Mario Kart Live: Home Circuit

Concept of the Game

Mario Kart Live: Home Circuit (Mario Kart Live) utilizes Mixed Reality technology to combine real-time, interactive information captured from physical radio-controlled cars and digital Mario Kart gameplay experience.


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Nature of the Game

Due to physical element in the game mechanics, the game has natural constraints on scalability in different forms.

  • Unlike drone racing which inspired the game, Mario Kart Live has a clear limitation on area defined by wireless communication capability of the hardware. The size of area might be designed based survey of average size of home space and costs of hardware. Nintendo recommends the product is for indoor use only.
  • The game doesn’t support online multiplayer while up to four players can race together via local multiplayer. This means the game can only enjoy limited local network effect due to relatively high price of RC cars and uncertain replayability for potential players.

In the mean time, Mixed Reality element gives the game unlimited possibility and unpredictable fun.

  • There’re unlimited routes that players can design. In fact, they are required to set up track every time they paly. User’s creativity and improvisation is a source of fun for this game. It’s kind of user-generated content (UGC) even though the “content” creator is the “content” consumer. There’s no built-in mechanic in the game to share this type of content. For those who are really enthusiastic about the game, they might go to social media to find ideas to decorate and create obstacle for their tracks. They will find some as it’s not surprising there’s supply of this type of content. Oh by the way, how’s Nintendo Labo doing?
  • Mixed Reality brings teal-time, interactive physical inputs into gameplay, sometimes making the game unpredictable in an enjoyable way. One scenario is playing the game with toddlers or pets walking arounds. Their actions are less predictable adding random factors into the game (which is actually a part of game mechanics). That said, I don’t know how often this magic happens and how much it makes players want to replay the game.

Business Model and Monetization of the Game

The game integrates/bundles radio-controlled car and downloadable-only game software. The game software also serves as the operating system for the RC cars. The bundle is priced at $100. The game has in-game items which can be unlocked using coins earned during the game.

The game has little room for paid DLC, let alone live ops. If the game was solely developed Nintendo, it might get some free updates. Since the game is developed by Velan Studios, the consideration is different from that of platform holder being a sole developer. Nintendo and Velan Studios probably have a flexible plan with production depending on initial reception and additional content depending on installed base, user feedback and user behavior.

The game is likely to collaborate with Tetris 99 to offer special skin. Nintendo might have other plans for this in Super Mario 35th Anniversary campaign.

This product looks like software in a box. However, the hardware and software are so integrated that replayability and scalability are capped in a reinforcing way. Thus, it has limited potential for game as a service.

Prospect of the Game

Due to the limited replayability and pricing, I don’t expect this product to be a hit as Ring Fit Adventure which even has utility value (keeping you fit) . We might see supply shortage on this product for an extended period of time as Nintendo might be cautious about the demand (more like another Nintendo’s high quality experiment). If the product does well, that’s very good. Even if the product doesn’t do well, the game meets Nintendo’s high standard and presents the innovation/novelty to the world. Nintendo can always treats it as marketing initiative under its broader IP strategy. My perspective is that the game is more like a profitable marketing initiatives. The magnitude of lifetime contribution profit won’t be significant for Nintendo. I don’t expect next iteration or live ops plans for this game.

Sides Notes

It seems Nintendo is executing based on an IP platform strategy rather than on game platform concept. Nintendo’s live game or game as a service includes their mobile games (Mario Kart Tour, Fire Emblem Heroes, Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp, Dr. Mario World, Dragalia Lost), Nintendo Switch Online and Tetris 99 (as part of Nintendo Switch Online). Nintendo doesn’t have real live games in their 1P game portfolio (excl. games or services related to The Pokemon Company). What they’re doing with their 1P games on Nintendo Switch is keeping iterating franchises/IP with some add-on or DLC for each iteration. The reasons why Nintendo lacks live game on Nintendo Switch, can’t build a successful smart-device business and sticks with more traditional business mode on game level on their platform are multifaceted and interconnected.

Ring Fit Adventure has high potential to become a viable game as a service and it’s a new IP so it has less historical burden to try some new business models. It’s been exactly one year today since Ring Fit Adventure launched. Not sure if Nintendo has any further plan for this game after seeing its success. In addition to its own sales, the game also drives some adoption of Nintendo Switch Online and adds value to that service.

  • As of the end of Jun. 2020, Nintendo has shipped 3.9M Ring Fit Adventure but it didn’t have a business model for the game that generates recurring revenue.
  • In comparison, Peloton had 1.1M connected fitness subscription as of the end of Jun. 2020. Over the past year, Peloton has added more than $30B to its market cap. Nintendo’s market cap is around $65B.

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