Fire Emblem Heroes Marked as Nintendo and DeNA’s ‘Most Successful Mobile Game to Date’

It's been just over one year since Fire Emblem Heroes launched on the iOS App Store in the United States, Japan, and over 30 other countries, and this week new data researched by Sensor Tower has titled the app as Nintendo and DeNA's "most successful mobile game to date." Over the course of its first year, Fire Emblem Heroes earned an estimated $295 million in player spending worldwide, helped by the game's free-to-play structure that includes in-app purchases of various items like game-boosting "Orbs."

The other Nintendo/DeNA apps include the soon-to-be-discontinued Miitomo, Super Mario Run, and the most recent game, Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp, which has earned about $20 million across the iOS App Store and Google Play Store in the two months since release. In comparison, Fire Emblem Heroes earned $86 million in its first two months after launch, following an initial slow start in the first few days.

Nintendo’s Fire Emblem Heroes is the Kyoto-based gaming giant’s most successful mobile game to date, earning an estimated $295 million in worldwide player spend during its first year of availability, according to Sensor Tower Store Intelligence data.

With players worldwide continuing to spend more than $10 million per month on “luck of the draw” character draws, Fire Emblem Heroes is a clearly a financial success for Nintendo and DeNA. The question now is whether the publisher-developer duo can progress to the next echelon of mobile gaming revenue with future titles, including the recently announced Mario Kart Tour.
In terms of worldwide mobile game revenue, Sensor Tower reported that Fire Emblem Heroes ranked at No. 34 in January on the iOS App Store, while Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp sat at No. 190. Furthermore, Fire Emblem Heroes is said to have been successful both in the U.S. and Japan, with 30 percent of the game's first year revenue coming from the former country and 60 percent from the latter. For Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp, 13 percent of its revenue so far has been made in the U.S., and more than 82 percent comes from Japan.

Although the games support different payment structures, Sensor Tower compared Fire Emblem Heroes with Super Mario Run, which earned $56 million across its first year in worldwide revenue. Super Mario Run was a bigger hit initially as many players downloaded the game in the first few weeks of launch -- earning $8.4 million on its first day -- but slacked off in subsequent months. The game is free-to-download so that users can play the first few levels, but a $9.99 payment is required to unlock everything.

Chart via Sensor Tower

During Nintendo's quarterly earnings report last fall, the company admitted that Super Mario Run had "not yet reached an acceptable profit point" ten months after launch, while Fire Emblem Heroes was on track to meet its business and profit objectives. For Super Mario Run, the company stated that it had "learned a lot in terms of game development and deployment," which it will "take advantage of moving forward." Nintendo is also reportedly looking for new mobile developers to partner with in addition to DeNA.

While Fire Emblem Heroes has been successful for Nintendo and DeNA, it's still lagging behind the breakout hits on the iOS App Store, like Clash Royale ($967 million in first year worldwide revenue) and Niantic's Pokémon Go ($1.1 billion). Nintendo's next mobile game Mario Kart Tour will be free-to-start, which is terminology that Nintendo has used to describe the in-app purchase model of Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp. Previous rumors have also stated the company could be working on a smartphone game set in The Legend of Zelda universe.


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Upcoming Mobile Game ‘Mario Kart Tour’ Will Be Free-to-Start

Nintendo last week announced that its next mobile game will be "Mario Kart Tour," but with a launch date aimed at any time before the company's fiscal year ending March 2019, not much information is known about the game. Today, DeNA CEO Isao Moriyasu was reported as saying that Mario Kart Tour will be free-to-start (via TouchArcade and The Wall Street Journal).


The "free-to-start" terminology is somewhat vague, but when compared to Nintendo's previous use of the phrase it could suggest where Mario Kart Tour is headed. For example, Nintendo currently describes Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp as free-to-start on the game's website, while Super Mario Run's website explains that "you can download and enjoy a portion of Super Mario Run for free."


While far from a definitive answer, this suggests Nintendo might lean towards its recent trend and make Mario Kart Tour a game that's free to play, with in-app purchases that help with certain tasks. Out of Nintendo's four mobile games so far, three have followed this model (Miitomo, Fire Emblem Heroes, Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp), while only Super Mario Run has used the pay-once price tier.


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Nintendo Looking for Additional Mobile Software Developers After DeNA Partnership Falls Behind Schedule

Nintendo is looking to hire more software developers to help it create mobile video games in the vein of Super Mario Run and Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp. According to people familiar with the matter speaking with The Wall Street Journal, Nintendo has decided to expand its roster of smartphone game developers after its partnership with DeNA "fell behind schedule."

Nintendo and DeNA first announced their partnership in March 2015, and then a few months later in May 2015 explained their schedule: the companies would release their first iOS game that year, and then five more before March 2017. By October 2015, the first Nintendo mobile app -- Miitomo -- was pushed back to 2016, marking the first delay of the company's long term smartphone strategy release plan.

Eventually, Miitomo launched in March 2016, Super Mario Run launched in December 2016, Fire Emblem Heroes launched in February 2017, and Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp just launched in November 2017. Besides Super Mario Run, every mobile game released by Nintendo and made by DeNA was delayed at some point.

Now, Nintendo is looking to introduce new collaborations with other software developers and "raise the pace of new titles" so that these games don't face as heavy delays as they did previously. While Nintendo took a 10 percent ownership stake in DeNA when it partnered with the company, sources knowledgeable of the new plan stated that it "isn't planning" to do that again with any new developer partners.
Nintendo reported less than ¥20 billion ($176 million) in revenue in the year ended in March 2017 from its smartphone games, including one featuring Mario. Some investors say the mobile revenue has fallen short of expectations, but Nintendo executives say that rather than try to squeeze out more mobile revenue—which could lead to a consumer backlash—they are focusing on converting those users to buy more expensive products.
Potential new developers include GungHo Online Entertainment Inc., which created the mobile game Puzzle & Dragons. For DeNA, company CEO Isao Moriyasu has previously said that the developer "has more smartphone games in the pipeline" in partnership with Nintendo, and both companies plan to "continue the relationship."

Tags: Nintendo, DeNA

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