Nintendo's ongoing flirtatious partnership with the mobile gaming space continues with the upcoming Mario Kart Tour for iOS and Android in which the console Mario Kart experience is reformulated for a streamlined experience with microtransactions. While the company's Super Mario Run released as a one-time purchase and failed to meet sales expectations, follow up titles based on Animal Crossing and Fire Emblem included microtransactional elements and have, so far, lit up sales charts, so I'm not surprised that Mario Kart Tour follows that mold. The game is in beta for Android starting today and while players are bound by a restriction on posting screenshots of the game, you know that hardly anybody is honoring that. Ethan Gach at Kotaku has a writeup on how the game plays and how much money it expects you to spend to have a fighting chance at winning.
To unlock additional circuits you collect Grand Stars by completing races and other challenges. Earning stars is also how you unlock gifts, some of which contain green gems, Mario Kart Tour’s premium currency. This is where things start to get weighed down with overlapping in-game currencies. For five gems you get to “pull” on a green pipe that shoots out a new driver, kart, or glider, each of a different rarity. My first pull got me Morton, one of the Bowser minions. Currently the in-game shop, which doesn’t allow you to buy gems yet, is advertising Metal Mario.
I'm interested in trying Mario Kart Tour once it releases, but I don't expect to put any money into it if it's just going to go to lootbox-style random pulls from a bank of items or characters. I will spend money on mobile games provided that it's a single fee (such as the aforementioned Super Mario Run) and I realize that is a dying if not already dead business model in the mobile space that is increasingly built around monthly subscriptions or slot machine-style payouts of randomly generated items. That said, I enjoy Star Trek Timelines and have paid a few dollars into its premium currency from time to time to support the development studio, but we're talking more along the lines of four dollars every few months as opposed to the $99 whale package that the game promotes every few days. I'm sure that Mario Kart Tour's beta period will be used to gauge whether or not the current pricing model used in the game is fair and undoubtedly the marketplace in the release version will be balanced based on player input. Whenever a mobile game goes into a public beta these days I naturally assume that's really what the developers are testing. The gameplay is probably pretty well locked in by that point and its the engagement with the in-game store that really needs testing and input. Mario Kart Tour's shop doesn't sell gems yet for real money, but it's only a matter of time before it does.