Some new details have emerged concerning Nintendo's next mobile outing, Mario Kart Tour. According to a recent announcement, the game will be free to start, which means players will be able to at least take some practice laps before being asked to fork over any dough.
This report comes to us from DeNA CEO Isao Moriyasu, via Gaminformer, who stated at least a portion of Mario Kart Tour will be available free of charge. That could include just the tutorial for all we know, but the wording at least gives us a better idea of what the game will likely be.
For starters, the use of the phrase "free to start" was applied to Super Mario Run, but none of Nintendo's other mobile titles. The other two main games take place in the Fire Emblem and Animal Crossing universe, and both rely on microtransactions rather than a one-time fee. The former's biggest financial draw is unlocking new characters, while the latter's biggest money maker are mechanics that let you keep playing longer or speed up various in-game systems.
Neither of those money-making mechanics are new to mobile gaming and go to show that Nintendo is definitely testing the waters to determine what works best for their desired results.
What's interesting here is that, even though Super Mario Run did pretty-dang-well by for-pay mobile game standards, Nintendo has stated many times that the game did not make enough money to impress them. So it's kind of surprising that they're going a free to start route with Mario Kart, unless there will be other money-making opportunities that we haven't heard about yet.
Free to start usually means that, after you get a little taste of a game, you can pay a flat fee to get everything else it has to offer. Those types of games usually don't charge for additional content in the future, either. Maybe Nintedo is banking on the draw of the Mario Kart name to push out more units than Mario Run. It also wouldn't hurt if the game boasted a more robust offering.
At this point, we're just assuming that the mobile Mario Kart game will be all about racing. Nintendo might surprise us with something unique, but I can't help but think a straightforward racing game would be a big win. In other words, it's not the kind of game you want to splinter the community of. That's likely where the free to start model comes in. If folks can't race friends and strangers because they haven't forked over extra money for DLC tracks, we imagine that would turn off quite a lot of players. A flat fee for the full game, though, solves that problem, even if it won't make as much money as something like Fire Emblem Heroes. Of course, Nintendo could aim to make up the difference with stuff like cosmetic items for your kart and rider.
Until they pull back the curtain a bit further, all we can do is speculate.