Tag Archives: mario kart 8

Hail Mario 2: Electrodrome Boogaloo

In 2014, I wrote Hail Mario, a post about Nintendo’s aggressive strategy to bolster Wii U sales with the release of Mario Kart 8:

Nintendo gambled for positive reviews two weeks before launch, is now chalking up at least $40 in games to every US and Canadian Mario Kart owning household, and prays that their Trojan horse will be the spark to move units. Since release, the game has received stunning accolades, Club Nintendo has been brought down by what can only be assumed as immense traffic for free games, and at least one Wii U newcomer is being tugged at by curiosity.

When people think of video games, a large majority picture a mustachioed plumber in a red hat, but Master Chief and the Minecraft universe are only 3 points down. There are still many plays to be made but a well-timed, well-calculated marketing play this big could be enough to save the game. Mario Kart 8 may give Nintendo the lead they need to send a message to the HD Twins: Nintendo’s race is not over.

The post was picked up on Daring Fireball and is far and away the most popular Zero Counts post. (Thanks, Mr. Gruber!)

Mario Kart 8‘s early review embargo showed confidence in the game and got media outlets openly singing the game’s praises well ahead of release. In addition to building hype, Mario Kart 8 came bundled with a free download for one of four AAA games.

For the Switch, Nintendo has released Mario Kart 8 Deluxe — a slightly enhanced version with a revived and much beloved battle mode and all cups, courses, characters, and DLC unlocked. To add, what I had already considered the best Mario Kart entry to date, can now be taken on the go and played in a myriad of situations — TV or portable; solo, local split screen, or online; out of the box 2-player with Joy-Cons, 8 paired Switches, or 12 player wired LAN. (Mic has a great breakdown.)

Until this point, the Switch has been a Zelda machine; a single player experience. There were a handful of multiplayer games, but nothing close to a must-have or system seller. With Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, Nintendo has released the true test of the Switch’s promise — console-level gaming with anyone anywhere. How would new Switch players react? Would previous Wii U owners (and likely Mario Kart 8 owners) care? How does portable multiplayer hold up?

On Mario Kart 8 Deluxe‘s release day, I brought my Switch to work. It was the perfect venue to test the Switch’s out-of-the-box local multi-player experience. In fact, it was the first time I’d attempted any multi-player on the device in any of its various forms. As far as I know, I’m the only one in the office with a Switch. Gasps filled the room when I removed the Joy-Con from the display. I handed one over to a colleague, showed him around the tiny controller, and away we went.

While the 6.2-inch display is fantastic for a single player experience, split-screen is a bit uncomfortable, but not impossible. The fun had over bouts of office Mario Kart eclipsed the discomfort, but it was never completely put it out of our minds. Likewise, a few gripes and cramps were had from the ergonomics when using a single Joy-Con as a primary controller. The situation is tight, but for an experience like Mario Kart 8, the pain seemed to be worth the pleasure.

At home, as my wife and I settled into bed, we decided to have a go at one race. I tried to place the Switch on the bed between us — an impossible feat due to the unforgiving kickstand. So, a book was used as the foundation. We peeled away the Joy-Con and we’re off to the races. Together we squinted at the tiny screen. I proved to be too uncomfortable for extended periods of play, but we agreed that it would serve well on flights.

The main annoyance came from the placement of the L and R buttons. For her, they felt too close together. To be fair, fitting such a functional controller in the palm a hand is a feat. In fact, there were multiple instances throughout the day when players were shocked to find that the Joy-Con rumbled too.

Breaking out Mario Kart 8 Deluxe on the Switch is all fun and good, but there’s not much for players of the original Mario Kart 8. Mario Kart has always been about the party atmosphere, and this version is the ultimate. And I can see myself jumping into a quick pick up game here and there, but otherwise, I’ve been there done that. There’s nothing to unlock. No new cups, courses, or characters. The portability of the Switch paired with Mario Kart plugs a some gaming holes some may never been the wiser, but nothing more than a quick casual experience romp.

I wish I could speak from the newbie to Mario Kart 8 experience. For that, see Jeremy Parish’s Retronauts review of Mario Kart 8 Deluxe. It’s a fantastic game, but even for newcomers, what does Mario Kart feel like without triumphing for new cups or characters? Does the high polish of Mario Kart 8 hold its luster without striving for something other than victory? Does the out-of-the-box portable multiplayer feel as novel when you haven’t played MK8 on a TV for the past few years?

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe shows off all the Switch has to offer, but other than pure competition, there’s no hook. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is a must-have for party moments and quick pick up game, but not a system seller. At least not at $60.

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The Future of Mario Double-Down

I’ve been playing a lot more Mario Kart 8 lately and recently played through Moo Moo Meadows. My wife loves this course. It is simple and old, recently made beautiful. Maybe it’s the lighting, but I get a similar vibe from Moo Moo Meadows as I do Wild Woods. Call me crazy, but I’m doubling down on the direction of the next 3D Mario.

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‘200CC Is So Fast It’s Starting To Break Mario Kart 8 Courses’

Yannick LeJacq writing for Kotaku:

Normally, busting outside of the normal confines of a level in Mario Kart 8 requires a) some sort of glitch or bug to be present and exploitable, or b) a hack of the game like the ones two modders famously performed last year. Kart racer and Reddit user dizzyzane wasn’t using any special hacking tricks, though. He was just driving really, really fast thanks to Mario Kart 8’s game-changing new 200CC speed class.

Love this. Like that moment when a toddler goofs, turning a harmless accident into a humorous event. Makes you appreciate the calculations behind great level design and game balance. (Though, it appears breaking Music Park’s ceiling was already possible in 150CC, just not to this extent, as per kingdomharms’s Reddit reply.)

EDIT: Thinking on it, I’m a bit mixed about 200CC. On one hand, if 200CC is truly a new feature, the fact that more levels were not broken open with the increased speed is a testament to Nintendo as a quality game maker. That is, unless, 200CC was planned from the get go; to which  200CC would have been a business strategy for increased play time / player investment. If that is the case, I’m always miffed at the holding back of content. (See also: Mario Party 10 under Nintendo Direct Play-by-Play from 1/16/15)

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Mario Kart 8 DLC Pack 2: Here We Go!

Mario Kart 8 DLC Pack 2 was released on April 23, 2015. The addition of Animal Crossing’s Villager and Isabelle as well as Dry Bowser don’t do much for me. Likewise, new karts have never been something I glamour for, often selecting the standard kart for every race. (I dig classic!) However, the new Crossing and Bell cups include some of the most gorgeous video game visuals I have come across, Nintendo game or otherwise.

As I was racing through the new and original Wild Woods track, I was itching for Dry Bowser to hop out of his kart and explore. (I’ve experienced similar feelings racing through Shy Guy Falls, Dolphin Shoals, and Toad Harbor.) Likewise, the Animal Crossing track turns the traditionally isometric town into a truly inhabitable world.

A racing game feeling inhabitable speaks volumes.

A breathtaking “open-world” Legend of Zelda is a reality. Likewise, Nintendo has shown stellar execution of HD visuals in Mario Kart 8. This adds up to trigger a craving for the next iteration of 3D Mario games to be set in a seamless HD universe; freeing itself from stage selection and selective star quests and instead opting in for a connected Mushroom Kingdom.

This does not mean an “open-world” Mario game. I am no champion for open-world games. In fact, I often loathe them. I become distracted by side-quests and/or feel forced spend hours completing unnecessary tasks to progress the story or grow the game only to be forced to backtrack or fast-travel to previously completed areas. More and more I feel “open-world” means “lock-in”, encouraging players to invest obscene amounts of time in a single game to the point where they are afraid or ashamed to give it up.

I would love to see the next iteration of 3D Mario games open up into semi-open, adventure style platformers à la Jak and Daxter. No overworld. No stage select. No “painting portals”. Missions are discovered throughout the Mushroom Kingdom in lands akin to Thwomp Ruins, Cheep Cheep Beach, and Moo Moo Meadows, each gated by the traditional “star-requirement”.

I previously posted some thoughts on Iterative vs. Redesigned Experiences:

Super Mario 64 could have just as easily been another side-scroller, albeit with better visuals. The Legend of Zelda: The Ocarina of Time could have been another top-down adventure. Donkey Kong 64 could have gone a number of pre-existing directions. Sure the Metroid series skipped the Nintendo 64 generation but Metroid Prime could have been another 2D platformer. The fact of the matter is that these titles reinvented their respective franchises. The worlds and characters we loved were shown in a new light and perspective. Sure, they are great games but they reinvented the way we thought about the franchises. This is what makes them so special.

More than just a great racing game, I believe Mario Kart 8 provides a glimpse at the future of the Mushroom Kingdom. Like Super Mario 64 dropped the “3D game design” mic, a fully connected Mushroom Kingdom could bring the 3D adventure-platformer back into the limelight and showcase exactly how it should have been done 15+ years ago.

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Nintendo Sees $244M in Profit

Nintendo:

With respect to “Wii U,” Nintendo released “Mario Kart 8” globally in May, which has continued to show steady sales, as well as “Hyrule Warriors,” released in September in the overseas markets, which has gained popularity. The worldwide sales of the “Wii U” hardware and software were 1.12 million units and 9.4 million units respectively.

[…]

Since the May release of “Mario Kart 8,” the “Wii U” platform has been experiencing improved sales momentum.

Mario Kart 8 remains far and away my go-to Wii U game. I love it. My fianceé loves it. I frequently listen to the soundtrack at work. (Some choice words here.) When I can’t sleep, it’s enjoyed with a nightcap. Not to mention that it’s challenging. Five months after release, I’m still chipping away 100cc stars.

Yours truly, June 1, 2014:

Nintendo gambled for positive reviews two weeks before launch, is now chalking up at least $40 in games to every US and Canadian Mario Kart owning household, and prays that their Trojan horse will be the spark to move units. Since release, the game has received stunning accolades, Club Nintendo has been brought down by what can only be assumed as immense traffic for free games, and at least one Wii U newcomer is being tugged at by curiosity.

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Mario Kart 8 lifts console sales more than Titanfall or Second Son

Tim Ellis, GeekWire:

According to console sales data fromVGChartz, Nintendo was selling an average of about 29,000 Wii U consoles per week prior to Mario Kart 8′s release. The week Mario Kart 8 hit store shelves, over 130,000 Wii U consoles were sold. Even three weeks after the release, sales were still more than double their pre-Luigi-Death-Stare levels. All-told, Mario Kart 8 has sold an additional 207,000 Wii U consoles in just three weeks.

But it gets even more interesting when you compare the Wii U’s big system-seller with the exclusives that have come out in the first half of 2014 on the other two consoles.

March saw the release of both Titanfall for Xbox One and inFAMOUS: Second Son for Playstation 4. The sales boost from Titanfall only lasted two weeks and moved about 94,000 additional Xbox One consoles. The sales boost from the Seattle-set Second Son lasted three weeks and moved an additional 106,000 PlayStation 4 consoles.

I can’t help myself: Hail Mario.

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Pipe Dream

Ben Kuchera, Polygon:

Mario Kart 8’s sales numbers are amazing. The attach rate between the game and the console is something that every console holder should envy, but the problem is that with so few consoles there is a ceiling to the total number of sales Mario Kart 8 can do. Even assuming the game will cause systems to move, it’s likely to be the worst-selling game in the existence of the series.

On the other hand, Watch Dogs is now the best selling new IP in the history of the video game business. It’s very hard to find any apples to match with these oranges; Ubisoft matched a game that was announced in near-perfect fashion with a huge marketing spend and a release that spanned five consoles. The news would be more interesting if the sales didn’t break records.

These two events tell us much about the opportunities in the video game industry right now.

I am a huge fan of Ben Kuchera and his opinions. While I usually agree (at least somewhat), I cannot help but find this one extremely impractical. Though Nintendo is filling a bathtub with buckets rather than a lake with flood-gates, what happened to the argument that software sells hardware?

Global Hardware Totals (in millions) via VGChartz:

Wii U: 6.21
Xbox One: 4.57
Xbox 360: 81.33
PS4: 7.82
PS3: 82.82

To evaluate the total Watch_Dogs market, let’s use the delta between current and prev-gen consoles + countless PCs. That is 151.76+ marketable machines. If this is the case, Ubisoft has successfully sold 4 million units of Watch_Dogs to an install-base of 151.76 million consoles + countless PCs. Nintendo has successfully sold 1.12 millions units of Mario Kart 8 to an install-base of 6.21. That is less-than 2% vs. 18% attach rate.

I actively applaud Ubisoft’s impressive figures but I see the success of Mario Kart 8 greater. Regardless of release date, Wii U unit numbers fall between Xbox One and PS4; Mario Kart 8’s success is only going to grow that number. How quickly that number grows remains to be seen, but early reports are positive.

To add, Ben’s dream of a multi-platform Mario collection release to third-party consoles seems appetizing albeit backwards. We will eventually see the release of the Mario catalog on the Wii U (and possibly 3DS) via the virtual console with added community support with the possibility of updated visuals (don’t cross your fingers). And, assuming Nintendo does not release Mario to third-party consoles, rather than release in a single bulk collection, the fan-base will continue to salivate at the trickling of legacy releases. To be completely forthright, I can’t remember a legacy release that I continued to play after 5-10 hours. Nintendo would be shooting themselves in the foot by releasing an HD legacy collection to Wii U owners let alone third-parties.

Though Nintendo admits they are already looking to the Wii U’s successor, any viable company should have a road map. Giving up the ghost only perpetuates the idea that Nintendo is weak. Instead, Nintendo’s ability to rebound a dire situation” with Mario Kart 8’s abundance of positive press and a phenomenal attach-rate (low install-base aside) should be considered an extremely gargantuan feat, offering a positive outlook on the future of Wii U.

My dream is that Nintendo 180s this dire situation with an impressive uptick in Wii U numbers and continued IP prominence.

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Hail Mario

On Friday night, something beautiful happened. Something I hadn’t experienced in roughly 15 years. 4-player split-screen local multiplayer.

For close to three hours, a group of four late-twenty somethings, two of which had rarely touched a controller since Nintendo 64 (let alone given a thought to the medium since), celebrated the beginning of their weekend with pizza, beer, and the newly released Mario Kart 8. There were no chat headsets, lag times, or slanderous rants. Just loads of laughter, blue-shell equalizing, and repetition of the reminiscent phrase, “I love video games.”

Early Embargo

On May 15th, Nintendo lifted the review embargo for Mario Kart 8. Critiques for a game consumers couldn’t get their hands on began springing up across the web, heralding it as “the best pure Mario Kart experience yet” and “the king of the mascot kart circuit.” Nearly every day after the embargo’s end, journalists (game and otherwise) taunted would-be players, trumpeting the game’s brilliance.

I asked Polygon’s Ben Kuchera what he thought of the early embargo. His quick and brief response:

I guarantee you it helped pre-sales.

If my buying habits of were any indication of the market at large, he was right.

Freebie

Not resting on chance from reviewers, Nintendo decided to offer up one of four free games when US and Canada Mario Kart 8 owners registered their game with Club Nintendo before 7/31/14. Expecting to see a slew of sub-par Wii branded titles, I was pleasantly surprised to see a selection of solid entries valued at $40 and up: New Super Mario Bros. U, Pikmin 3, The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker HD, and Wii Party U.

If a near certain purchaser was still hesitating to pre-order after stellar reviews, a deal like this would put them over the edge.

The Plant

Playing that night, I’d go as far as to say that the four of us would fall as outliers on a graph of expected launch day players. The fact that I owned a Wii U was a shock in it’s own right. Our guests that evening had yet to even see the console a year-and-a-half after it’s launch.

What would have been a more likely scene would be clusters of parents that grew up with the franchise watching their own children tear into the game, possibly taking a swing at the old Nintendo 64 Rainbow Road now and again.

Outliers or not, I’d be hard-pressed to believe that the four of us were the only Mario Kart old timers celebrating on release day. It came as no surprise when I heard one of our guests convince himself that he would be investing in the console if only for Mario Kart. The mention that he could also download The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past on the system seemed to solidify his notion.

Old Timers

Mario Kart 8 proves that Nintendo is deeply in tune with generational gaming gaps. As our Link to the Past lover so eloquently put it, the ease of entry to Mario Kart 8 iterates on the tried and true idiom “it’s like riding a bike” with an updated “it’s like playing Mario Kart.”

From the first race to the last, we would chuckle at my fiancée’s incessant need to comment on how gorgeous the levels looked. Funny at first, I couldn’t help but look closer at the imagery in the courses. It became evident that Nintendo is unabashedly gunning for Disney-level aesthetics; a tactic to win over most demographics.

If a level of unmatched flow and fun can be reached seconds into the first race, franchise elders will certainly double take at the sight of the Wii U + Mario Kart bundle during their next visit to Target.

Final Lap?

In ’91, with a 10-7 lead, the Dallas Cowboys bet on a Hail Mary pass against the Washington Redskins at the end of the 1st half. Troy Aikman’s successful touchdown pass to Alvin Harper would give the Cowboys a 17-7 lead to eventually topple the Redskins, 24-21; the first Redskins loss of the season after an 11-0 start. No early Hail Mary, no game ending win.

Nintendo gambled for positive reviews two weeks before launch, is now chalking up at least $40 in games to every US and Canadian Mario Kart owning household, and prays that their Trojan horse will be the spark to move units. Since release, the game has received stunning accolades, Club Nintendo has been brought down by what can only be assumed as immense traffic for free games, and at least one Wii U newcomer is being tugged at by curiosity.

When people think of video games, a large majority picture a mustachioed plumber in a red hat, but Master Chief and the Minecraft universe are only 3 points down. There are still many plays to be made but a well-timed, well-calculated marketing play this big could be enough to save the game. Mario Kart 8 may give Nintendo the lead they need to send a message to the HD Twins: Nintendo’s race is not over.

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Club Nintendo stuck in Mario Kart traffic

Mike Futter, Game Informer:

While this may be frustrating, I try to see the positive in server issues like this. Nintendo has clearly been successful with its free game offer (and Mario Kart 8 is quite good) as people are crowding in to take advantage of the bonus title. You’ve got until July 31 to claim your game, though. There’s no rush.

Good call.

Since opening my copy of Mario Kart 8 last night (7p PST), I’ve had intermittent success signing in and have yet to redeem my freebie. Login and site navigation still feels sluggish. Still looking forward to my copy of Pikmin 3.

UPDATE: The following message was posted to club.nintendo.com roughly 2 hours ago:

Club Nintendo is currently unavailable due to site maintenance.
We apologize for any inconvenience.

Remember to hang on to your product registration codes and make a note of your serial numbers – we’ll be back soon so you can register your products.

Please note, it is not necessary to register your hardware to begin your warranty. This is done automatically at the retailer when you purchase your product. However, please check back to register your products for Club Nintendo benefits, including hardware warranty extensions.

Forum users please note, the Tech Support Forums will be in read-only mode during this time. All existing Forum topics, posts, and replies will remain available for those looking for technical assistance with Nintendo products. No new threads or messages can be created until Club Nintendo is back up.

Please try back later.

UPDATE 2: Club Nintendo seems to be back online, still with some spotty maintenance around account management.

UPDATE 3: Pikmin 3 is go.

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