Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Super Mario Run and the Devaluation of Gaming

Super Mario Run released this past Friday on the iOS App Store in a wide variety of countries. It was downloaded nearly 25 million times in its first four days and currently holds the number one position on the App Store in many territories. However, while somewhat a success, this didn't stop Nintendo's stock price from falling after Super Mario Run's release, regardless of how fickle investors and the stock market are. A main complaint about the game is its $9.99 price. However, a game on any other platform (i.e. not mobile) would be comfortable with an asking price like this for a game with as much content as this, say on Wii U or Nintendo 3DS, for instance. The disparity between the console/handheld market and the mobile gaming market is tremendous, and the desire of mobile consumers for games to be cheap and/or free is one that hurts the medium immensely.

One of major things that disturbs me about the people complaining about the pricing of Super Mario Run is that they seem that they would be more satisfied if the game was free but riddled with microtransactions. It appears that a pricing model where players would be able to play a level or two, exhaust a play bar of some type, and then either wait for the bar to fill back up after some-odd amount of hours or pay to get more lives and time with the game.

This makes me confused because I thought microtransactions were seen as a cancer to gaming. It's one of things that puts off a lot of gamers to mobile gaming. Going after whales (i.e. those who spend ridiculous amounts of money on otherwise free mobile games) was not Nintendo's M.O. Sure, its investors and stockholders would love for Nintendo to nickle and dime players because they don't really care if consumers are screwed over. They just want their bottom line improved, and their pockets made fuller and richer, but Nintendo made it clear what the pricing strategy was. Thus, it's strange how many gamers would have preferred it if Nintendo went with a more typical pricing formula.

With a $10 one-time-only purchase, the full version of Super Mario Run is available. There's no need to wait for some annoying play bar to refill so you can continue playing the game or keep putting money into the game. That was Nintendo's intent to not con consumers. If you think the $10 price tag is too much, that's not the fault of Nintendo. It's the mobile market to blame here, where sizable games with tons of content and features are demanded by mobile consumers to either cost pennies or to be free. The latter is usually what this market desires.

It's the mobile market that has continuously devalued games, making consumers feel entitled to cheap games no matter how much content and how much care was put into them. It is a market where people would rather spend dozens upon dozens of dollars on microtransactions and more plays instead of having a one-time cost that would give them the entirety of the game to play whenever they want (except on a subway or in an airplane-- those are no-nos thanks to the always-online requirement of Super Mario Run, a subject for another day). It's a frontier that is quite disheartening and more so very scary.

We had people who paid for Monument Valley when it released a few years back on mobile (for a very low price, by the way), and then these same people felt cheated and furious because the developer dare add an expansive amount of content to the game in new levels for a tiny fee in order to make some money from the game's development. How dare they! How dare a developer ask for money for months, maybe years of work!

When we have people wishing Nintendo had decided to stuff countless microtransactions instead of giving a full experience on the iPhone or iPad, it really shows how screwed up the mindset of mobile consumers and how crazy the mobile marketplace truly are. The majority of negative reviews of Super Mario Run complain about the game costing money. That's how bad it is on mobile-- people really do feel entitled to get everything free from the hard work, blood, sweat, and tears developers of all types making these types of games. And I'm talking about smaller devs who are nowhere near the behemoth size of Nintendo.

While Pokemon GO was a success for Nintendo in that it got a lot of people re-energized with Pokemon, buying Nintendo 3DS systems for new and old Pokemon games-- something the late president of Nintendo Satoru Iwata wanted and why Nintendo went mobile in the first place-- it is of course yet to be seen if Super Mario Run will have such an effect on consumers. Regardless of whether you think Super Mario Run is a success, worth the asking price, or even a quality game, it's rather disappointing that a good sect of mobile gaming consumers want nothing for something, no matter how special, fun, or worth the price it is.

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