Gamers will be rejoicing soon, when Nintendo releases Mario Kart 8 for the Wii U, a move the company hopes can redeem the flagging system. The latest installment for the franchise promises great strides forward in karting fun. Nintendo is banking on a huge release, given the flooded console market. The company is also seeing increased pressure from handheld games and PCs. Mario Kart 8 is slated for a May 30 release and units are currently available for preorder.
As of early April, the game promised at least 27 characters for players to choose from. Nintendo states that there are likely more to come in the final version of the game, but enthusiasts may have to wait until release day to find out more. Previews for the game include exciting shots of characters using hover karts, hang-gliding, and blasting down what appears to be a cartoon version of a San Francisco street on motorbikes.
Adding to the wide range of characters is an equally fun variety of items for use and abuse in the game. The usual suspects are all here, plus four new items. So far, only a pirahana plant and a boomerang flower have been announced. Nintendo is holding back on two as yet unknown items.
The company needs to create incentives for consumers to upgrade from their Wii systems and Mario Kart might just be the ticket. When Mario Kart Wii debuted, first-day sales were over 300,000 in Japan, and the game has gone on to sell over 35 million copies worldwide. Already, it’s been reported that Amazon had to halt preorders because it had sold its alloted inventory.
The Wii U is a struggling system which needs a strong title like Mario Kart 8 to save it from soft demand. Its sales figures have been sluggish since the its release. This may be partly due to the simple fact of branding. The name sounds like a modification of the original Wii rather than a whole new system. Nowhere else in naming conventions does the letter U indicate, well, anything. Consider previous system names: Nintendo, Super Nintendo, N64, GameCube, and Wii. Each new platform had a fresh brand. So the U left consumers confused and skeptical that the new system wouldn’t offer a new experience. This, added to the lackluster technical specifications, resulted in a soft market for the system.
The variety of games on the system appears to be primarily aimed at younger players and, though widely popular, May’s release will be no exception to that rule. Given that other systems are capable of reading player movements in 3d space, the Wii platform has lost its once-special hold on the market and the public imagination. Perhaps a slew of first-person shooters could revamp interest in the platform, prompting parents to purchase the systems for their children, with the knowledge that adult-oriented games are available once the kids go to sleep.
Whether or not a new Mario Kart 8 can save Wii U or not is yet to be seen. What is certain is that the game promises to be loads of fun and a grand addition to a franchise so many have grown up with and have come to love. Even non-gamers love Mario and the collection of characters which accompany his adventures, so the speculation is that Mario Kart 8 will help Wii U limp through until 2016 or 2017, when Nintendo can again wow the gaming world with a fresh and awesome new platform.
By Hobie Anthony