations will be better tempered, giving room for Nintendo to do their own weird thing and blow expectations out of the water.