This is why Nintendo bet big on Google to bring Super Mario to the iPhone

Super Mario Run
Super Mario Run Nintendo

Last December, Nintendo brought Super Mario to the iPhone in a big way: “Super Mario Run” debuted simultaneously in 150 countries, and rapidly racked up 25 million downloads in its first four days.

Notably, everything went smoothly: While the game requires an internet connection to work, the massive crush of players from all around the world barely even slowed down the “Super Mario Run” servers. Months later, the game’s Android launch would go off without a hitch, too.

In a new blog entry, DeNA — Nintendo’s preferred smartphone app development partner — credits the success of the “Super Mario Run” launch to its decision to use Google’s cloud services as the backend platform.

It’s another feather in Google’s cap as it rushes to chip away at the absolute cloud dominance of Amazon Web Services.

Mario engine

Google App Engine, the particular service chosen to power “Super Mario Run,” allows applications to literally run on the same servers that power Google search and the rest of the Google empire — and then automatically add more server capacity as your application reaches more users.

It turns out that the decision to use the cloud in the first place was the result of hard-won experience. Earlier in 2016, Nintendo and DeNA had teamed up for Miitomo, the Japanese games giant’s first-ever smartphone title.

For that game, the companies had decided to run it almost entirely from their own servers, which worked for the most part, but presented all kinds of technical headaches as the game caught on. For “Super Mario Run,” DeNA and Nintendo knew they would have to up their game.

“We learned that projected traffic for ‘Super Mario Run’ would be massive — even by our standards as experienced smartphone app developers,” says Kenta Sugahara, team leader for DeNA’s System Development Division, in that blog entry.

Super Mario Run
Super Mario Run Nintendo

Plus, DeNA liked Google’s approach to cloud customer service. And so, Nintendo and DeNA went with App Engine to power the game, with plans to use Google’s BigQuery data analytics service to draw out fresh insight from player behaviour. “Fire Emblem Heroes,” Nintendo’s follow-up mobile game, also went with Google Cloud.

It’s also worth noting that while “Pokémon Go” also uses Google Cloud, that’s not actually a Nintendo game: Pokémon is property of The Pokémon Company, a joint venture between Nintendo, original game developer Game Freak, and toy-maker Creatures. Still, the positive experience with “Pokémon Go” could have emboldened DeNA.

Generally speaking, too, Google Cloud is finding a niche with game makers, as “Angry Birds” maker Rovio, “Assassin’s Creed” publisher Ubisoft, and “Clash of Kings” developer Elex all use Google for some or all of their back-end infrastructure. As the cloud wars with Amazon escalate, it’s a positive sign for Google.

Disclosure: Jeff Bezos is an investor in Business Insider through hispersonal investment company Bezos Expeditions.