Business / Corporate

Mario Kart Tour a much-needed smartphone hit for Nintendo

Bloomberg

Nintendo Co. can finally claim a megahit smartphone game with its new Mario Kart Tour, which has been downloaded 123.9 million times in its first month and comfortably eclipsed the company’s previous mobile game debuts, according to data from app research firm Sensor Tower.

“The racing app is Nintendo’s most successful mobile game launch by downloads so far, eclipsing Super Mario Run’s 21.8 million downloads more than five times over,” Katie Williams, mobile analyst at Sensor Tower, wrote in a blog post.

The game raked in revenue of $37.4 million in its first month, second only to Fire Emblem Heroes’ $67.6 million, according to the researchers’ data.

Such an unequivocal success is what the Japanese gaming giant, which reports earnings this week, needed, coming more than four years after a much-ballyhooed entry into mobile gaming.

Mario Kart Tour, which sparked a minor frenzy among gamers after its announcement in 2018, is not only part of one of the best-known racing franchises in gaming history but is regarded as the Nintendo title most suitable for smartphones in terms of moneymaking opportunities and features to hook players.

Separately, China’s State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television approved several imported games, including the Switch console version of Super Mario Bros U deluxe.

Nintendo’s marquee title is up against stiff competition, however, which includes enduringly popular titles like Fortnite. There are also new big-name rivals entering the mobile realm as exemplified by Tencent Holdings Ltd.’s Call of Duty Mobile, which attracted 20 million gamers within the first two days of its worldwide debut in October.

Mario Kart Tour could earn $1 billion a year, research firm NewZoo estimated last year. That would be a welcome boost for a company whose efforts to date to court mainstream players, including with the Switch Lite, haven’t gone as well as initially anticipated.

Known for iconic game franchises like Mario and Zelda, Nintendo has been experimenting with new hardware and software products as the rising popularity of smartphones hits its traditional market of gamers on home and portable consoles.

Still, Nintendo’s stock had been up about 26 percent this year on expectations that a strong game lineup would eventually drive hardware sales. The upcoming launch slate includes a new installment in the Zelda saga, Luigi’s Mansion and two Pokemon games. The stock hit a 15-month high in September before losing ground after the Switch Lite’s disappointing debut.

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