Nintendo scores huge smartphone hit with Mario Kart Tour

Racing app Mario Kart Tour is regarded as the Nintendo title most suitable for smartphones in terms of money-making opportunities and features to hook players. PHOTO: REUTERS
Racing app Mario Kart Tour is regarded as the Nintendo title most suitable for smartphones in terms of money-making opportunities and features to hook players. PHOTO: REUTERS

TOKYO • 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 has 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," Ms Katie Williams, a mobile analyst at market research firm Sensor Tower, said 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' US$67.6 million, according to the market research firm's data.

The Japanese gaming 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 has sparked a minor frenzy among gamers since it was announced last year, is not only part of one of the best-known racing franchises in gaming history, but is also regarded as the Nintendo title most suitable for smartphones in terms of money-making opportunities and features to hook players.

But Nintendo's marquee title is up against stiff competition, 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 this month.

Mario Kart Tour could eventually earn US$1 billion a year, research firm Newzoo estimated last year.

  • 123.9m

  • Number of times Nintendo's new smartphone game Mario Kart Tour was downloaded in its first month.

That would be a welcome boost to a company whose efforts to date to court mainstream players, including with Switch Lite, have not 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 line-up will eventually drive hardware sales.

The upcoming launch slate includes a new instalment in the Zelda saga, Luigi's Mansion and two Pokemon games.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 30, 2019, with the headline 'Nintendo scores huge smartphone hit with Mario Kart Tour'. Print Edition | Subscribe