Mario Kart Tour, Nintendo's latest mobile game, is currently in a closed beta. That hasn't stopped details and early impressions from making their way online. And while the general consensus seems to be that it plays perfectly fine for a Mario Kart mobile game, there are some microtransaction wonkiness in the background that's cause for some pause.
Mario Kart Tour is currently only available in Japan and USA for players who pre-registered for the beta earlier this month. According to leaked reports online, the game is played by sliding your finger left and right across the screen as a steering wheel. The further you drag your finger, the harder you steer in that direction.
Early tracks available for Mario Kart Tour are familiar ones from past Mario Kart games. There are tracks from the original Mario Kart, Mario Kart 7 on the 3DS, and Double Dash on GameCube. Likewise, players can choose their loadout before a race picking their racer, kart, and glider in a starting menu.
This is where things start getting bogged down by the microtransactions. According to one Tokyo-based video game consultant, Mario Kart Tour features gacha mechanics for drivers, karts, and gliders. Kotaku confirmed this in their own beta preview.
Looks like Mario Kart Tour beta is pretty hardcore with regards to monetization. Multi-level gacha for drivers, karts and gliders. Rare drivers have advantages during races. Stamina system limits races available on an hourly basis.(Subject to change, this is a beta.)— Dr. Serkan Toto E3 2019 (@serkantoto) May 22, 2019
Mario Kart Tour includes green gems which serve as the premium currency for the game. They can be either bought, or sometimes won in-game. Players can spend five green gems to pull either a new driver, kart, or glider with a different rarity level. Complicating the matter further is that some of these drivers have added bonuses depending on the track. So a character can gain an extra item slot if they're racing on a favorable track.
There's also a stamina bar mechanic, which locks out players from playing Mario Kart Tour after they deplete the meter by playing one too many times. Stamina bars are usually recovered by waiting, or by spending gems to refill the meter quickly.
These are all standard mechanics in free-to-play mobile games, but there's a potential for these systems to become controversial if the game is poorly balanced. Say, if a certain rare racer absolutely comes to dominate a specific track because of their unique ability.
Nintendo has already pulled two of its mobile games, Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp and Fire Emblem Heroes, in Belgium due to the country's anti-gambling laws. This could also be why Europe still hasn't had any beta test dates announced for the region.
As this is a beta, these mechanics could change before the final release. But as it stands, Mario Kart Tour is decidedly a "freemium" game with loot "pipes" which could be a slippery slope.
For more on our coverage, check out our Mario Kart Tour guide for beta details, release info, and more.