Now that Mario Kart Tour has existed for a little while, informed opinions can start to come to light. The majority appear to be negative, criticizing Nintendo for adding an aggressive monetization package when even Apple and Google are moving beyond that. It's to the point where some wonder aloud if this is even a real Mario Kart game, as it can't even do Rainbow Road properly.
Still, many players loudly declare how much fun they're having. They bring out the usual insightful arguments like "I can win without spending a cent" and "if you don't like it, don't play." But what do mobile games experts have to say? Has Nintendo finally gone too far in its mobile mistakes?
Mobile gaming-focused website PocketGamer.biz recently reported that Mario Kart Tour brought in 90 million downloads in its first week. Despite that amazing number, however, it only got $13 million in revenue for that first week. PocketGamer recognizes that monthly subscribers got a free trial, lowering the number, but it still falls way short of what you'd expect with 90 million downloads. To explain what could be going wrong, PocketGamer consulted with several mobile gaming experts.
The first was Ben Cousins, CEO of ISBIT Games. He pointed out what he thought were Nintendo's three major missteps. The biggest issue for him was the controls, although a close second was the decision to require a Nintendo account creation. He estimated that almost a third of potential players could be turned off by the instant commitment. On that note, he also calls out Tour's monthly subscription. "There’s a hard barrier to subscription," he said, "at a price that makes little sense in terms of timing against Apple Arcade and Google Play Pass."
Next was Mikkel Celinder, owner of AppCrimes.com. He also hated the controls, but tacked on the thought that the gameplay and monetization don't compliment one another. Players upgrade karts and racers by playing. WIth that being true, why should one feel tempted to spend money to unlock new stuff? Because of this, Celinder said that "monetization seems like an add-on and not a part of the core game."
Tim Rachor, Creative Director at Evil Grog Games GmbH, turned his thoughts to something else entirely. What happens when Mario Kart Tour gets multiplayer? He said: "After the initial push back to 'pay-to-win' by Nintendo, coining the term 'free-to-start', I wonder how a more aggressive monetization would be accepted in a competitive environment?"
Finally, there was Rob Dagwell. The Head of Esports at Bidstack was more sympathetic towards Nintendo. He reminds readers that Nintendo tried a game with no in-app purchases with Super Mario Run. And it failed. "With nostalgia comes expectation, he said, "and the level of expectation gamers had for Mario Kart and Super Mario was set by Nintendo."
All of them agreed that this isn't the end for Nintendo. The company's many titles can succeed on name alone. So even if The Legend of Zelda mobile makes you pay $10 a month just to use the Master Sword, there will still be plenty of fans there to say "if you don't like it, don't play."