Mario Kart Tour, launching in Summer 2019, will soon be playable on your phone, but the beta brings the same monetization and loot box issues that most free-to-play models suffer from. For starters, Nintendo wanted those playing the closed beta to keep it all under wraps- no screen shots or videos. This being the internet, however, users shared their experience (and photos) regardless.
While most news outlets have followed Nintendo's rules about keeping the mobile game's visuals under wraps, users are still reporting on their time with the game. FtP (free to play) services have a habit of giving users a taste of the full experience, and then asking them to pony up their hard-earned money through a variety of shady mechanics including speeding up wait times, microtransactions and loot boxes.
Mario Kart is no exception, and users involved in the beta are taking to the internet to discuss the mobile title. User Mozy on the Resetera forums said "Seems like Mario Kart, but with typical mobile monetization." He continued, "We may have our first Nintendo mobile hit!" Other users complained about the awkward screen interface and gacha mechanics, however, and when news articles got wind of it, they weren't happy. AOTF titled their article "Pay To Win and Missed Opportunities" and Ars Technica stated that "Microtransactions land like a nasty blue shell."
Ars Technica shared the above image, reporting that "This is the only image we're allowed to share." Nintendo has a habit of keeping their material private, so this is nothing new, but in the age of the internet, it seems almost silly to assume that users playing the closed beta wouldn't report on their experiences.
When bringing a mainstream series to a free mobile environment, parts of the experience are often stripped away to incentivize spending real money to progress. Mario Kart Tour does this by limiting the number of races you can participate in each day (unless you spend real money to speed it up) and unlocking racers via loot boxes. Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp did the same thing, but in that game, loot boxes unlocked limited time furniture to place around your camp site in the form of "fortune cookies".
If the racers were just cosmetic, this would be no issue, but Ars Technica reports that the higher-rarity drivers you can get through loot boxes have higher speed, greater likelihood to pick up weapons and coins and a higher rate of driver points (DP), which acts as a progression system to unlock more race tracks. While there is currently no way of spending real money in the beta, this opens up a host of concerns-- how much will buying loot boxes to get your favorite racers cost? How hard will the best racers be to obtain through the normal horrid gacha rates, and will they be necessary for game progression?
Normally, FtP (free to play) games allow players to play for free, and users who don't mind waiting and using currency only acquired in-game don't have to spend a cent. However, with the argument surrounding loot boxes and whether they should even be legal, Nintendo may have to tread carefully when employing typical free-to-play models in 2019.