* Super Mario Run hits 25 mln downloads in record four days
* Nintendo shares lose 11 pct since Dec. 15 launch
* Users put off by one-time pricing model
By Makiko Yamazaki
TOKYO, Dec 21 Nintendo Co Ltd's first
Mario smartphone title has set a download record but gamers
baulked at the one-time cost of unlocking content, prompting
investors to push the Japanese game makers' stock to a one-month
Super Mario Run hit 25 million downloads just four days
after its Dec. 15 release in 151 countries on Apple Inc's
App Store, earning gross sales of about $21 million,
showed data from app analyst Sensor Tower.
But Nintendo shares have lost 11 percent since the launch as
the latest game to feature Nintendo's princess-rescuing Italian
plumber received negative reviews from users mainly complaining
about its $9.99 one-time cost, rather than the usual model of
paying small amounts for special features.
"Mario is arguably the most popular gaming franchise in the
world, yet we see only about 8 percent of those who try the game
actually purchasing it," said Sensor Tower analyst Spencer
"I don't think this is a statement on the game's quality ...
but rather the perceived value when compared to free-to-play
games that offer much more content with optional
microtransactions that enable players to experience it sooner."
Super Mario Run is free to download on the App Store where,
in Japan, it is rated 2.5 stars out of 5 based on 1,095 reviews.
"This is a fee app disguised as a free app," wrote reviewer
Racing Game Guy. "You need to pay after playing for 10 minutes.
I don't mind paying but the fee is a bit big. It's a
disappointment after waiting with so much expectation."
Nintendo belatedly decided to enter smartphone gaming after
resisting initial pressure from shareholders concerned about
that segment's threat to its core console gaming business.
Soon after, Pokemon GO - based on Nintendo characters -
reached 25 million downloads in a then-record 11 days from about
35 countries via the app stores of Apple and Alphabet Inc's
Google. Nintendo shares more than doubled in price,
reaching a six-year high, but plunged soon after the firm said
Pokemon GO would have little impact on profit.
With Super Mario Run, the sticking point was known a month
prior to release.
"Pricing was designed to reassure parents that they would be
charged just once, not multiple times," when their children play
the game, a Nintendo spokesman told Reuters.
When deciding to expand into mobile, late president Satoru
Iwata criticised titles that charged for rare in-game features
which he said generated huge profit but also promoted addiction.
He favoured profit via low prices and a large user base.
"We are trying to make applications that appeal to a wide
variety of people," Iwata told shareholders last year when asked
Nintendo has also repeatedly said profit was not the only
focus of its smartphone business.
"We hope to maximize the number of people who interact with
our characters on mobile, to bridge them to console gaming and
to create synergies," the spokesman said.
Analyst Hideki Yasuda at Ace Research Institute saw Super
Mario Run as a promotional means of luring people to consoles.
"Its main purpose is to create a buzz and boost public
awareness of Mario. So all the fuss about the game, including
criticism over pricing, is precisely what Nintendo wants."
Most analysts were expecting the pricing model to jar and
were more concerned about what will happen in coming months.
"The stock market had factored in initial disappointment so
we now need to see what impact Super Mario Run has on sales of
console games," said Chief Market Analyst Masayuki Otani at
Otani said he would next seek guidance from Nintendo on
mobile titles Animal Crossing and Fire Emblem to be released by
March-end, for which many analysts expect different pricing.
(Reporting by Makiko Yamazaki; Additional reporting by Taiga
Uranaka; Editing by Christopher Cushing)