The Cynical Monetization of Mario Kart Tour

Mario Kart Tour, Nintendo's latest mobile game, is now available. It's an ok Mario Kart game, the controls are a bit wonky but otherwise they work reasonably well, and the game feels a bit bland but still with signs of typical nintendo polish. But the main issue that I have with it is it's exploitative monetization scheme. The game utilizes gacha mechanics, where players can use in-game currency to unlock certain karts. This in-game currency can be purchased using real money. There's also a shop, in which players can obtain items using coins, a currency gained from playing the game normally.

The real kicker however, is the $4.99 monthly subscription. It gets you some items and unlocks the faster 200cc speed. To price it as $4.99 per month, the same price as Apple Arcade, a surprisingly excellent game subscription service from Apple, is downright insulting and blatantly out of touch with reality. This game is essentially Nintendo fully indulging themselves in the manipulative monetization schemes that put monetization and profit over gameplay that have plagued the mobile games industry for so long and that in some ways, are currently creeping in on the larger AAA games market. The kinds of monetization schemes that rely on addictive mechanics, whales (individuals that spend large amount of money in comparison to other player), and preying on children to use their parents money. For that reason, I find it incredibly difficult to enjoy Mario Kart Tour, despite how much I wanted to like it.

One of Nintendo's first mobile games, Super Mario Run, was offered as a free download but requiring a $10 purchase to play the full game. Super Mario Run never did that well, likely due to it's high price and it's inability to be played offline. I see Super Mario Run as what turned Nintendo off of what could've been a relatively decent and ethical monetization, one where they player pays once to play a game. Other mobile games from Nintendo such as Fire Emblem Heroes and Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp, which came along and made massive profits for Nintendo, have chartered this current path of mobile monetization that Nintendo is on.

It's disturbing to me that even Nintendo, a company that's known to be relatively ethical with it's monetization schemes, especially in comparison to the rest of the video game industry, can be lured by the massive profits of these types of mobile games. I sincerely hope that subscription services like Apple Arcade and Google Play Pass, services that charge the consumer a simple monthly subscription fee and provide high quality mobile games free of in-app purchases and ads, take off and become bigger forces in mobile gaming, ideally incentivizing companies to make better and more ethical mobile games. Mobile games deserve to be better.