×

'Super Mario Run' downloads soar but investors aren't convinced

As Nintendo premieres its new, highly-anticipated "Super Mario Run" mobile game, questions have been raised over its profitability. This is the first iPhone game released by the Japanese gamemaker.

Released globally for iOS users on December 15, 2016, the app became the top downloaded iPhone app in the U.S. within an hour of its premiere, technology news site Recode reported. The app is expected to be released on Android devices in early 2017.

Atul Goyal, a senior analyst at Jefferies, told CNBC's "Squawkbox" that he expected 500 million downloads of the Super Mario Run app on the Apple app store by March 2017. A total of 1 billion downloads of the app are expected across operating systems, he added.

The release comes hot on the heels of Pokemon Go's phenomenal run. The popularity of the augmented reality game resulted in Nintendo shares climbing more than 60 percent since its release in July this year. Share prices later retreated when it became apparent that Nintendo was unlikely to profit significantly from Pokemon Go due to its peripheral role in actually developing the game.

Investors remained cautious on Nintendo stocks on the back of the "Super Mario Run" release. Shares fell 4.66 percent to 26,300 yen, reflecting a fall of 10.57 percent this week, partially due to investor perception that the company's new mobile push is a risky strategy.

This is partly related to the steep price tag attached to the app. "Super Mario Run" is free to download but unlocking the full game will set users back $9.99. While its one-off price is higher than other mobile games, "Super Mario Run" could ultimately be cheaper than games touting in-app purchases.

"(Nintendo) stock has got 10 or 15 percent more downside," D.R. Barton, chief technical analyst at MoneyMorning.com, said. And while he expects the game to eventually gain traction as a nostalgia play, Barton said that the new business model that Nintendo has adopted means that it will take up to a few more weeks before any traction is reflected.

Nevertheless, some analysts remain upbeat about the popularity and revenue potential of the app.

"10 percent or so (of users who download the app) are most likely willing to pay, probably even more," Goyal said, "In Japan alone, people have bought 25 million 3DS devices for $200 apiece to be able to play Nintendo games. For them to spend $10 to play a Nintendo game on a device they already own (is practically nothing)."

Goyal said that Nintendo's newfound commitment to mobile means that its customer base and revenue stream will expand considerably. This is because the company's positioning will allow it to target the casual gamer market, which numbers around 1 to 2 billion, he added.

As for whether the ephemeral nature of mobile gaming apps -- "Pokemon Go" itself has dropped off in recent times due to saturation -- is a drawback to Nintendo's mobile ambitions, Goyal said that this was not a cause for concern.

"It's not the console that you remember … What you remember (are) Nintendo games," Goyal said, "So don't look at console versus mobile, it's the intellectual property (and) the brand that Nintendo brings -- Mario, Zelda, Pokemon … plenty others."

Follow CNBC International on Twitter and Facebook.