Tag Archives: mario kart

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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Mario Kart is moving units

Reggie Fils-Aime, President of Nintendo America, as quoted by Polygon:

It’s one of the things I have to do with certain media, remind them, look, for us, the drive toward the holiday began a couple of weeks ago with Mario Kart 8, and that’s off to a fantastic start. For us, on a global basis, and certainly here in the United States, it’s driving hardware, which is great to see.

Sounds like I was on the right track.

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More on Mario Kart

Nintendo press release:

Nintendo reported today that the game sold more than 1.2 million total units across Japan, Europe and the Americas during its first weekend on the market.

Excluding Mario Kart 8, Mario Kart Advance remains the weakest entry in the series at 5.91 million units. There is work to be done.

Liam Martin, Digital Spy:

Mario Kart 8 has boosted weekly Wii U console sales by 666% in the UK.

My prediction is looking up.

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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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Pretty In Pink

Keith Stuart, The Guardian:

Obviously, I’m not saying that video games were better in the 80s – I’m old but I’m not mad. I’m saying that they really understood the anarchy inherent in rejecting bleakness. While city rich kids and Wall Street yuppies flashed their brick-sized phones, the commodity the rest of us traded in was fantasy – not as escapism, but as statement.

The casuals, the New Romantics, the goths, the grebos, the whizz kids, the geeks, they weren’t retreating, they were attacking. No thanks, keep your jobs in the city and your braying Sloanes. Let’s play Bubble Bobble and read Smash Hits. Our heroes are pop stars, hip-hop artists and Japanese game developers. At least that’s how I felt.

A wonderful read.

Somewhere in this piece, I was reminded of the role post-hardcore played in the wake of 9/11; a seemingly counter-culture voice saying, “don’t retreat. Understand this new world. Things are different.” Only after understanding could we sling-shot back with the dream-pop anthems swirling in our streaming playlists today. However, it was this “new world” that fostered the then middle and high-schoolers who are now developing today’s games. It’s time for games to sling-shot back.

Mario Kart anyone?

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Mariothon

Mariothon

A Mario Kart running app.


Recently, Jane McGonigal’s “Reality Is Broken” has encouraged me to spend a lot of time pondering what it would be like to be a game designer; constantly considering the artful blend of psychology and technology and its impact on the entertainment, fitness and education industries.

“ACHIEVEMENT UNLOCKED: wanted to break 6 mins in a mile time trial on the track; ran 5:45 and had more in the tank. ” – Christian Spicer, @spicer

#GeeksinSneaks

While on a jog with the gamified Nike+ Running app, I contemplated this hashtag. Aside from the Geeks in Sneaks meet up group and loads of gamified fitness apps (Wii Fit; Zombies, Run; Kinect Sports Rivals, etc.), I wondered if something more could be done to encourage those identified with the geek community to promote fitness regimes.

Initially, I had the lofty idea of organizing a crowd-funded #GeeksinSneaks race (5K, 10K, half/full marathon) full of cosplay, video game prizes and exclusive comics and geek apparel/memorabilia. If this idea were to draw a big enough crowd, its scale would limit the event to happening at fixed times in fixed areas. It may not be enough to encourage constant activity.

Then I thought about the Nike+ Running app. I am able to use this app on my own time. Day or night, weekday or weekend. While I appreciate the app’s gamification elements, they have now worn off to some degree; however, they were enough to get a jogging regime to stick. I now use the app simply as a fitness tracker. I wondered, “is there another way make running a gamified experience and broadcast it to a massive audience?”

Then it hit me.

Nintendo has repeatedly stated that they have a renewed focus on the smartphone ecosystem and health. They also plan to release Mario Kart 8, a beloved franchise, on May 30th. While real-life Mario Kart already exists, I was unable to find Mario Kart adapted into a running game. What if Nintendo were to release a gamified smartphone running app with the mechanics of Mario Kart built in. Lets call it “Mariothon.”

Mariothon

In Mariothon, players are able to set up a race with up to say four runners. Each player is required to where headphones with an attached button-mic to hear in game alerts and trigger events. At certain distances, players are awarded items (simulating Mario Kart’s mystery boxes) that they can use at their leisure by clicking the button on their headphones.

For example, at a quarter mile, a runner earns a lightning bolt. Once used, an in-game alert informs all other runners in the game to walk until the effect wears off. Another variation might add time to the paces of the competing runners. A banana peel might be used as a surprise attack when another runner crosses a certain geo-fence. Blue shells would have a direct impact on the leader, forcing them to stop dead in their tracks or pausing their “distance ran” meter. First to a specific distance wins!

Obviously, not every run will users want to incorporate the game element. In the event of solo runs, the app could serve as a simple run tracker with many of the same achievements offered in the Nike+ Running app. Cross-brand incentives could also award solo runs. Besting a 7-minute-mile or completing a 10K could unlock characters or tracks in Mario Kart or other console-based Nintendo games. (similar to Hearthstone’s unlockable WoW mount)

As a non-developer, I have no idea if linking players and dropping geo-fenced items is a possibility. I also understand that the initial development of this app would certainly be a huge undertaking. While this would join the many gamified fitness apps on the market, the Nintendo and Mario Kart branding may be enough for it to stick with a larger audience.

Any feedback would be greatly appreciated. Is this something that would interest you? Does this already exist? Has fitness gamification worked for you? If so, what fitness apps are you utilizing and how are they helping?

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Image source The Augusta Chronicle


Originally published on TheStarrList.com

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