Why Nintendo doesn’t release Mario on the App Store

Recently, I read an interview with Nintendo’s CEO Satoru Iwata on the Japanese gaming website 4gamer (Japanese only), which was very entertaining and interesting.

There are lots of interesting facts that I wasn’t aware of previously in the article, including that Satoru Iwata himself has a hard-core programing background and he actually was writing codes until he was 40 years old.

However, myself as an indie iOS developer making a living on the App Store, the most interesting part was that he clearly explained why Nintendo doesn’t want to release Mario on the AppStore.

Maybe he mentioned that reason in some interviews before, but all articles I had seen so far were just opinions from writers about why Nintendo wouldn’t do that, or why Nintendo should.

He mentions in the interview that Apple doesn’t have any incentives to protect the values of their content, since the content for Apple products are simply used to attract people who want to buy smartphones.

Apple creates a platform (the App Store) to sell their smartphones, but Nintendo creates a platform (gaming hardware) to sell their games. There is a big difference between them he explains.

Nintendo’s worst nightmare is a future where the value of contents are getting lower and lower. He says they can sell a lot of games to more people if they release their titles at lower prices, but they’d rather protect the value of games instead.

It seems that protecting the value of games is the challenge that they’ve been trying to solve, and clearly something that they are struggling with.

I can totally understand this logic as an indie iOS developer even though I am selling tools, not games. I know how difficult it is to create your own business on the App Store because your basic option is to charge money at lower price once and keep updating for free.

The main revenue of Apple comes from selling devices, not from the App Store. Therefore, they have incentives to lower the price of apps on the App Store so that more people will pay a higher price for their smartphones.

This should be another reason why we, iOS developers shouldn’t be able to use auto-renewable subscriptions “easily” for SaaS apps and don’t have options like paid upgrade on the App Store.

In this interview, Satoru Iwata talks with Nobuo Kawakami who started the company Dowango which is the popular movie streaming service called “Niconico douga” in Japan. Nobuo Kawakami’s insight is always very unique and he is the reason why I got into this interview.

Nobuo Kawakami explains that if the company creating the platform, it doesn’t build and sell content for that platform, then that platform is generally not going to be good place for content providers because the company creating the platform doesn’t have the incentive to sell contents.

Nintendo’s platform is a better place for content providers because Nintendo also sells their own games, and they have incentives not to lower the price of their content. This can also be true in some ways for Apple as they sell Final Cut Pro and other software for the Mac, but they pretty much release all of their iOS apps for free now.

Nintendo makes their platform to sell games, but Apple and Google make their platform for different reasons.

In my opinion, if the company creating the platform doesn’t care about content providers, the value of the platform will decline eventually. At this moment, many app developers still want to make apps on the App Store, since so many people keep coming to this platform.

Apple can ignore the whining from developers since the App Store is the best place to do business for now, but I believe they could attract more developers who can create great things by improving their rules.

For example, the idea of changing 30% revenue charge rate based on developer sales is very interesting to me. Check out the blog article below.
An Open Letter to Tim Cook Regarding the App Store 70 / 30 Revenue Split

If they make improvements to the App Store in the interest of the content providers, maybe in the future they can attract Mario too? I have no idea, but I think it would be great if that happens.

-Thanks to Derek Lee for rewriting my English.

*I've made Text-to-Speech, Money Tracker, and Timer apps. About Me.