Mario may win many races, but Nintendo has been slow when it comes to mobile gaming. The planned release of Mario Kart Tour and Dr. Mario on mobile this summer will be a big test for the company, long a dominant player in the video-game console and game software markets.
Nintendo's strategy of integrating characters core to its legacy in mobile is a hesitant step for a company that appreciates the value of the smartphone industry but is cautious of "letting go" of one of its most valuable assets, said Joost van Dreunen, SuperData founder and CEO. But van Dreunen thinks this time there is a good chance Nintendo gets it right.
"Nintendo's ecosystem relies on its IP and its subsequent fan loyalty. ... If it were to sell away titles to mobile, they would effectively be selling away control of its greatest asset," van Dreunen said.
Its experiments in mobile to date have had mixed results. Augmented reality phenomenon PokemonGo! attracted millions of fans but was part of a larger strategy to convince consumers to buy the Pokemon console games that were introduced a year after the mobile release. The game itself was developed by Niantic, a gaming start-up that was spun out of Google and in which Nintendo is a strategic investor. Nintendo also is a part owner of Pokemon, and the mobile game allowed Nintendo to experiment with the Pokemon IP, said GamesIndustry.biz writer Rebekah Valentine, noting that it "included several mechanics that were tested out and included in the console version."
Nintendo's Super Mario Run was a free mobile game based on the Super Mario franchise that required users to pay for additional levels. The move got a mixed reaction from players, with only a small portion of gamers opting for the pay-to-play option.
The release of Dr. Mario and Mario Kart Tour on mobile already was postponed once in 2019, from March. It comes at a crucial juncture for the company.