One Small Step For iPhone, One Giant Leap For Mario

Every September Apple announces big product news. This September continued that tradition with the much-anticipated iPhone7 announcement. The new iPhone7, AirPods and the updated Apple Watch, were all very cool and great steps forward for Apple. What was huge news was that Nintendo’s Mario is finally coming to iOS. 

While the news of Nintendo’s beloved Mario coming to the iOS world is medium-sized news for Apple, it is huge news for Nintendo. The fact that Nintendo’s legendary Shigeru Miyamoto appeared on stage at the event to announce was a very clear sign at how big and important this news is for the company. 

As prologue: While many in the marketplace have been focused on the overwhelming success of Pokémon Go as a Nintendo windfall — it isn’t. Nintendo owns the IP but doesn’t make the Pokémon Go game, and it has produced very little revenue for Nintendo. Pokémon Go is collaboration between The Pokémon Company and Niantic Labs, the developer of the game. In fact, when the investors realized this, the sharp rise in Nintendo stock price saw an equal correction. In fact, Nintendo is in search for a big hit for the upcoming holiday season.

Nintendo has been slow to develop games for third-party platforms since they have historically made their own consoles and handheld devices. But that business has struggled for several seasons. Putting their most famous and beloved character on iOS is a huge step for Nintendo and I’m betting they have very big revenue forecasts tied to Super Mario Run for Holiday 2016.

If you watched the closing ceremony at the Sumer Olympics, it’s clear how popular Mario is around the world. And by putting Mario into the hands of millions of fans and, hopefully, new users around the world, the Mario franchise will see downloads and revenue stream the likes of which Pokémon Go experienced earlier this year. Even a fraction of Pokémon Go’s revenue numbers will be a success. 

A key theme to recognize in both games is to understand the classic “fish where the fish are” strategy. By limiting their investment in a lagging console business and instead writing game software for a third-party platform, Nintendo has the chance to rescue their gaming business and un-chain themselves from their expensive proprietary device bondage. Also, it will be much easier for Nintendo to create commerce opportunities in an app environment as well as easily deliver updates and new adventures for Mario in a bit-based world. 

Lastly, this is big news for Nintendo because Japanese companies are historically better at building “things” vs. software. Doubt that? How many Sony Walkmans do you see today? Software eats the world and has gobbled up the days of simply building a better mousetrap. If Nintendo’s Super Mario Run is a hit, this will signify a big transformation for Nintendo’s legacy as a game and hardware maker and transition to being software driven. 

As marketers grapple with how to better engage with their customers, Nintendo may be a company to emulate and take some pages from their updated play book. Here’s looking to a great holiday season for that little dude in red overalls!

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