With all the craziness of the Christmas season, I suspect a lot of people missed the news around the release of Nintendo's first full mobile game, Super Mario Run. Let's take a look at how things went down. Two days after Nintendo announced to Wall Street Journal that it would no longer be updating Super Mario Run with any new content, a new mode was added to Toad Rally. Friendly Run is exactly like Toad Rally, but you can only play it once per day, unless you’ve beaten World One in World Tour mode. After that, you can play three times a day. Clear World Two, and you can bump that up to five times a day. There are a few catches, of course. For one, any items, coins, or new Toads you collect will not count towards your public totals. Second, those of us who haven’t bought the full version yet are unable to access the last level of World One, thus Friendly Run will only be once a day for us.
Though this isn’t really new content, it does sound a lot like Candy Drop in Miitomo. It’s just another way to get you to spend money on the game. Except that there are no micro-transactions in Super Mario Run, it’s a one time cost to unlock the full game. That, in addition to the promise from Nintendo that there will be no new content, sounds like some seriously poor business decisions. I don’t think this means that Nintendo is trying to get out of the mobile market, but rather that it has absolutely no idea what its doing.
As much as I hate microtransactions, it must be said they are one of the best ways to make money from a mobile game. The key, in my opinion, is to make sure it isn't a pay-to-win situation and to keep new content coming. To make another distinction, the microtransactions are less okay in console games because one, you invested in the console itself and phones are usually free on a contract (and have many non-gaming uses). Two, the game was somewhere between $50-$70, not the $0-$10 that mobile games are. That said, it seems as though Nintendo is relying purely on a single purchase for Super Mario Run. Good for the consumer, yes, though not so good when Nintendo isn't going to giving out new content.
One reason Nintendo may have for doing this is getting a more accurate number of how many people will really pay for a mobile Nintendo game. A marketing experiment, if you will. But refusing additional content? Either the company has something else up its sleeve, or its blundering blindly into the booming mobile market. I'm guessing it's the latter and that Nintendo will be quick to try and “fix” Super Mario Run with software and content updates. A brand new mobile game might do the trick too, but with the Switch coming out next year, it's probably for the best that Nintendo doesn't actively try to confuse consumers again like it did with the Wii U.
All in all, with a lack of proper microtransactions, a one-time game purchase that's at the high end of mobile, and a promise of no content updates, it seems like Nintendo is stumbling in the dark when it comes to mobile games. $10 for Super Mario Run is an okay deal, but with a fixed amount of content that you'll probably finish in a matter of months, the fee isn't worth it. Nintendo needs to retract this idea and add proper content to Super Mario Run to keep the audience happy.