Super Mario jumps onto Apple's iPhone in December, Nintendo's stock soars

Shigeru Miyamoto stands next to the Super Mario character during an Apple media event in San Francisco.
Shigeru Miyamoto stands next to the Super Mario character during an Apple media event in San Francisco.PHOTO: REUTERS
 Shigeru Miyamoto announces a Mario Bros game for the iPhone during an Apple media event in San Francisco.
Shigeru Miyamoto announces a Mario Bros game for the iPhone during an Apple media event in San Francisco. PHOTO: REUTERS

SAN FRANCISCO (AFP, BLOOMBERG) - Super Mario is finally coming to the iPhone.

Apple and Nintendo jointly announced on Wednesday (Sept 8) that Super Mario Run, featuring the iconic game character and developed specifically for mobile, will hit the App Store in December.

It will be the first time the popular franchise is appearing on a smartphone.

Mr Shigeru Miyamoto, one of the creators of the original Mario game, gave a short demonstration of the game at Apple's annual iPhone release event on Wednesday.

"We have created Super Mario Run to be perfect for playing on your iPhone," said Mr Miyamoto, who devised the character more than 35 years ago.

"Super Mario has evolved whenever he has encountered a new platform, and for the first time ever, players will be able to enjoy a full-fledged Super Mario game with just one hand, giving them the freedom to play while riding the subway or my favorite, eating a hamburger."


Shigeru Miyamoto, Creative Fellow at Nintendo and creator of Super Mario Bros., greets a crowd as he takes the stage during an Apple media event at the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium in San Francisco, California on Sept 7, 2016. PHOTO: AFP

A basic version of Super Mario Run will be free to download, but users will have to pay to play the entire game.

The Kyoto-based company didn't say when the app would be available for Android devices.

"It is a big deal," Mr Neil Campling, an analyst at Northern Trust Capital Markets, wrote in an e-mail.

"This venture is perhaps the biggest endorsement we could possibly have imagined that Nintendo's strategy to monetize their huge franchise IP on mobile and ex-platform reliant technology is the right one."

Nintendo has been slow to embrace smartphones, ignoring investors and fans who have clamored for years for its most popular characters to show up in mobile gaming.

It's only recently that the company has started to change its tune.

The fact that Nintendo had such a high-level executive on stage to make the announcement shows that the game maker is serious about its mobile strategy, said Mr Joost Van Dreunen, who runs SuperData Research, a research firm that tracks the gaming market.

"With Pokemon Go this summer, everybody has been going nuts - my guess is, they scratched their heads and decided: 'we have to do this now,"' Mr Van Dreunen said.


Apple CEO Tim Cook introduces a Super Mario game during an Apple event inside Bill Graham Civic Auditorium in San Francisco, California on Sept 7, 2016.  PHOTO: AFP

Rather than treating mobile as a cannibalizing platform, Nintendo will probably "create lite versions of games on mobile, call it advertising, and then get people to buy the device".

The company's American depositary receipts jumped 29 per cent in US trading after the announcement to close at US$36.32 in New York.

After years of resisting making games for devices made by other companies, Nintendo announced a partnership with DeNA, a Japanese company.

The two companies released their first app earlier this year, which became the most popular Android app in six countries and the most popular iPhone app in 10 countries soon after its release, according to the research firm App Annie.

Just as quickly, it dropped from the top of the app charts.

Nintendo's stock also temporarily skyrocketed this summer after the release of Pokemon Go, the most successful mobile game ever.

Apple, Nintendo and game maker Niantic announced Pokemon Go would be available for Apple Watch users later this month.

The virtual reality game has been downloaded some 500 million times, Niantic chief John Hinke told the Apple event.

But Nintendo shares plummeted as investors realized how little Nintendo would benefit from the Pokemon craze, given that it played only an indirect role in the app's creation.

Pokemon Go's success probably fast-tracked Nintendo's expansion into mobile gaming and helped demonstrate how a household name can become an instant hit on smartphones.

Mario is the biggest brand in e-gaming, having sold more than 500 million units, Campling said. This will also be the first time Nintendo is developing a smartphone game in-house, he said.

Mario also is different than Pokemon because Nintendo owns the entire franchise - the red-hatted character is its Mickey Mouse, Mr Van Dreunen said.

This also means that Nintendo will also have higher expectations for the new Apple iOS game's contributions to revenue, he said.

How sales will do, however, will depend on Nintendo's monetisation strategy, which is thus far unclear, he said.

Nintendo said it plans to release mobile games for its Animal Crossing and Fire Emblem franchises by March.