Why are people leaving bad reviews for Super Mario Run

Vidit Bhargava
It’s been a week since Nintendo’s first iOS Game came out. And the App Store ratings are already looking bad. It’s 1.5 stars of the 275 ratings it’s received on the Indian App Store. and 2.5 stars of the 64,782 ratings it received on the US App Store.

People playing this game really like it. Personally, I feel it’s a game that’s been well thought of for the iPhone, and isn’t merely an emulator. Mario Run is a fun and entertaining game. Why then does it receive such wrath on the App Store?

My understanding of the negative reviews Breaks down the problem in three major categories

  1. People weren’t expecting to pay to play the entire game. They didn’t realize that the free to play part is merely a “demo”.

  2. People were given too little to understand the storyline, making it difficult for them to make a decision and more importantly giving the perception that the game lacks depth.

  3. People found the $9.99 price to be absurd.

The majority of the criticism has been given to Apple here. Why should a good game have to face this wrath. This is clearly better than a 2 star game. Apple’s App Store Reviews need to be better And it’s the App Store’s failure to not make people pay to play.

Yes, App Store Reviews could be better. But is it Apple’s ‘fault’ that Nintendo is facing the wrath of angry users? Not at all, The blame falls completely on Nintendo with this one. Super Mario Run’s gameplay is awesome! It has replay-ability, it’s refreshing, the gestures are all pro-iPhone and not emulator-ish. There’s been great care in the making of the ‘gameplay’. But gameplay is not the entire game. Super Mario Run’s problems are in the interface And on-boarding. The two combined make for a frustrating experience. If reviewers choose to highlight those aspects in their negative responses, it’s as much of Nintendo’s responsibility as a critical flaw in the game play would have been.

To Say, that the reviews are un-fair is ironical. The reviewers are fair, the problems they highlight are genuine. The opinions are not insanely wild. To say, this is App Store’s failure to not be able to support the pay-to-play model is ridiculous. All time classics on the App Store like “Monument Valley”, “Hitman Go”, “Alto’s Adventure”, “MineCraft” are not free to play, and yet have made hefty sums of money in revenue. They are successful games. Monument Valley even has “in-app purchases” after being a pay-to-play game, and that too is widely successful (and a rating of 4.5 stars in 24,513 ratings), free to play game “Does not commute” (and Apple design award winner) has a much better gameplay (with the option to save progress after levels) if you pay them via in-app purchases, and yet no-one complaints about their model. These are widely successful games, with varied business models And yet they don’t receive the backlash. It’s definitely not about Apple’s inability to support multiple business models, that Super Mario run is facing a backlash.

But then why is it that Super Mario Run is facing this backlash. I decided to re-setup the game from the start and have a look at what’s wrong here.

  1. At no point during the setup am I told that I’ll have to pay to play the entire game. It’s not apparent at all, in fact when I first played this game last week, I had a feeling that Nintendo had made it free to play instead of ‘free to play with in-app purchases to play the entire game’.

  2. The purchase screen shows up when you least want it to. That is, when you are starting to buy into this idea of a redesigned Mario Game. They ask for the money just after you’ve begun appreciating the challenge.

  3. On-boarding takes up most of the free-to-play experience, if you are playing the game for the first time. So as soon as on-boarding finishes (the guided tutorials, that take you into all sorts of modes including toad rally), you don’t have much left to play on your own Before you see that purchase screen pop-up.

  4. There’s no button to restore purchases. So if you are coming from iPad, and have paid over there, you have to press the buy button again. Apple wouldn’t charge you for that purchase, but it definitely feels like you are being made to pay again.

  5. With just three – levels provided, the $9.99 is a leap of faith. You have to trust Nintendo that it’ll be worth It. Moreover, it’s also a relatively high-amount. Where most games are content with charging users $0.99 to $4.99 for extra levels, Nintendo asks for $9.99. Taking into account how little time I have had to explore this game before I’m asked for the money, $9.99 is very high. Perhaps when i had ‘self-explored’ it a little more, enjoyed using it, then a $9.99 wouldn’t have evoked the same emotions.

Nintendo chose the time to ask people for their money very strategically, it’s when you most want to play the next level (your excitement for the game is building up) but also when you are least expecting it to be a paid game. Moreover, there’s nothing to even indicate that you’d eventually have to pay, it more or less comes of as a surprise on the user. The experience is not good at all. The negative responses are valid. People are right to say that they don’t feel it’s worth $9.99 and that’s mostly because of the timing.

Super Mario Run has a well crafted gameplay. The interface and design for the rest of it, is abominable. This could be the case because Nintendo doesn’t handle all the aspects of the app. Some of it was made by their partner DeNa, but all said and done. Mario has a Nintendo label. And Nintendo needs to make it’s users feel comfortable about spending the money they are asking for and deserve every negative rating for failing to do so.

Is it fair to place a one star review cribbing about the price on the same pedestal as an in depth analysis of the game? Not at all. I think the app store needs to do a better job at weighting the well written reviews that take into account all aspects of the game in favor of something that’s more or less a rant about a certain aspect of the game.

P.S. You can go through the on-boarding process again to understand the problem yourself, you just need to delete and re-install the app. Super Mario Run doesn’t even save your game progress, a standard for most iOS games.

P.P.S. : The Red color on the Mario Page for the app store, makes it difficult to read the reviews. The red tends to seep into the font. Perhaps Apple could change the contrast there.