Once again TIME has secured an interview with Nintendo’s President, Tatsumi Kimishima. They discuss a wide range of subjects, including Nintendo’s recent foray into mobile gaming. When asked about the profitability of a game like Super Mario Run, Kimishima replied:
With Miitomo, which was a game that involved Mii characters and communication, we really wanted to see how we could with this first foray into the mobile market communicate with the public. More than looking at profit we were wondering if we could get people interested in Nintendo characters on their mobile devices. And the result is that we think we’ve seen a commensurate expansion in that interest.
We haven’t reached 20 million downloads yet, but I think we’re around 18 million downloads for Miitomo, which shows how many customers we’re reaching. With regard to Super Mario Run, as of the day of our latest financial announcement, we’ve had 78 million downloads. With regards to how many people have paid money, we’re hoping for more than 10%, and while we haven’t yet reached 10%, at this point we’re somewhere north of halfway there.
However, if you analyze this, it’s pretty interesting. The game is being distributed in more than 150 countries, but it’s the top 20 countries that account for more than 90% of the total revenue. If we look further at the people who are paying for the game within those 20 countries, we’re not at 10%, but the number is rising. So what is it that I’m trying to say? If we look at the countries where the game is on sale, how many people are paying for it, the way the game is being monetized, for 1,200 yen in Japan and for $9.99 in the U.S., and we look at how customers are reacting to a one-time payment option, I think we can see that this a viable way to do business. I would also add that this is a new way of monetization and so not yet popular.
Lastly, Fire Emblem Heroes is a free-to-play style game in which you can purchase items. Less than a half-day after its release, it had been downloaded over a million times, and we’re seeing revenue today at $5 million U.S. dollars. The point I’m making is that we’re experimenting with different types of monetization. There’s the type I mentioned we’re using with Super Mario Run, and the different style we’re using with Fire Emblem Heroes. As a result of these experiments with monetization styles, we’re gaining what you might call confidence in our mobile business efforts.
When it comes to the Nintendo Switch, Mr. Kimishima firmly believes it’s a product that must be played to fully understand its benefits. He hopes due to its portable nature that many hardcore gamers will take the system and show it to friends and family and that they’ll want one too:
I do believe that career gamers are going to need extra time to understand that we’re doing something different [with Switch]. They really need to get the opportunity to play. We need to get this into people’s hands. And so we are really, as you said, running a guerrilla marketing program where we’re just dashing around and trying to have as many events as possible and get it in the hands of players so they can experience the difference.
Now they’re going to be saying to each other, “Hey, this is a different gaming experience. This is something we haven’t seen before. I just played it, I did it, and I’m going to tell my friends and they’re going to tell their friends, and then the next person’s going to play it.” And if you’re watching the Super Bowl, you’re saying, “Wow, look, Nintendo really is going all out.” We’ve been trying all kinds of different ways to get that message out, so that people understand it is different.
As for its online service, Mr. Kimishima says it’s all about content. He feels that the pricing has to be of value to their customers for them to buy in to the program:
So far we have announced that from the fall, Nintendo’s online service will be a paid service, and we have announced that the price range will be between 2,000 and 3,000 yen [$18 to $27] per year for that service. We’ve also announced that friends will be able to play online, and they’ll be able to use a dedicated smartphone application that enables voice chat during those games.
More details are forthcoming, but I just want to make sure that everyone understands that we will be going above and beyond to make sure that our customers are getting a service that is worth paying for, so we’re paying special attention to make sure that this is, again, a valuable service that they will appreciate from us.
I think if you look at some of our competitors, you think that when I say 2,000 to 3,000 yen per year, that’s a bit underpriced or cheap. But we are really dedicated to bringing our online business to the consumer at that price point. Online play with Switch is going to be something that’s key to the business, and we had a ton of discussion internally within Nintendo to come up with what we thought was a reasonable price on how we can connect with our consumers.
We really think that regardless of what others are doing or what services are being offered, it comes down to a battle of content. We feel it’s a matter of getting our content to the consumer at a price point that will make them happy, and then we’re willing to look at what else we can do going forward.
VR is something Nintendo is looking into. In fact, when asked if the launch version of the Switch is powerful enough to support it, Mr. Kimishima answers:
The very simple answer is yes. We’ve said this before, and I feel like we’re saying it a lot, but we are interested and doing research into this field. The question, of course, is “What is the best way to bring virtual reality to our customers as a form of entertainment?” Not just, “Hey, look! It’s realistic!” or whatever, but what is the best way to use this technology to bring something fun to our consumer base? We are definitely looking at that.
There’s many more questions that are answered in the TIME article. It’s definitely worth a read as they touch on e-sports, Miitomo, amiibo, quality of life, and more.