Mario Kart Tour is Nintendo’s take on the Mario Kart franchise for mobile phones, and it’s out now as a free release on both iOS and Android devices. But some of the game’s features, including an entire racing class, are locked behind a subscription fee.
Mario Kart Tour seems to be the game that fans would want, at least on the surface. The courses and play look familiar, even if they’re simplified for play on mobile devices. It’s the unlocking system that feels so out of touch with the modern mobile games market.
Almost every item seems to be unlocked through loot boxes that can be purchased in-game. The boxes give you a chance to unlock a variety of characters, karts, and skins. It’s a standard gacha-style mechanic for a mobile game.
But Mario Kart Tour also offers subscription service called Gold Pass. The subscription gives players Gold Gifts, which are exclusive bonuses for completing in-game tours; Gold Challenges, which are challenges that will allow players to display exclusive badges; and the 200cc mode, the fastest racing setting in Mario Kart Tour. That’s right, there’s an entire game mode hidden behind a subscription fee.
Gold Pass costs $4.99 a month, and there currently doesn’t seem to be any other way to access the 200cc mode. $4.99 a month also happens to be the same price as the recently released Apple Arcade, which offers players around 50 full games for the same price, and Google’s Play Pass which includes around 350 games. For better or worse, that’s the value proposition that Nintendo is competing with on mobile devices.
The value proposition seems even more out of whack considering how much Nintendo charges monthly for a Nintendo Switch Online subscription: $3.99, a fee that grants access to dozens of games (including the original Super Mario Kart for Super NES).
Mario Kart Tour’s monetization might have flown a few months ago, even if some players would have grumbled, but what felt opportunistic before the launch of Apple Arcade now feels like a remnant from another time entirely. We’ll have more thoughts on the game itself very soon, but for now the game’s monetization strategy makes a terrible first impression.
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