Super Mario Run
|Super Mario Run|
Super Mario Run[a] is a side-scrolling, endless runner video game developed and published by Nintendo for iOS and Android devices. It was released for iOS in December 2016 and for Android in March 2017. The game represents one of Nintendo's first games developed for mobile devices, and one of the few instances that a game in the Mario series was officially released on non-Nintendo hardware.
Super Mario Run features four principal game modes: the core game where the player controls Mario or other characters as they automatically run across the screen while timing jumps to collect coins and other awards, a Toad Rally where players compete against ghosts of other players, Remix 10 where players complete altered versions of levels from the core game, and a Mushroom Kingdom area for players to expand using coins and other collectibles from the other game modes. The game was produced by series creator Shigeru Miyamoto, and was developed primarily by the same team that had developed New Super Mario Bros. for the Nintendo DS, featuring many similar gameplay concepts adapted for ease of mobile controllers. Unlike many other mobile games that use a free-to-play approach, Super Mario Run is offered as a free demo with a fixed price point to unlock the rest of the game's remaining content.
Super Mario Run received generally positive reviews by critics. Reviewers generally praised the game's replay value and addictive gameplay, though common criticism was directed towards its comparatively high price in the mobile market, as well as its required connectivity to the internet. The game became the fastest-growing app in iOS history, having been downloaded more than 50 million times worldwide during its first week of release, and more than 200 million times by the end of 2017.
Super Mario Run plays as a side-scrolling, auto-runner platformer game. The player controls Mario as he automatically runs from left to right, jumping on his own to clear small gaps or obstacles. The player must tap the touch screen to make Mario jump over larger obstacles. The longer the screen is touched, the higher Mario jumps. Like other side-scrolling Super Mario games, the player must maneuver Mario over gaps, onto enemies, and into coins to collect them. The end goal is for the player to safely get Mario through the level in the fastest time possible.
Replayability comes from collecting all the normal coins and finding special coins in each level. First, the player must find five pink coins, collecting those unlocks five purple coins and finally collecting those unlocks five black coins, therefore it takes at least three playthroughs to collect everything in a given level.
In addition to the main game, there is a separate "Toad Rally" game mode where players can challenge "ghost" versions of other players' playthroughs of levels, similar to the time attack modes found in most Mario Kart entries. Access to Toad Rally requires the player to use a Rally Ticket, which can be earned either through completing levels in the main gamemode, trading My Nintendo coins, or other in-game tasks. Playing either game mode earns the player coins that can be used to buy items for creating and customizing their own "Mushroom Kingdom" in a separate, third gameplay mode comparable to Farmville. The player can also gain or lose Toads that populate their Mushroom Kingdom in Toad Rallies. The player can unlock other characters to play as through these game modes, such as Luigi, Princess Peach, Princess Daisy, Toad, Toadette, and Yoshi. These characters have slightly different gameplay attributes; using the different characters is not required to complete any level, but they give players the tools to completing levels with different approaches.
Following launch, Nintendo introduced a "Friendly Run" version of Toad Rally, which does not require any Rally Tickets and can only be done fives times per day, and will also not earn the player coins for winning.
An easy difficulty mode was added in a January 2017 update, assisting players having difficulty in beating levels in World Tour by granting them unlimited bubbles and removing the time limit. This mode has the downside of not counting any coins collected while playing within that mode.
Development and release
Nintendo had been hesitant about developing titles for the mobile gaming market since its onset in the early 2010s, as the company was highly protective of its franchise characters and only desired to have them featured in games for their hardware. At that time, Nintendo president Satoru Iwata felt that by developing mobile titles, they would "cease to be Nintendo" and lose their identity. By 2014, the company recognized that the growth of the mobile market was impacting their financial performances, with sales of its hardware and software declining greatly and posting a $240 million loss for the financial year. By the next year, Iwata's views had shifted significantly, and he led Nintendo into a partnership with mobile developer DeNA to start bringing Nintendo's brands to mobile, including five planned Nintendo titles. The first of these was Miitomo, based on the Mii avatars used in Nintendo's console software. Separately, Nintendo collaborated with Niantic and The Pokémon Company to release Pokémon Go.
The concept of the game bore out from ideas for new Mario games on the Wii, including one where the player would need to control Mario in time to the rhythm of the music. This concept was fleshed out further as part of New Super Mario Bros., but led to the idea of a simply-controlled game. Nintendo was also inspired by speedrunners, according to Miyamoto. They had noticed that these players, in racing through the various Mario games, never let go of the forward direction control, effectively making Mario run all the time, and considered how to allow all players to have that experience. Similarly, they observed speedrunners were adept at performing certain types of difficult timed jumps that enabled quick completion times; Nintendo included special blocks that players would encounter in Super Mario Run to easily complete similar jumps, so that they could "give even beginner players an opportunity to get a taste for what's fun about the more skilled style of Mario play," according to Miyamoto. The game was developed with the aim to be played with the mobile device in a vertical orientation. This gave the developers more gameplay ideas to stretch the vertical space of the game, as well as to emphasize the simplicity of the game's controls.
Super Mario Run represents the second mobile game under the DeNA partnership, and Nintendo's first mobile game to use one of their established intellectual properties. Nintendo representative director Shigeru Miyamoto explained that the company believed that with some of their game franchises, "the longer you continue to make a series, the more complex the gameplay becomes, and the harder it becomes for new players to be able to get into the series", and that the company sees mobile games with simplified controls, such as Super Mario Run, not only allows them to "make a game that the broadest audience of people could play", but to also reintroduce these properties to newer audiences and draw them to their consoles. While it would be possible for them to simply port their existing titles to mobile device with the creation of virtual controllers on the touchscreen, Miyamoto felt that would not be as "interesting", instead they were "more interested in looking at how we can be creative with Mario, and design for iPhones in a way that takes advantage of the uniqueness of that device and the uniqueness of that input and the features that that device has". The game was developed jointly by Nintendo and DeNA. Takashi Tezuka served as the game's designer and Miyamoto as the producer. This was the first game that Miyamoto had been as closely involved in its development since 2007's Super Mario Galaxy. Nintendo used the same core development team that created New Super Mario Bros., and Super Mario Run shares a similar 2.5D graphic style as this previous title. The game's three gameplay modes were developed in parallel by separate groups within the development team. The entire game was built using the Unity engine. Shortly before release, Nintendo's Reggie Fils-Aimé said the game would not be coming to the Nintendo Switch, due to different development architecture.
The game was first announced by Miyamoto on September 7, 2016, at Apple's annual iPhone event. The game initially launched in 10 languages in 150 countries. Super Mario Run was released on iOS devices on December 15, 2016, and on Android devices on March 22, 2017. For the iOS release, the game runs on both iPhones and iPads. Super Mario Run can be downloaded for free, giving players access to the first three levels, and the remainder of the game can be unlocked following a one-time payment, eschewing the traditional microtransaction approach used by smartphone games. Part of the reason for this pricing scheme was to make it transparent to parents who may be purchasing the game for their children so that they would not incur further costs. Fearing piracy of the game, Nintendo added always-on DRM, which requires that players have a persistent Internet connection to play. Polygon speculated that Nintendo opted to develop the game first for the iOS platform because of its stronger security options and consistent ecosystem compared to Android.
An update released in January 2017 introduced "Easy Mode", reduced the number of Toads lost in Toad Rally, and added Korean language support. The game launched in South Korea on the same date. An update released in April 2017 raised the maximum cap number of Toads from 9,999 to 99,999, while also allowing players to use Miitomo via their Nintendo Accounts to customize their Mii icons, including implementing any costumes they own. Additionally, players can now add friends already registered on their Nintendo Account, and support was added for Game Center and Google Play Games achievements.
In September 2017, a significant update was released that added new levels, new courses, new buildings, and a new playable character, Daisy. The update includes nine new levels that must be unlocked by completing various goals and challenges. The new levels are themed as "a forest, a ship packed with coins, and a whole airship armada." The new game mode, titled "Remix 10," has players run through ten very small levels in a random order, with each level only taking "a few seconds to complete." Players unlock Daisy through the new Remix 10 mode. It also gave Princess Peach, Toad, Toadette, and Yoshi small forms to shrink to when getting hit making it similar to Super Mario Bros. 2, Super Mario 3D World, and Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker, therefore allowing them to take one more hit before being defeated unlike previous versions where they simply were defeated in one hit.
Shortly after the game's announcement, Nintendo's stock soared to just under the high point it had recently reached after the release and success of Pokémon Go earlier in 2016. Financial analysts recognized that Super Mario Run would be more significant than Pokémon Go for Nintendo; whereas revenue from Pokémon Go must be split between Niantic and The Pokémon Company, nearly all revenue from Super Mario Run would go to Nintendo directly being an in-house developed title. After Super Mario Run's release date was announced in November, Nintendo's stock rose by 2.8%. Shortly before release, Nintendo provided a public look at the game during an episode of The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon featuring Nintendo of America president Reggie Fils-Aimé.
Upon release, Super Mario Run received "generally positive reviews" from critics, holding an aggregated Metacritic score of 76/100. John Davison from Glixel stated that while the game was "deceptively simple" to play to reach the end of a level, it was "genuinely satisfying to work on the real meat of the game". Jose Otero of IGN agreed, citing the game's addictive qualities and high replayability in its extra coin-collecting challenges, praising the game for successfully capturing the Super Mario charm, but criticizing it for lacking the originality in gameplay ideas that generally come with new entries in the series.
While the game received positive reviews from publications, players of the game were more critical. The BBC noted that the game's user-driven App Store rating after three days of release was 2.5 stars out of 5, with the most common complaints being about the need for a persistent Internet connection and the fixed US$10 price point compared to similar games on the store. The game's Toad Rally mode also was a point of division for players, as while some praised the mode, others expressed concern that its competitive features would prevent players without high amount of skill from being able to advance development of their Mushroom Kingdom, as well as the Rally Ticket entry system being seemingly unnecessary for a game without microtransactions. Industry analyst Michael Pachter suggested that the low user ratings reflect the non-traditional single-point-of-purchase approach for monetization, and that mobile gamers are more amenable towards free-to-play games that provide a larger amount of free content prior before any microtransactions are required to proceed forward. Rob Fahey of GamesIndustry.biz agreed, noted that mobile gamers have been highly critical of games with "hard" paywalls that require in-app purchases to continue, and the last several years of free-to-play mobile games has created consumers unwilling to pay for mobile games, a factor Nintendo will need to contend with for its future applications. Ben Kuchera of Polygon considered that based on the negative feedback from players, that Nintendo kept too many of its own practices for its consoles and handhelds, such as the use of the Friend Code system and the lack of any planned expansions, into Super Mario Run, as well as eschewing typical mobile gaming practices, and believed that Nintendo should have worked better to adapt the game for the expectations of mobile gamers. At The Game Awards 2017, it was nominated for "Best Mobile Game".
App-tracking service Apptopia reported that Super Mario Run was downloaded 2.85 million times on the day of its iOS release, exceeding Pokémon Go's previously held record for most first-week downloads, while also grossing over US$5 million. Within three days, it had been downloaded more than 37 million times, according to analytics firm App Annie, while Nintendo themselves reported that the title had over 40 million downloads over the first four days, setting the record for fastest app growth. On December 23, 2016, Nintendo announced that the app was downloaded more than 50 million times in the first week of release. App Annie estimates that about one million of those downloads lead to the user paying for the title, with 55% being from the United States, earning $14 million in sales. Apple reported that Super Mario Run was the tenth most downloaded app from their App Store in 2016, and was the top downloaded free game in 2017. With the company's end-year report for fiscal year 2016, which ended on March 31, 2017, Kimishima said that the combined downloads for Super Mario Run across iOS and Android was approaching 150 million. Six months later, total combined downloads had reached 200 million; Kimishima said that the game had "not yet reached an acceptable profit point" but that Nintendo had learned several lessons in development and releasing of mobile games from Super Mario Run.
Despite these numbers, the game missed some of the anticipated metrics, particularly in Japan. On the Monday following the game's release on iOS, Nintendo's and DeNA's stock price dropped by more than 7% due to its poor market reception. By December 26, Super Mario Run was no longer the top grossing app in any nation, though remained one of the top downloaded apps in 63 countries. Nintendo's stocks had dropped over 18% within the first two weeks of release. Within three weeks, market analysis firm Newzoo estimated that the app had been downloaded over 90 million times, with approximately $30 million in revenue from around 3% who had purchased the full game. Wall Street Journal's Dan Gallagher stated this conversion rate was similar to numbers reported by both King and Zynga, representing the difficulty in convincing mobile gamers to purchase content, and that Nintendo's single-purchase strategy may not be successful in the long run. Nintendo later reported in a total of 78 million downloads, with more than 5% paying for the full game, by January 2017 in fiscal year earnings report. This generated ¥6 billion ($53 million) in revenues from the game. Nintendo's president Tatsumi Kimishima said that Nintendo was anticipating that they would obtain 10% conversion of app downloads into full purchases, and noted in an February 2017 that twenty countries account for 90% of the game's revenue, and within those countries that they were approaching this 10% conversion rate. Kimishima believed these trends showed that the one-time payment approach was "a viable way to do business". By March 2017, Kimishima said that revenue from the iOS version of Super Mario Run "did not meet our expectations". Fire Emblem Heroes, Nintendo's next mobile title released in February 2017, used the more traditional freemium payment approach, and by the end of Nintendo's 2016 fiscal year (March 31, 2017), had outperformed Super Mario Run in overall revenue. Despite this, Kimishima said that "we honestly prefer the Super Mario Run model", though in a June 2017 investor question-and-answer session, he said "in the future we will consider not only a single set price, but other methods that incorporate a wider variety of elements that allow as many consumers as possible to play", suggesting that Nintendo's mobile strategy may move away from the pay-once model.
By July 2018, Sensor Tower estimated that Super Mario Run had generated a total of US$60 million.
Within days of the game's App Store release, journalists noted a number of unofficial video game clones that appeared on the Google Play store, which they believe was prompted by the lack of an official Android version of Super Mario Run at the time and allowing developers to take advantage of uninformed consumers. In at least one case, an Android clone contained malware designed to collect sensitive information from a player's device. According to Google, Super Mario Run was the most-downloaded game for Android devices in 2017.
- スーパーマリオラン (Sūpā Mario Ran) in Japanese
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