Did you know the blue ‘spiny’ shell in Mario Kart can now be stopped?
I didn’t. Nintendo UK’s Mario brand manager Roger Langford revealed this to me in our interview this week. A new special item can stop the shell (which for the six people who don’t know mercilessly hunts down the player in pole position and blows up) in its tracks.
It’s just one of the many little things Mario Kart 8 does that goes beyond just sprucing up Nintendo’s iconic racing series with pretty visuals. There’s the new online mode, the Mario Kart TV option (which lets gamers make their own highlights reel and upload it to YouTube), the anti-gravity feature…and although I dismissed ‘just sprucing up’ the visuals two sentences ago, the game is arguably one of the most graphically stunning titles Nintendo has created.
“Mario Kart 8 really harnesses the capability of Wii U, it has HD graphics and runs at 60 frames per second constantly in single and multiplayer,” boasts Langford.
“There are lots of tweaks in the game that on the face of it might not sound like much. But we are looking to seed these bits out to the core Mario Kart fans via our online and social media campaign, and get that word-of-mouth and buzz up to launch. So that when we get to release day, we have the big TV campaign to make the big splash, but also the fans are raring to go.”
“Mario Kart is one of our killer titles. Looking back at
Super Mario Kart and then moving through the ages,
you can see how integral Mario Kart is to Nintendo
hardware. It always brings out the best in whatever
hardware it is on. Super Mario Kart was one of the first
two-player racing games out at the time. The N64
version was one of the first to allow four-player split-
screen play. Then the DS version encouraged wireless
download play, and Wii had its online functionality.”
Roger Langford, Nintendo UK
It is no real surprise that Nintendo has gone to town on its eighth Mario Kart game. It is one of the most successful franchises in Nintendo’s arsenal.
The last console Mario Kart, the Wii edition, is still amongst the best-selling video games in UK history, and worldwide the franchise has now sold around 100m units.
But it’s not just a commercially important game, says Langford.
“Mario Kart is one of our killer titles. Looking back at Super Mario Kart and then moving through the ages, you can see how integral Mario Kart is to Nintendo hardware. It always brings out the best in whatever hardware it is on.
“Super Mario Kart was one of the first two-player racing games out at the time. The N64 version was one of the first to allow four-player split-screen play. Then the DS version encouraged wireless download play, and Wii had its online functionality.”
Mario Kart 8 is also a bit of a rarity in today’s games market: it’s a multiplayer game that you can play against others in the same room as you. So there are certainly plenty of selling points to Mario Kart 8.
Yet in truth the game’s battle isn’t whether it’s a good enough to win over fans (it’s already scored a 9/10 from Edge). It’s whether it is good enough to get people to buy Wii U.
Mario Kart 8 arrives on a console seriously struggling for momentum. Is this the game to fix that?
“I certainly feel that Mario Kart 8 can be the catalyst that will broaden Wii U’s horizons,” says Langford. “It’s very important for us that we have a successful launch and continue the promotion throughout the year and beyond.”
“I certainly feel that Mario Kart 8 can be the
catalyst that will broaden Wii U’s horizons.
It’s very important for us that we have a
successful launch and continue the
promotion throughout the year and beyond.”
Roger Langford, Nintendo UK
Of course Mario Kart is popular, and it will sell some hardware. Nintendo is even offering a bundle to make sure of that. But is it a system seller by itself? I’ve always felt Mario Kart is everyone’s second Nintendo game. Consumers’ primary reason for spending money on a Nintendo machine might be for Zelda or a Mario platformer, and Mario Kart acts as that important secondary reason. I can’t imagine many people spending £250 just to play Mario Kart.
That’s why Nintendo’s decision to give away one of ten games to anyone that buys Mario Kart 8 (before July 31st) might just prove crucial as to whether it sells Wii Us in a significant quantity or not.
“That offer lends itself perfectly to those people looking to buy into Wii U,” concludes Langford.
“You pick up the Mario Kart 8 bundle, and you can also download Wii Party U or Nintendo Land if you’re getting it for the family, or if you’re a Mario fan you can get New Super Mario Bros U. We also cater for more core gamers, as well, with Monster Hunter 3 and The Wonderful 101. We are offering that variety because Mario Kart 8 does attract such a broad demographic.”