A lot has happened since early 2018 when Mario Kart Tour was announced, the new game from Nintendo to bring its successful licenses into mobile territory. A whole year and a half later and with other titles from the company released along the way, we’re about to finally play the game we’ve been waiting for: Mario Kart Tour will be made available on Android and iOS on September 25. The game will be free and will include a system of in-game micro-payments. That’s all we know about that for now.
Nintendo’s journey towards a successful model
The main problem with the games that Nintendo has released for mobile devices is the approach they’ve taken to their monetization system. Let’s not forget that Super Mario Run was a free-to-start and not free-to-play title, forcing players to pay up if they wanted to continue playing after the first few levels. Basically, what we had was a demo, and that did not sit well with Android users who are not used to paying —at least not upfront— to play games on the platform.
With that lesson learned, Nintendo came back in 2017 with games like Fire Emblem Heroes, which has become the most profitable game for the company thanks to a successful gameplay, even though it’s centered around a gacha system. To get an idea, these are the most profitable games for the company according to a Sensor Tower report posted in July 2019:
- Fire Emblem Heroes – $591 million
- Dragalia Lost – $100 million
- Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp – $99 million
- Super Mario Run – $72 million
- Dr. Mario World – $790,000
Beside Fire Emblem Heroes, perhaps more focused on the hardcore Asian audience, Dr. Mario World is the game that’s best integrated the freemium model with the formula, using a level progression and energy reload system, similar to standards seen in games from King.
What to expect from Mario Kart Tour
Mario Kart Tour attempts to adapt the formula that worked so well on the company’s consoles, simplifying the controls like they did in Super Mario Run. The car moves automatically, so you just have to focus on the initial start, drifting, and using items.
As you win cups, you’ll earn Grand Stars, the game’s currency which you can use to get new in-game resources. It’s been conformed that the game will have seasonal elements to unlock, so certain tracks will only be available for a limited time. And speaking of tracks, it seems that the game’s byline isn’t just for looks; the cups will be set in different cities around the world like Paris, London, and New York, although sometimes we’ll also see adaptations of the classic circuits from the saga. In regards to the racers, in the beta we saw about 30 characters, each one bringing its own advantages in the game.
Going back to the topic of monetization, it’s still not clear how Nintendo is going to tackle the issue. Many users complained during the beta that the system to reload the “lives” was too restrictive, requiring too long of a wait in order to keep playing after running out of hearts. This, added to the unlocking of new content, will determine the game’s future. It seems like Nintendo isn’t quite sure about the best way to drum up revenue for the company, even though Satoru Iwata himself declared to investors that he wasn’t interested in the classic Freemium model of “whale users.” Only time will tell.