Three weeks ago, Nintendo announced Mario Kart Tour, the latest addition to their mobile lineup and a boon to the company’s fortunes after Super Mario Run disappointed Nintendo brass and shareholders alike. If designed and marketed right, Mario Kart Tour looks poised to return better profits than Super Mario Run while taking a more traditional Nintendo approach to game design than the “gacha” strategy behind Fire Emblem Heroes. However, in order to do that, the game needs to nail down three of the most critical aspects of the Mario Kart experience while learning from the mistakes that Super Mario Run made.
Easy to Grasp Controls
This one might seem a little strange at first. After all, isn’t Mario Kart known for its refined, simple controls that allow incredible speedruns of some of the game’s hardest tracks? Isn’t it a series with a control scheme comprised of over twenty-five years’ worth of innovation inherent superior to anything smartphones can offer?
Well, yes. Unless Nintendo is going to embrace motion controls on a phone, their control options are rather limited. There are four buttons and a control stick used for the majority of Mario Kart 8 Deluxe‘s gameplay, so their options are limited on the five to six inch (12.5 to 16 cm) screens on most smartphones. There simply isn’t enough room for that many virtual controls and finding an alternate control scheme is daunting.
Super Mario Run nailed the feel of playing a Super Mario game perfectly, translating the essence of what made Super Mario games fun. Reflex-based challenge, fun powerups, and plenty of collectibles made sure that the core experience remained intact on mobile. A similarly good control scheme is needed to make Mario Kart Tour, a much more complicated game to control, an enjoyable experience on mobile.
It’s understandable that, for most people, pure pixel pushing puissance isn’t what they’re asking from a Mario Kart game. Indeed, Nintendo has a habit of turning graphical lead into gold and, for as long as the series has existed, how the game has looked is dramatically less important than how it has played.
And, to be fair, that’s a good point. Nevertheless, as mobile devices become increasingly more powerful, there should be ways for those with more powerful phones or tablets to experience a better-looking game. There’s no need for an owner of a brand-new flagship, such as the Razer Phone, to look at what is, in essence, the same visual experience available on a less powerful phone or aging flagship.
Indeed, in order to compete with some of the incredible experience available on mobile, Nintendo should consider adding a bit of visual pop to Mario Kart Tour. They’re obviously very talented at unleashing the latent power of the platforms that they develop for and the idea of a Mario Kart game running on a Razer Phone at a full 1440p, 120fps is tantalizing, to say the least.
Firm, Yet Fair, Price
Super Mario Run‘s firm price of $9.99 upset a large part of the community. Even today, its rating on the App Store remains sullied by disgruntled users complaining about the cost of entry. It’s no secret that any price above free is hard to sell on mobile and that users are much more willing to pay in microtransactions than a lump sum.
That recognition makes it all the more surprising that Nintendo decided to go ahead with the same “free-to-start” strategy with Tour. Indeed, if it didn’t work the first time, what makes Nintendo think that it will the second time?
The answer lies in price. While Super Mario Run was a good game, especially for mobile, it would be hard to argue that it was an excellent deal at $9.99. Indeed, for that price, there’s a multitude of other games on a variety of platforms that offer more content for the same price. However, when Nintendo dropped the price to $4.99 in September of last year, it convinced a lot of late adopters, including myself, to purchase the game. That price, or, preferably, lower, is what Nintendo should target with Mario Kart Tour if they wish to achieve any significant level of market saturation.
The future looks bright for Nintendo’s mobile program. With lesser-liked titles such as Miitomo (was it ever really a game?) wrapping up soon, Nintendo will be able to devote more energy toward creating mobile games that push the envelope in more ways than one. If they can innovate upon the foundation that they set with Super Mario Run and fix its myriad of issues, there’s no doubt that Mario Kart Tour can be an amazing, fun experience and also sell excellently on the quality-deprived mobile marketplace.