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How Super Mario Run's lackluster sales are changing Nintendo's mobile strategy

While the company is slowly becoming more open to different payment models, Nintendo hasn't fully written off the one-time-fee method favored by the inaugural mobile Mario title.

Mario’s first foray into the mobile gaming world failed to meet Nintendo’s initial expectations, but the company hasn’t written off the pay-to-unlock payment model used by Super Mario Run quite yet.

Speaking at an annual shareholder Q&A, Nintendo President Tatsumi Kimishima notes that the company is still considering a wide variety of payment models for its future mobile releases but is paying close attention to the performance of its first few games like Super Mario Run and Fire Emblem Heroes

“We feel that Nintendo is still a newcomer in the smart-device business, and we have released three applications so far with different IPs and payment models,” said Kimishima. “Although no single model is clearly superior, we have been able to learn a lot. We want to keep thinking about how consumers would want to pay for content in our future smart-device applications.”

Shortly following Super Mario Run’s late 2016 launch, Kimishima had said that Nintendo still favored the games one-time-fee model over the freemium structure, but comments from the Q&A seem to suggest that Nintendo is now at least slightly more open to considering other pricing options for its upcoming mobile catalog.

“While there are consumers all over the world who want to play a Mario game, there are varying economic situations across the world, and some consumers are not able to pay for the game,” he continued. “This may be due to the price or the payment methods, so in the future we will consider not only a single set price, but other methods that incorporate a wider variety of elements that allow as many consumers as possible to play.”

Super Mario Run offered up its first few levels as a free download, but players had to shell out $9.99 to unlock the rest of the game’s offerings. While the game netted over 150 million downloads in its lifetime, Nintendo now says that less than 10 percent of those downloads transformed into full purchases.

Meanwhile, the company's freemium title Fire Emblem Heroes has managed to out-earn Super Mario Run despite receiving less than a tenth of Super Mario Run’s total downloads.

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