Super Mario Run: Why Apple over Android

Opinions expressed are solely my own and do not express the views or opinions of my employer.

Nintendo & Apple announced Super Mario Run coming this December exclusively on Apple devices. The game will be free with IAP but just one paywall to convert to full premium experience. Nintendo intends to bring Mario to as many people (esp. who haven’t grown up with Nintendo) as possible to drive sales of its future console business (NX).

With the above vision, it’s counter-intuitive for Nintendo to go exclusive with iOS as Android now captures 85% of WW smartphone OS. Super Mario Run is estimated to hit 1.5 billion lifetime downloads. So why would you want the majority of your customers (over 1 billion) to wait? What’s the value you get to justify the exclusive move, which could annoy Android partners? One might argue there must be a big $ check to make up the delta for the exclusivity window, in addition to any financial values from PR/ marketing. But Google and some major Android OEMs can probably match that.

To me, China seems to have the answer. According to the Newzoo report above, China has seen limited success with consoles even though it’s #1 gaming country by revenue. Nintendo is not the exception, hence its China revenue has been negligible. Apple, on the other hand, now sees China as the largest iPhone market. iPhone could arguably be the 1st global consumer/ entertainment device which was able to penetrate China even with its premium price points. So going back to Nintendo’s goal to engage large audience to lead up to NX sales, if Apple can help Nintendo expose millions of Chinese customers to Mario IP, that is huge. Furthermore, if the ‘rich’ Chinese customers who own iPhone convert well to buy a dedicated gaming console, it’s an unprecedented level of impact for Nintendo as a company.

So that’s I think why Nintendo agreed to hold Android and go big with Apple first. Today, no other platforms, including Google (who isn’t available yet in China), but Apple can offer that.