Despite a somewhat inconsistent record with smartphone games, Nintendo is continuing to add to its roster, revealing that its next effort will be a mobile Mario Kart.
Update: Mario Kart Tour is out in closed beta on Android, and we've updated this piece with what we know. In short: it looks to bring a faithful (though vertically-aligned) Mario Kart experience, though there seems to be a lot of in-game currencies and microtransactions you'll have to deal with to get all your favorite characters.
First announced as in-development in February 2018, Mario Kart Tour is still something of a mystery as Nintendo didn’t proffer any details on its gameplay, pricing model or even a firm release date. But we've started to see footage from the game's closed beta, which launched in May, and it seems like the Mario Kart gameplay we know and love has been faithfully reproduced.
Following the failure of Miitomo, Mario Kart Tour is a good sign that Nintendo is going to be investing in mobile adaptations of its more popular IPs, rather than trying anything more weird or new any time soon.
While we don’t know too much about the game thus far, this is everything we do know, and we’ll keep updating this page as more details are revealed.
Cut to the chase
- What is it? Mario Kart on mobile!
- When can I play it? It'll be released any time between April 2018 and March 2019
- What can I play it on? Nothing confirmed but it's likely to be iOS and Android
Mario Kart Tour – when can I play it?
Mario Kart Tour's exact release date is yet to be revealed, with Nintendo giving us a pretty wide window. We know the game will be coming, but we don't know when. Fortunately, it has been released in closed beta on Android, which is promising. We'll take this as a hopeful sign for a 2019 release.
We were right to be a little pessimistic, as the game went far past our expectation of an 'early 2019' release. Nintendo’s mobile titles have historically been subject to delays, and given the fact that Fire Emblem Heroes and Animal Crossing Pocket Camp are still undergoing updates, we’re not sure when the time is right to push another big IP title out.
Mario Kart Tour – how much will it cost?
Going on Nintendo’s past mobile releases, we can't be absolutely sure whether Mario Kart Tour will be a free-to-play title with microtransactions, or a one-time purchase game with no paid extras. Now that the closed beta has come out, chock-full of microtransactions and multiple in-game currencies, we're pretty sure this is how the final game will be monetized.
A recent report from the Wall Street Journal has said that the game will be ‘free-to-start’. While this is a little unclear, Super Mario Run is also a free-to-start game which does give us some idea as to how the model could translate to Mario Kart Tour.
DeNA CEO said "Mario Kart Tour," a Nintendo-DeNA smartphone game planned for FY18, will be free-to-start.February 8, 2018
It's still possible that Mario Kart Tour will – like Super Mario Run – be released as a free trial which gives access to one or two tracks and a limited number of characters and cards. After players have gone through this trial, they’ll then be able to purchase the full game for around $10/£10 and get access to all of the game’s features as well as free updates at later stages.
It's possible that the game will be set up like Animal Crossing Pocket Camp, which is free to download but has certain content which can only be accessed for a fee. Although this is a model that would also work for Mario Kart Tour; we could quite easily see the game being free to download with certain tracks, characters and cars requiring an additional purchase.
But it's far more likely that Mario Kart Tour will go the route of previously-released free-to-play Nintendo titles like Fire Emblem Heroes that run on gacha-style pay-for-a-random-item/character via in-game currency, which can always be bought with IRL cash.
It's a setup that has worked well for Nintendo: two years after Fire Emblem Heroes launched, players have spent a combined $500 million on the game, per Sensor Tower. Hopefully the monetization mechanisms in Mario Kart Tour won't be too obnoxious – Nintendo did just tell its partners to rein in the microtransactions.
Mario Kart Tour – which platforms will it be on?
Though Nintendo hasn’t confirmed anything here just yet, we think it’s safe to assume that Mario Kart Tour will be released on both iOS and Android as other mobile titles have been.
Mario Kart Tour – how will it play?
Unfortunately, Nintendo hasn’t released any official details on how Mario Kart Tour will actually play. But if the closed beta is anything to go by, the game looks to be a streamlined version of the console games. Take a look at this beta footage and explainer:
Characters automatically drive forward while you drag your finger on the screen left and right to turn. Some items (like invincibility stars) are automatically used if you pick them up, others are activated just by touching the screen. It's a lot like how Super Mario Run, Nintendo's first mobile game, was simplified from its console versions.
There’s even room in this kind of control system for motion controls, whereby players turn their phone onto its side and turn the screen like they would a steering wheel, though we haven't seen that gameplay implemented yet.
As in the latest Mario Kart games, players pick a driver, kart and glider, then they’re matched against seven other players online. Maps are a mix from the entire series: the initial Toad Cup features courses from SNES, 3DS and GameCube versions of Mario Kart. There is a purported list of maps collected in a ResetEra thread.
How the multiplayer element will come into the game has yet to be confirmed, too, though the beta information does suggest it will be 8-person multiplayer connecting over the internet.
Nintendo’s mobile games usually require that the player be online but whether they’ll face off in live races or simply race around an AI populated track and try to establish themselves on a variety of leaderboards is currently unclear.
A big part of the fun in Mario Kart is the unpredictability of facing-off against real opponents, so we’d definitely like to see live races rather than a leaderboard system.
While details are limited just now, keep checking back because we'll keep updating as we hear more about Mario Kart Tour!
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