After announcing its best quarterly results in nearly a decade, Nintendo took to Twitter to announce that its beloved Mario Kart franchise will be making the jump from consoles to mobile phones, but before you get too excited, there’s a catch: The window for release is sometime between now and March… of 2019.
Long lead times are nothing new when it comes to Nintendo, but 14 months is a bit extreme. Super Mario Run was unveiled at Apple’s iPhone 7 event in September 2016 and didn’t launch until December, while the Android version had a similar two-month window between announcement and launch.
Nevertheless, fans will surely flock to the game whenever it pops up in the app stores, joining Super Mario Run (iOS/Android), Fire Emblem Heroes (iOS/Android), and Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp (iOS/Android). Nintendo previously said it plans to release 2-3 titles a year for mobile devices, but it didn’t divulge any other titles in the works during its quarterly results. It has been rumored that a Legend of Zelda title is in the works, but Nintendo has yet to confirm its existence.
Called Mario Kart Tour, the game will presumably take players to various locations around the world as they battle in various circuits for bragging rights. Nintendo didn’t divulge whether there would be an online multiplayer options, but the title certainly alludes to that style of gameplay.
Also unclear is how Mario Kart Tour would be sold. Despite smashing download
records, Super Mario Run’s freemium format—which offers a handful of levels for free and charges $10 for the full game—was “less of a moneymaker for Nintendo than might have been expected,” according to the company. However, Nintendo also said it prefers a pay-once-and-pay format rather than the in-app-purchase model of games like Fire Emblem Heroes.
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But no matter how Nintendo sells Mario Kart Tour for smartphones, its main role is as an advertisement for its Switch console ($300 on Amazon) and 3DS handheld games. During its third-quarter financial results, the company announced its best quarter in eight years, with sales of more than seven million Switches and nine million copies of Super Mario Odyssey.
Why this matters: Like Apple and Samsung, anything Nintendo does is newsworthy. But bringing Mario Kart to phones is a big deal. Not only is it one of the most popular games in Nintendo’s catalog, it brings another classic franchise to mobile phones and opens up the possibility of online multiplayer in a Mario title. We got a glimpse of how much fun that could be with Mario Kart 7 on the 3DS, but Nintendo could take it to a whole new level on our phones. We just hope we don’t have to wait until next spring to get it.