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Nintendo scores huge smartphone hit with Mario Kart Tour

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Nintendo Co can finally claim a mega-hit smartphone game with its new Mario Kart Tour, which has been downloaded 123.9 million times in its first month and comfortably eclipsed the company's previous mobile game debuts, Sensor Tower data showed.

[TOKYO] Nintendo Co can finally claim a mega-hit smartphone game with its new Mario Kart Tour, which has been downloaded 123.9 million times in its first month and comfortably eclipsed the company's previous mobile game debuts, Sensor Tower data showed.

"The racing app is Nintendo's most successful mobile game launch by downloads so far, eclipsing Super Mario Run's 21.8 million downloads more than five times over," Katie Williams, mobile analyst at Sensor Tower, said in a blog post. The game also raked in revenue of US$37.4 million in its first month, second only to Fire Emblem Heroes' US$67.6 million, according to the researchers' data.

The Japanese giant, which reports earnings this week, was in need of such an unequivocal success more than four years after a much-ballyhooed entry into mobile gaming. Mario Kart Tour, which sparked a minor frenzy among gamers since it was announced in 2018, is not only part of one of the best-known racing franchises in gaming history, it's regarded as the Nintendo title most suitable for smartphones in terms of moneymaking opportunities and features to hook players. The shares rose as much as 2.2 per cent in Tokyo on Tuesday, the biggest intraday gain since the beginning of the month.

Nintendo's marquee title is up against stiff competition, however, which includes enduringly popular titles like Fortnite. There are also new big-name rivals entering the mobile realm, as exemplified by Tencent Holdings Ltd's Call of Duty Mobile, which attracted 20 million gamers within the first two days of its worldwide debut in October.

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Mario Kart Tour could eventually earn US$1 billion a year, research firm NewZoo estimated last year. That would be a welcome boost for a company whose efforts to date to court mainstream players, including with the Switch Lite, haven't gone as well as initially anticipated. Known for iconic game franchises like Mario and Zelda, Nintendo has been experimenting with new hardware and software products as the rising popularity of smartphones hits its traditional market of gamers on home and portable consoles.

Still, Nintendo's stock had been up about 26 per cent this year on expectations that a strong game lineup will eventually drive hardware sales. The upcoming launch slate includes a new installment in the Zelda saga, Luigi's Mansion and two Pokemon games. The stock hit a 15-month high in September, before losing ground after the Switch Lite's disappointing debut.

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