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Instant Analysis: What Nintendo's Mario on iOS Means

By Keith Noonan - Sep 9, 2016 at 5:27PM

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The world's most-storied video game company announced "Super Mario Run" for iOS at Apple's iPhone 7 launch event.

Image source: Nintendo.

Nintendo (NTDOY 0.05%) game designer Shigeru Miyamoto took the stage at Apple's (AAPL 0.17%) iPhone 7 launch event on Wednesday to introduce a new Mario game for iOS platforms. Super Mario Run will be released in December and will be playable on the iPhone and iPad, with the game offered as a free-to-play download that has more content gated behind an in-app purchase. 

The game will feature three game modes, with at least one built around a multiplayer component. Gameplay revolves around using the iPhone's or iPad's touch input to make the Mario character jump to navigate platforms and collect coins as he moves across the screen automatically. For now, the game has been announced only for iOS platforms. However, a report from gamer news site Kotaku indicates that the game will come to devices running the Android operating system in 2017. 

Does it matter?

The Super Mario Run announcement likely doesn't mean much for Apple investors, but it's a big move for Nintendo. With the release, the gaming giant appears to be fully embracing mobile development -- a move that has profound implications going forward. That Nintendo was significantly ramping up mobile development has been clear since 2015, when the company announced that it would release five mobile games by March 2017. However, the upcoming Mario game for iOS makes it clear that the company's biggest franchises and characters are fair game for a mobile transition.

Prior to the announcement and subsequent success of Pokemon Go (which was developed by third party Niantic Labs), Nintendo had indicated that it would aim to introduce new properties for mobile rather than build around its established franchises. Super Mario Run is the first internally developed Nintendo game for mobile platforms to feature one of the company's core properties, and shows that the company is making a rapid jump to mobile. 

Following the announcement, Nintendo stock jumped roughly 29%, and its share price has now roughly doubled year to date. 

By bringing its core characters to mobile, Nintendo has an opportunity to expand its audience and create synergistic effects for games on its own hardware, while it also faces the risk that mobile releases will cheapen its storied franchises or make it so players do not need to purchase the company's hardware for experiences built around classic characters like Mario. Whichever way the foray into mobile plays out, the company's mobile moves can be counted on to have a big impact. 

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