Coming out on December 15 of this year, Super Mario Run is making the headlines yet again. This time as not only Nintendo's first true mobile game, but as yet another game that requires an always-on internet connection to play. Which really shouldn't be shocking to anyone or even worth a reporter's time. A required online connection is extremely common, practially ubiquitous, on mobile. Yet mainstream gaming sites like Mashable are making it into a big issue. According to creator Shigeru Miyamoto's interview with that outlet, always-online is a way of deterring piracy, “for us, we view our software as being a very important asset for us. And also for consumers who are purchasing the game, we want to make sure that we’re able to offer it to them in a way that the software is secure, and that they’re able to play it in a stable environment.”
It's important to add that Miyamoto and his team tried to make the game work securely offline, even though that's not really an expectation for mobile games. It was simply too difficult to keep all the game modes working together offline, especially while launching in different countries with different network infrastructures. Miyamoto actually wanted the World Tour story mode to be available offline, however doing so complicated the connection to the Toad Rally and Kingdom modes. And because both of those modes need the internet to save, Miyamoto had to integrate the World Tour mode to online as well. Again, it's nice that Nintendo tried, but most other major publishers on mobile don't think twice about making online-only games.
For those who aren't sure, an always-on connection to the internet really does help with protecting a game from piracy. Theoretically, anyway. The difference is in how the app/game runs. If the app is independent of the internet, functioning completely offline, all the code to run the app has to be on a customer's device. Thus, in order to run the app, the entire library of code must be downloaded as part of the app itself. When all of the code is available like this, it's much easier to copy and then re-upload it for free, not to mention adding in malware along the way. In contrast, apps that must be connected to the internet to function don't need to have all that code accessible. These apps pull their code, or at least a good chunk of it, from the internet instead.
Other mobile games have been struggling with the compromise between security and accessibility for years. Just because traditional developer Nintendo is making an app always-online doesn't mean it's a bigger concern than for other mobile developers. Almost all mobile simulation games require a connection, and even the simple games like Candy Crush have daily rewards that need the internet too. Those games don't make headlines, so why should Super Mario Run? It's a simple requirement and it's not nearly as taxing as Pokémon Go, which basically requires you to use mobile data, rather than a Wi-Fi connection, to catch a reasonable number of Pokemon.
Second, using an internet connection to protect against privacy is practically a necessity in the mobile environment. It's probably the only way Nintendo can even try to protect Super Mario Run, even if it's not exactly flawless. There will be clones within days, of that I have no doubt. Especially since there are already clones of the game's theme, though they resemble emulators of the original NES Super Mario Bros. more than Super Mario Run itself. Again, not exactly worth the major headlines. Every mobile game deals with the same set of problems, so why are we singling Nintendo out for making such a common choice?