There’s free, and then there’s free.
If you take a look at the best-selling paid apps in Apple’s Canadian app store you’ll see familiar names titles like Minecraft, Monopoly, Star Wars and NBA 2K17 at prices ranging from $1.39 to $10.99.
What you won’t see is the recently launched smash hit Super Mario Run. That’s because the new Nintendo phenomenon is currently at the top of Apple’s list of free apps.
Super Mario Run is technically, free to download. But to play the game beyond some perfunctory intro levels, Canadians must fork over $13.99. This has some feeling a little duped.
“Super Mario Run is a neat game, but it’s not $13.99 neat,” says Twitter use @Brooinix.
“Nope…refuse to spend #13.99 on #SupeMarioRun,” says Lindsay Gentles, another Twitter user with the handle @aquestforhappy.
Others suggest the blame lies elsewhere, Twitter account @TorontoGameDevs tweeted this yesterday:
“Nintendo: We made an app we feel is worth $9.99.”
“Apple: You owe us 30%”
“Nintendo: We made an app we feel is worth $13.99”
In his December 16 review of the game, the Financial Post’s Chad Sapieha notes it has a number of issues, including the fact that players must be constantly connected to the internet to play it, and that players can only control Mario’s jumping, not his running. But, he says, the debate is ultimately going to come back to the game’s price.
“I reside firmly in the camp that holds good mobile games are worth paying for – especially once you factor in how the action in free-to-play games is so often designed to make players spend more in order to progress or win,” he says. “Games that you need to buy up front tend to be fairer tests of skill and strategy and are generally much more rewarding, and I think Super Mario Run sits as a shining example of this. But is it worth $13.99? Some are bound to think Nintendo is out of touch with the mobile market. And I, too, think it’s a little steep.”
None of this seems to be deterring anyone though.
Super Mario Run is already the most successful launch in the history of Apple’s App Store. It was downloaded almost three million times on December 15, the first day it was available, nearly triple that of the smash hit Pokémon Go.
Not everyone feels Nintendo is making a mistake to launch Super Mario Run with such a steep price. Forbes contributor Erik Kain says he much prefers the one-time charge over the pestering grind of in-apps sales, and believes it makes sense for Nintendo.
“Nintendo could have sold extra Mario skins for the game, or it could have made players wait after dying or purchase extra lives—a tactic used by Angry Birds 2 that led to me instantly deleting that game,” says Kain. He says Nintendo is playing a longer game.
“Micro-transactions in Mario games might be fine for the casual mobile gamer, but they have the very real chance of damaging Nintendo’s carefully cultivated brand, he argues. “This might be less of an issue with lesser-known IP like Animal Crossing and Fire Emblem, Nintendo’s next two mobile efforts, but Mario is essentially Nintendo’s mascot. Turning Mario into a F2P revenue scheme would be a huge mistake from a long-term brand perspective, even if Nintendo could generated longer revenue tails.”