Nintendo scores huge smartphone hit with Mario Kart Tour

"The racing app is Nintendo's most successful mobile game launch by downloads so far, eclipsing Super Mario Run's 21.8 million downloads more than five times over," said Katie Williams, mobile analyst at Sensor Tower.
"The racing app is Nintendo's most successful mobile game launch by downloads so far, eclipsing Super Mario Run's 21.8 million downloads more than five times over," said Katie Williams, mobile analyst at Sensor Tower.PHOTO: REUTERS

TOKYO (BLOOMBERG) - Nintendo can finally claim a mega-hit smartphone game with its new Mario Kart Tour, which has been downloaded 123.9 million times in its first month and comfortably eclipsed the company's previous mobile game debuts, Sensor Tower data showed.

"The racing app is Nintendo's most successful mobile game launch by downloads so far, eclipsing Super Mario Run's 21.8 million downloads more than five times over," said Katie Williams, mobile analyst at Sensor Tower, in a blog post. The game also clocked in revenue of US$37.4 million (S$51 million) in its first month, second only to Fire Emblem Heroes' USUS$67.6 million, according to the researchers' data.

The Japanese giant, which reports earnings this week, was in need of such an unequivocal success more than four years after a much-ballyhooed entry into mobile gaming. Mario Kart Tour, which sparked a minor frenzy among gamers since it was announced in 2018, is not only part of one of the best-known racing franchises in gaming history, it's regarded as the Nintendo title most suitable for smartphones in terms of money-making opportunities and features to hook players.

Nintendo's marquee title is up against stiff competition, however, which includes enduringly popular titles like Fortnite. There are also new big-name rivals entering the mobile realm, as exemplified by Tencent Holdings' Call of Duty Mobile, which attracted 20 million gamers within the first two days of its worldwide debut in October.

Mario Kart Tour could eventually earn US$1 billion a year, research firm NewZoo estimated last year. That would be a welcome boost for a company whose efforts to date to court mainstream players, including with the Switch Lite, haven't gone as well as initially anticipated. Known for iconic game franchises like Mario and Zelda, Nintendo has been experimenting with new hardware and software products as the rising popularity of smartphones hits its traditional market of gamers playing on home and portable consoles.

Still, Nintendo's stock is up about 26 per cent this year on expectations that a strong game lineup will eventually drive hardware sales. The upcoming launch slate includes a new installment in the Zelda saga, Luigi's Mansion and two Pokemon games.