Games company Nintendo has rolled out Super Mario Run to iPhones and iPads.
The app marks the first time the firm has created a smartphone game based on its most famous character.
It follows the successful release of Pokemon Go earlier in the year. Nintendo owns a minority stake in the Pokemon Company, but the title was developed by a third party.
Experts predict the new game will also prove popular, but suggest an anti-piracy feature is misguided.
“Mario is one of the best loved and established icons of gaming and I think this is going to be tremendously successful,” said Piers Harding-Rolls from the IHS Technology consultancy.
“To open up the full game you have to make an in-app purchase – it’s quite big but it is a one-off and I don’t think people will think Nintendo is trying to rinse their audience.”
But he added that he thought it was a “misstep” to require users to be online in order to play – something the game’s producer Shigeru Miyamoto has said was done to limit piracy.
“Some demographics will be wanting to use this as they commute and we know that the coverage in some markets is relatively patchy,” said Mr Harding-Rolls.
“Not having offline capability to play will also be an issue for kids travelling in cars.”
Build to unlock
Super Mario Run takes the Super Mario Bros format – where the character sprints from left to right, collecting coins, jumping over obstacles and squishing enemies – and tweaks the gameplay to make it easy to play one-handed on a touchscreen.
The free version acts as a brief demo, but paying a £7.99 fee offers full access to three modes:
- World Tour – a story mode spanning six worlds, which Mario must travel across to save Princess Peach
- Toad Rally – a multiplayer mode, in which players compete to show off challenging moves and collect coins to get the highest score
- Kingdom Builder – a creation mode, where players use the coins they have earned elsewhere to add buildings and decorations, some of which unlock bonus characters and other extra content
For now the title is restricted to Apple’s iOS platform, but Nintendo has said it will come to Android “at some point in the future”.
Nintendo had initially shunned smartphones, preferring to focus on its own hardware.
However, weak sales of its Wii U console and a decline in demand for its 3DS handheld caused the firm to sustain large financial losses, putting it under pressure to change tack.
It launched its first smartphone game, Miitomo, in March to mixed reviews but strong demand.
Then in July, the release of Pokemon Go became a global phenomenon, lifting Nintendo’s share price despite the fact it only received a relatively small cut of all sales.
But last month, the firm revealed that two subsequent Pokemon games released for the 3DS – Sun and Moon – had become the fastest-selling titles in its history in Europe and the Americas.
Mr Harding-Rolls said Nintendo would be hoping for a similar knock-on effect when it launches its new console, the Switch, in March for which it is developing a new 3D Mario title.
“By launching this smart device game, Nintendo is opening Mario up to people who might be attracted by a sense of nostalgia as well as introducing a new generation of gamers to the brand.
“And that’s bound to have a halo impact on its other products.”
Nintendo’s domestic rival Sony is also making a fresh efforts to create iOS and Android games based on its PlayStation brands.
On Monday, it revealed a new Parappa the Rapper title and an Everybody’s Golf game were being developed by its ForwardWorks studio.