Nintendo’s Stock Jumps, Again, for Mobile Mario
Nintendo’s stock blasted northward again on Wednesday, following the surprise appearance of Mario creator Shigeru Miyamoto at Apple’s iPhone 7 event. Miyamoto announced Super Mario Run, to be released this December for iPhone and iPad. Wall Street responded just as it did with the release of Pokémon Go, when Nintendo’s share price doubled over a two-week period. In fact, the Mario boost briefly sent the share price over $36—just a dollar short of July’s Poké-peak.
The difference is, this time there’s a good rationale for the spike. Pokémon Go wasn’t made by Nintendo, and the impact of its success on Nintendo’s bottom line will be limited. But Super Mario Run is all Nintendo—even to the point that it’s being produced and directed by the team behind the original Super Mario Bros. So here’s Nintendo’s A-team producing a game with its biggest character in the genre that character is known for. Oh, and it’s not just releasing it for “smart devices” in general—it’s buddying up with Apple for a big on-stage handshake and a timed exclusive window. How much bigger a move into mobile could Nintendo make?
Nintendo hasn’t released a new Mario action game since 2013. This isn’t an advertisement app for the new Super Mario—this is the new Super Mario. And, you know, it’s okay to be excited! It looks like it’s been well-designed for the iPhone interface. This time, the investors are right—Super Mario Run will be huge. Considering the size of the installed base, it has the potential to be the most-played Mario game ever. It is putting Nintendo where its audience lives.
Where everybody lives, really. Because it’s not just Nintendo that’s attempting to tackle the problem of mobile.
Wednesday’s back-to-back Apple and Sony conferences should rightly be seen as two acts in the same play. In introducing the iPhone 7’s new processor, the A10 Fusion, powered by a four-core, 64-bit CPU and a 6-core GPU, Apple’s Phil Schiller brought up a screenshot of a new F1 racing game from Codemasters, gushing, “This is console-level gaming.”
An hour later came Sony’s retort—not anymore, it isn’t.
“We’re adjusting and accelerating our innovation cadence,” said PlayStation boss Andrew House, introducing the specced-up PlayStation 4 Pro. Why? Something about the “discriminating gamer.” In other words, it’s the classic strategy of “retreating upmarket,” chasing the consumers that demand the absolute best as the Good Enough product eats away at everybody else. By releasing new revisions faster, Sony and Microsoft can stay ahead of the thing in your pocket—maybe.
And where does that leave Nintendo? If reports about the NX are to be believed, Nintendo’s looking to create, well, a mobile device. Not a phone, mind you, but certainly something like an iPad. The important thing isn’t the form factor, but the reported shift to mobile chipsets. It’s looking to rejoin the ranks of the disruptors, not the disruptees.
What I have said all along—from the years in which Nintendo said that it would never, ever put Mario on a smartphone to yesterday when Shigeru Miyamoto came bouncing onstage next to Tim Cook—is that it is the height of naiveté to believe that Nintendo can simply exploit the smartphone to its own ends and not have its fundamental nature altered by its shift into third-party game development. Tap not the iPhone, lest the iPhone tap you.