Posts by Tag / GAME: Mario Kart Tour (4)

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Mario Kart Troll

It’s scummy that Mario Kart Tour pretends its bots are people, presumably to create fake social pressure to spend into the game’s ecosystem. But what I really dislike about it is that the names they give to your opponents are clearly taken from real user names - because they include things Nintendo would never show to you on purpose. I’ve seen names that use unicode or accented characters to sneak past the profanity filter, and recently I raced against a bot named “Trump2020”.

It blows my mind that Nintendo, of all companies, who are so skittish about online experiences that they’re still using friend codes, have created a way for me to be trolled by online strangers while playing alone in one of their most kid-friendly franchises.

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The Platform is the Playstyle: Missions and Monetization

A while back, I got Jumping Joe & Friends for free on Switch - one of many free games I’ve gotten from being in QubicGames’ ecosystem. It’s a simple reflex-testing runner-like game (though you jump vertically rather than run horizontally) that you can get into a good rhythm with, so I felt like it would be a better fit for mobile, and of course it actually is a port of mobile freemium title Jumping Joe! I picked that version up, and while the gameplay is indeed well-suited to the sort of casual kill-a-few-minutes experience that mobile enables, it’s both better and worse as a mobile game. Worse for the standard freemium reasons, but better because it has missions - side objectives to complete during runs that provide extra variety and depth to play.

Missions are great for this sort of game. They’re what elevated Jetpack Joyride from good to great. They add another layer to gameplay that keeps things fresh far longer. I don’t understand why the Switch port of Jumping Joe doesn’t have them. Why are they mobile-only? Why can you only get them if you also get the scummy monetization? As is, I find the Switch port dulls quickly and the mobile version feels obnoxious and greedy, and I stopped playing the game pretty quickly.

A bit later, I finally tried Mario Kart Tour, which I’ve complained about before. (Don’t judge me; it was for the mission to get the stupid Mario pins that ran out of stock in five seconds anyway.) And I found that in adapting the experience to mobile, Mario Kart had made several changes that felt like straight-up improvements.

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Five Bucks a Month

Let’s review. What does five bucks a month get you in mobile gaming?

On Apple platforms, five bucks a month gets you Apple Arcade, which is a curated library of games still rolling out but supposed to total over a hundred this fall - and several of the games out so far are well-reviewed. There are no ads, no in-app purchases, and no behavior tracking. Games can be downloaded and played offline, though you can also share your progress between devices via iCloud. Games can be shared between up to six family members and can be played with popular game controllers.

On Android platforms, five bucks a month gets you Google Play Pass, which is a curated library of over 350 games and utility apps that are already out (and apparently more to come each month). Many of these games and apps are quite well-regarded. They also have no ads or in-app purchases and can be shared with up to five other family members.

And in Mario Kart Tour, five bucks a month gets you the Gold Pass, which gives you some in-game items and features in a single game that still also requires a persistent internet connection for its always-on DRM and which still also has a microtransaction-backed gacha-based unlock system.

I think it would have been obvious the Gold Pass was a bad deal anyway, but the timing of the announcements here casts it into really sharp relief. It’s so disappointing to see Nintendo fall to such sleazy depths, and I really hope it stays contained to mobile. I’ve still got Mario Kart 8 on my Switch and I’ll be playing that instead.

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Mario Kart Tour is more gacha-based freemium shenanigans

I’ve been watching Nintendo’s mobile experiments with growing trepidation.

I loved that Super Mario Run was basically a fully-featured demo and a single budget-priced purchase for all the rest of the content. I was happy to pay for that game. I hated that the market punished Nintendo for using this strategy, and worried what Nintendo would do for its future games.

I hated that Fire Emblem Heroes was ostensibly free but monetized via a double-RNG gacha system. I hated that Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp started very chill but increasingly stuffed itself with calls to action toward the (often gacha-based) monetization, resulting in a “stressful mess”. These were both games I enjoyed a lot for a while but which turned me off due to the aggressive and exploitative monetization increasingly baked into their design. If they’d been designed as single purchases like Super Mario Run, I am confident I would have loved them. As is, I am confident they are both worse than when I left them and have no desire to return. (I did not even bother with Dragalia Lost.)

But these games weren’t Mario. Nintendo described Fire Emblem Heroes as an “outlier”, said they preferred the monetization of Super Mario Run, and that they were more interested in winning new fans than maximizing short-term profits (and apparently actually pushed CyberAgent Inc. to tone down the whale exploitation in Dragalia Lost.) So I was holding out some hope that the upcoming Mario Kart Tour would not let gacha-based monetization ruin an otherwise good game.

Hope status: dashed. The beta apparently has a gacha system for collecting drivers, karts, and gliders of varying rarities with varying bonuses on different courses. And for some reason there’s a stamina system, like there was in Fire Emblem Heroes.

So, I’m no longer holding out hope for great mobile Nintendo games. We’ve lost them to the gacha freemium hellscape that is modern mobile gaming. I’ll probably try Mario Kart Tour, because why not, but I expect to put it down about as quickly and as sadly as I put down Fire Emblem Heroes and Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp.

I’m still optimistic for Apple’s game subscription service, though.

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