Mario Kart Tour, the smartphone debut of Nintendo’s long-running kart racing franchise, has started its closed beta in Japan and the US, and it hasn’t taken long for videos and screenshots to start appearing on the web. But Kotaku reports that the game also features lootbox-style (or “gacha”) systems where you spend virtual currency for a shot at unlocking new items which offer different degrees of rarity and functionality.
For five green gems, for example, you get a random chance of earning a new driver, kart, or glider. Certain equipment and characters get you bonuses on different tracks, but other characters seem to have a better average bonus across all the game’s courses. There’s also a stamina system involving hearts, and once these run out, you’ll have to wait for them to replenish or pay money to purchase more hearts. Since the game is currently in beta, all these features are subject to change.
It’s not surprising that Nintendo would go down the microtransaction route for Mario Kart Tour. Early on, it tried to charge players a single $9.99 upfront fee to play Super Mario Run, but the game failed to generate an “acceptable profit” for Nintendo. Its subsequent microtransaction-supported releases have proved much more profitable, with Fire Emblem Heroes alone reportedly grossing as much as $500 million in revenue after two years.
This microtransaction model isn’t without its difficulties. Just yesterday, Nintendo announced that it would be shutting down Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp and Fire Emblem Heroes in Belgium after the country categorized loot boxes as gambling. It’s currently unclear whether Mario Kart Tour will release in the country.
Outside of its monetization model, reports from the ResetEra forums suggest that Mario Kart Tour includes a familiar roster of characters (don’t worry, Dry Bones is present and accounted for), as well as a list of tracks that include returning favorites from the SNES, GameCube, DS, and 3DS entries in the series. Your kart accelerates automatically, and you swipe left and right on the screen to steer.
Mario Kart Tour’s beta is taking place now in Japan and the US. For now, the beta is exclusive to Android devices, but the game will be available for both Android and iOS when it releases this summer.