Last year was an incredibly good year for Nintendo. The release of the Nintendo Switch highlighted a solid bounce-back year for the gaming giant in the home console business, as the Switch outsold the Nintendo WiiU’s entire five-year lifespan in as little as 10 months thanks in large part to two terrific additions to the Legend of Zelda and Super Mario franchise. Following up the outstanding 2017 Nintendo had raises the bar for what to expect from the company in 2018, and on Wednesday, Nintendo released some information about some projects that are coming together down the line. Among them is Nintendo’s next attempt to create a hit in the mobile phone gaming market.
Nintendo announced its next mobile app project will center around the Mario Kart franchise with a brief mention of Mario Kart Tour, although this is in the early stages of development and the app is not expected to hit the market until March 2019. All that is available to show off for now is the tentative logo for Nintendo’s first attempt to bring the fun of Mario Kart to your iPhone or Android device.
The checkered flag has been raised and the finish line is near. A new mobile application is now in development: Mario Kart Tour! #MarioKartTour Releasing in the fiscal year ending in March 2019. pic.twitter.com/8GIyR7ZM4z
— Nintendo of America (@NintendoAmerica) February 1, 2018
That is pretty much all we know about this app for right now: when it will come out and what the logo might look like. But given Nintendo’s attempts to crack the mobile market, it may be likely the Mario Kart mobile experience turns out to be a watered down of what Mario Kart is all about or will see some instant buzz once it becomes available only to fizzle out relatively quickly as the replay value is evaluated. Following the success of Pokemon Go, a mobile AR game developed by another mobile company and not by Nintendo (although Nintendo owns a stake in The Pokemon Company), Nintendo eventually rolled out its own batch of mobile apps over the past couple of years, starting with the soon-to-be-retired Miitomo, Super Mario Run, Fire Emblem Heroes, and Animal Crossing Pocket.
These apps have proven to be worth trying out, but they eventually run their course before consumers have found reasons to move on to something else entirely. Nintendo’s biggest problem has been keeping people playing their apps for a sustained period of time, although it may be a problem many mobile developers experience. For a company like Nintendo, not having a mobile app that will keep people coming back time and time again is somewhat odd considering Nintendo focuses on playing fun games with people of all ages.
Super Mario Run has well over 200 million downloads, but a very small percentage of those downloads have led to consumers purchasing the full copy of the game and most of the downloads for the app have been in Japan (90% of the worldwide sales have been made in Japan). The app may be well done, but it lacked any appeal to those who decided to not spend the extra cash to get the full experience. But given this was Nintendo’s first attempt at bringing one of its signature franchises to the mobile market, they could probably afford to learn a lesson or two from the experience. And perhaps they did, because Fire Emblem Heroes has already grossed over $240 million as of early December 2017.
We’ll have to wait and see just what Nintendo has line dup with Mario Kart Tour, but there are some other projects Nintendo needs to focus on moving forward in 2018. For starters, Nintendo has finally announced when its online system will go live for Switch owners. That service will be coming in September, roughly a year after it was initially thought to be made available. The constant delay in organizing its online system similar to Sony’s and Microsoft’s in principle has been an ongoing frustration for Nintendo fans, but the delays may pay off in the long run if it is to assure a smoother-running service once it officially goes live. This is brand new to Nintendo, and it is expected there will be some hiccups at times. But it is clearly in the fold for Nintendo, and the timing of the release leaves the door open for some more questions. Is there going to be a major release coming in September that will drive customers to the new online service?
And will this new online service integrate with Nintendo’s mobile app offerings? What better way to iron out the early kinks in the new online service in the fall and encourage people to try out Mario Kart Tour in March to compete with other users in a connected online Nintendo world?
Nintendo had an awesome 2017, and 2018 is already off to an interesting start.