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. While this is substantially more than the company's first smartphone title, Super Mario Run, took in during its first year, our data reveals that Nintendo still has considerable ground to make up between itself and the mobile space's highest-earning publishers.
As the chart below reveals, mobile gamers spent more than five times as much in Fire Emblem Heroes during its first 12 months than in Super Mario Run, which earned approximately $56 million in gross revenue in the year following its December 15, 2016 launch and sits at about $60 million total. That said, there are obvious and significant differences between the monetization approaches of the two titles that impacted the latter's potential from the outset, namely that Super Mario Run features a one-time paid "unlock" for all its content while Fire Emblem Heroes utilizes more traditional to mobile, random loot mechanisms relying on consumable in-app purchases.
It's no surprise given the above that Nintendo chose to also adopt traditional mobile free-to-play monetization mechanisms for its third smartphone title, Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp. Still, it's clear that the publisher and its partner DeNA are still working to determine the perfect combination of gameplay and monetization tactics that will click with fans and result in first year returns the likes of which Pokémon GO and Clash Royale saw, at an estimated $1.1 billion and $967 million in player spending, respectively.
To illustrate the challenge Nintendo faces, during its first two months of availability after launching worldwide on November 21, 2017, Nintendo's mobile Animal Crossing had grossed approximately $20 million across the App Store and Google Play, less than one quarter of the $86 million players spent in Fire Emblem Heroes during its first two months. Last month, Fire Emblem Heroes ranked No. 34 for worldwide mobile game revenue on both platforms, while Animal Crossing ranked No. 190, further putting the two titles' degrees of success in contrast.
Nintendo has been effective in making Fire Emblem Heroes a title that appeals to players on both sides of the Pacific, with nearly 30 percent of the game's first year revenue coming from the United States, while about 60 percent has been made in Japan. By comparison, more than 82 percent of Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp's revenue so far has come from Japan, with only 13 percent originating from U.S. players.
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.
Chinese mobile giant Tencent has proven that smartphone titles in the vein of Nintendo's genre-defining kart racer can be massive financial successes with its recently launched QQ Speed, but we've yet to see if this success can be replicated across a worldwide audience. One thing is for certain: If any publisher has the potential to do so, it's Nintendo, and if any gaming franchise can bridge cultural preferences, it's Mario.