What December's 'Super Mario Run' Release Means for Nintendo

Editors' pick: Originally published Nov. 15.

Nintendo (NTDOY) will release its "Super Mario Run" game for Apple's (AAPL) iPhone and iPad on Dec. 15 as the Japanese video game developer sharpens it focus on the growing mobile gaming industry.

Nintendo initially announced the game at a September Apple event, sending shares up as much as 18% at the time.

"There is no doubt in the game industry that even in light of the rise of [virtual reality], mobile will dominate the gaming industry over the next years," Tokyo-based gaming consultant Serkan Toto said in an email to TheStreet. "It already commands over a third of the overall market, and that share will only increase going forward."

"Super Mario Run" will be the first game within the popular "Super Mario Bros." franchise developed specifically for mobile, an area that will be worth $38 billion this year, according to gaming industry tracker SuperData Research.

"For Nintendo to quickly move into mobile - no one was expecting that," SuperData Research CEO Joost van Dreunen said, noting that the company is nearly 130 years old. "They don't think of earnings in quarters; they think of it in quarter centuries."

The mobile gaming segment has become more and more saturated in recent years, which may ultimately benefit Nintendo. 

In an increasingly crowded space, gamers will be attracted to characters such as Mario that they already know, van Dreunen said. Nintendo has a vast amount of intellectual property, allowing the company to distinguish itself with "cool content," he explained.

The game can be downloaded for free, but users will need to make a one-time payment of $9.99 to unlock the full experience. "Super Mario Run" will launch in 151 countries and regions and support a number of languages, Nintendo said in a statement.

Given the $10 price tag, "Super Mario Run" is expected to have a single-digit conversion rate.

"It's not going to drive sales the same way that 'Pokemon Go' did out of the gate," van Dreunen said. "It will be a slower growth cycle."

Toto estimates that the game will be downloaded 50 million times in the first several days of its release.

Nintendo's "Pokemon Go" mobile game was downloaded 130 million times within the first month of its launch, setting a world record. But unlike "Super Mario Run," "Pokemon Go" was available on both Apple's iOS devices and Alphabet's (GOOGL) Android devices.

The widespread success of "Pokemon Go" helped Nintendo record a profit of 12 billion yen ($111.1 million) from its affiliates for the six months ended September.

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