'Dr. Mario World' Draws Criticism for Microtransactions as Mobile Game Spending Soars

Courtesy of Nintendo

The initial download is free for Nintendo's latest mobile offering, but prices can add up quickly as players hope to progress.

Mobile Games Hotspot is a weekly roundup of the top stories in gaming on-the-go.

Nintendo's Dr. Mario World had a surprise release on Tuesday when it appeared on both the App Store and Google Play a day ahead of its scheduled July 10 release date. The Japanese gaming giant's latest mobile title features some of its most iconic characters coupled with a puzzle mechanic focused on eliminating different colored viruses by matching them with capsules of the same color.

Although the game has only been out for a few days, early opinions are generally positive but with a critical tone towards the methods used to keep players invested financially. The initial download is free, but players can only play a level by spending a Heart, a resource that refills over time. If one wants more Hearts without the wait, Diamonds are available for purchase that can replenish a player's supply of Hearts but can also be used to earn rewards and to continue a level should one fail.

Comparisons between Dr. Mario World and Nintendo's 2016 mobile game, Super Mario Run — which featured a pay-once model that required players to make a one-time $9.99 purchase to unlock the entire game — have been drawn. Dr. Mario World eschews the model of its predecessor for the currently-in-vogue free-to-play system. The requirement for a consistent online connection in order to play Dr. Mario World is another common complaint.

Here's what else is happening in the world of mobile games:

Mobile Game Spending on the Rise

A new report from Sensor Tower found a slight increase in spending for mobile games in the first half of 2019. The first six months of the year generated an estimated $29.6 billion in revenue, a slight increase year-over-year from 2018, which saw $26.6 billion roll in over the same period. Tencent's Horror of Kings ranked first in gross income with over $728 million spent. In second place was Fate/Grand Order, followed by Monster Strike, Candy Crush Saga and PUBG Mobile.

Overall, spending came to a total of $39.7 billion for all apps on both the App Store and Google Play for the first half of 2019. This was another bump from 2018's $34.4 billion.

Pokemon Go Closing in on $3 Billion Milestone

To commemorate the three-year anniversary of Pokemon GoSensor Tower released sales data revealing the mobile game has generated $2.65 billion in revenue since July 6, 2016, and is on its way to exceed $3 billion by the end of 2019. The U.S. takes the top spot in consumer spending within Pokemon Go, accounting for 35 percent of the revenue. Japan comes in second with 29 percent. 

Comparatively in their first three years, Pokemon Go outranks both Clash Royale's $2.3 billion and Candy Crush Saga's $1.86 billion. Clash of Clans still holds the top spot with $3.15 billion after its first three years.

RWBY Anime Characters Come to Knights Chronicle

A crossover event featuring the RWBY anime web series is starting Thursday in Knights Chronicles. The turn-based battle game features 160 heroes, some of which now feature characters from RWBY including Ruby Rose, Weiss Schnee, Blake Belladonna, Yang Xiao Long and Cinder Fall. The event features a limited-time check-in to unlock a four-star RWBY hero and a new Advent Dungeon features a story tying the two universes together. The event will run through July 31.

Delays for Two Mobile Ports

Stranger Things 3: The Game was originally scheduled to launch on July 4 alongside the release of season three of the popular Netflix series, but has since been delayed, at least on mobile. Anyone waiting for the mobile release can expect a single price at launch without any extra microtransactions. The video game adaptation gives players control of Mike, Eleven, Steve and others as they play though the events of season three. The Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and Steam versions of the game were all released last week as intended. 

A mobile port of last year's Dead Cells is also getting delayed, although this one is only for one extra month. The iOS port of Motion Twin's brutal 2D rouge-like was set to release on July 17, but is now set for launch on Aug. 28 on the App Store.