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[Gamesbriefers] Free-to-play Mario?

By on May 30, 2013

This is a continuation from last week’s Gamesbriefers post about free-to-play Star Wars.

ben boardBen Board Senior Product Lead at Boss Alien

Now here’s a thought – what if you’re talking about the Mario license?  That has a vastly bigger audience in games terms.  Same logic applies – free is likely to do better in the long run, if you do it right – but they could absolutely make big money off up-front sales without having to transition to F2P design, at least as a first game.  I mention it because Mobile Mario must surely be on the agenda in Nintendo Towers.  If it isn’t – oh dear.

andy payneAndy Payne MD at Mastertronic

Mario on mobile – paid game $5 or even $10 a pop. 20 or 30 million paid downloads in a week?

Ben Cousins1Ben Cousins Head of European Game Studios at DeNA

I don’t that would happen. Mario is not that meaningful to the mainstream mobile gamer who plays Angry Birds etc.

Mark SorrellMark Sorrell Development Director at Hide & Seek

Agree. An F2P Mario game would be a *very* bad idea. Value, not revenue and all.

harry holmwoodHarry Holmwood CEO of Marvelous AQL Europe

The crossover between ‘People who like Mario’ (and possibly Star Wars) and ‘People who currently dislike F2P’ is substantial.

ben boardBen Board Senior Product Lead at Boss Alien

Mario could be as big on mobile as he is everywhere else; it’s just Nintendo’s dogged attachment to its hardware that stops him, and that might not last much longer. Set Miyamoto on a touch-control, short-burst mobile game, sell it for pocket money, light the blue touch paper and retire to St Tropez.

That’s for a paid game. F2P? Yes, it gives me the willies too, but there surely exists in idea-space a viable Mario F2P game (come on, we’re Gamesbriefers!), even if it would take a few iterations of paid games for Nintendo to get into the right headspace for it. What is it about Mario that makes it incompatible with F2P in your view, Mark? What limit does that imply to the model?

Mark SorrellMark Sorrell Development Director at Hide & Seek

My main issue with a Mario F2P game would be a) the fan base would be massively against it and b) the traditional Mario gameplay doesn’t lend it self to either touchscreen or F2P mechanics. You could definitely make a Mario game that *did* work with Touchscreen and F2P, but there would be a big old backlash against that. Nintendo fans. Nintendo fans!

Stuart DredgeStuart Dredge Journalist at The Guardian

In a way, that’s a shame – they already have the coin-collecting mechanic built right in… 😉

Ben Cousins1Ben Cousins Head of European Game Studios at DeNA

How big IS Mario on console? 7 million units on Wii isn’t great reach, compared to a mobile hit.

ben boardBen Board Senior Product Lead at Boss Alien

Pretty big. Mario as a brand has shifted 200m+ units all up. Mario Kart has sold something like 35m on Wii alone. Sic. Thirty-five million. That would be fantastic for a free game; this one was not only paid but expensive, bundled with a plastic steering wheel.

One can’t generalise about a fan base measured in hundreds of millions. Ninty’s fanboys are pretty vocal, absolutely, but most people who know of Mario and basically associate him with fun video games are not them. b) Mario, in one or more of his many forms, or in new ones, could transition to touchscreen as well as he’s transitioned to all the other platforms over the years. I have precisely no doubt at all about that. Those guys do that stuff better than anyone in the world.

Ben Cousins1Ben Cousins Head of European Game Studios at DeNA

I don’t think you can take lifetime sales as a measurement of fan base. The fact is the recent games have not sold in numbers outside of Japan that are that big compared to mobile download numbers.

I don’t think Nintendo IPs are anything near as big internationally with mobile gamers as somethng like Angry Birds. All I see is kids wearing AB t shirts. Mario is a retro IP for older people.

andy payneAndy Payne MD at Mastertronic

I ran the London 10K last year dressed as an Angry Bird. I ran with mates dressed as Mario and Steve. Needless to say all the kids on the route who were less than 4ft high screamed ‘Its an Angry Bird’. Kids over 4ft were thrilled to see Steve and shouted as much. Mario got some feedback but mainly by 5ft and above……

Bottom line was everyone knew the Angry Birds.

Teut WeidemannTeut Weidemann Online Specialist at Ubisoft

Whatever that means. Most Mario releases do more money than Rovio a year. That doesn’t mean they do a bad job, its just a medium which does less per customer but has more reach.

In other words most mediums with bigger each does less money per customer but might do more overall … if you do it right.

Long term strategy wise it would be a bad decision [for Nintendo to take Mario to other platforms] as it drives away Nintendo’s hardware customers. From their view: if you want to play their excellent IP’s you better buy their hardware.

Ben Cousins1Ben Cousins Head of European Game Studios at DeNA

As we all know, reach is the difficult part. Once you find consumers, monetizing them is the easy part. I’m convinced we’ll have billion-player franchises with 60 dollar plus LTVs within my lifetime.

I guess any conversation about Nintendo making mobile games assumes that this is a result of them being unable to have a sustainable hardware business.

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