The Cost of Being Nintendo

Vidit Bhargava
Super Mario Run released yesterday. After Pokemon Go, this is another nostalgia trip for anyone who loved playing these games back when they were kids (I did. I always enjoyed playing the game, even though it felt exceedingly tough), and ofcourse there’s a big promotion around the Mario coming to the app store.

Once you download the app, you immediately realize what’s amiss, contrary to other popular games of the same genre. It’s the on-boarding experience. As soon as you launch the app. you aren’t taken to Mario. But are welcomed with a screen asking you to register into a Nintendo account. Followed by a screen that asks you to “Agree to a User Agreement”; followed by a request to name yourself. Why do I have to go through three on-boarding screens just to get to another endless runner. This is something that you’d never see in something like Alto’s Adventure or Chameleon Run.

Add to that, Super Mario Run requires a consistent internet connection and one that’s pretty stable and strong. (So you wouldn’t be able to play on Edge Networks). Nintendo says that this is to protect the game from being pirated and to progressively provide the levels. This is also a deal breaker for anyone whose only free-time to play such a game is while traveling in public transport. Turns out you can either protect your brand or provide a good user experience, when you are Nintendo. And while the onboarding is just a one time hassle, the requirement of a constant internet connection is a constant problem too.

Why am I comparing a multi-million dollar success to that of two fairly new indie-games? It’s because I feel App Store is a great equalizer. True, people would download Super Mario Run because of the Mario brand. But will they continue to play it? A lot hinges on the user experience. And Nintendo with all it’s good intentions behind making a fun game, can’t get it right because it’s too busy protecting the Mario identity and promoting Nintendo’s Services. Shred the two and you have a game that’s easily one of the best games of 2016.