Where’s The Hype For Mario Kart 8 Deluxe?

After a month in the wild, the Switch’s hype level seems to be waning from its initial Zelda-fueled levels. As good as Breath of the Wild is, it has a hard ceiling on its replay value—once you’ve crushed Ganon and 100%’d the collectibles and side quests, there’s little incentive to return to the game. With the calendar flipping to April and a growing number of players having beaten BotW, it’s time for the hype torch to be passed to Nintendo’s next major Switch release, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe.

…Except that outside of a few trailers like the one linked above, Nintendo’s been pretty quiet about Mario Kart. In fact, they’ve been releasing more info about Splatoon 2 (and even ARMS) lately than about their upcoming kart racer. What gives?

  • The biggest problem I can see is that as an enhanced port, we’ve seen most of Mario Kart 8 already. Sure, the battle mode is completely revamped and a few new characters have been added, but the core of Mario Kart 8 Deluxe has been in gamers’ hands for almost three years now, and thus it lacks the surprise factor of new games like Splatoon 2.
  • The pieces of Mario Kart we haven’t seen before aren’t really things that move the needle. Is the battle mode really that popular of a mode? Do Inkling racers interest anyone that didn’t play Splatoon? At its core, MK8D is about racing with Mario and friends, and the additions don’t add a whole lot to the game’s basic premise.
  • It’s worth noting that we already have a racing game available for the Switch (Fast Racing RMX), and it’s a quality stand-in for hardcore racers who are sick of getting shelled to death in Baby Park.
  • I think the scarcity of consoles is starting to affect the buzz factor for both the Switch and Mario Kart 8 Deluxe. Two weeks ago, I was fairly confident that there would be more than enough Switches to go around by April 28th, which is partially why I counseled people to wait until Nintendo worked out the kinks of its initial batch. Now, however, it looks like the second wave of Switches I expected isn’t coming, or at best is coming in fits and starts (“Store X has Y Switches starting at time Z. Good luck!”). It’s awfully hard to get excited about a system you can’t find and a game you can’t play.

The big question, however, is not why the hype for MK8D is lacking, but rather what that may mean for the Switch going forward. The console’s made a pretty good first impression, but the Wii U’s commercial failure was so massive that consumers and industry insiders are still approaching Nintendo products with a lot of skepticism. Additionally, Nintendo operates under a more-powerful microscope than most companies do to begin with, so even small things like a lack of buzz will be magnified and presented as evidence of the company’s impending doom.

I think Nintendo needs to counter this skepticism and scrutiny by being a bit more proactive in its pushing of MK8D. Addressing console shortage fears through a “soft re-launch” of sorts would a good place to start. A Nintendo Direct or other large press event focused on the game would be even better. Better still would be teasing some future DLC content (bring back Captain Falcon!) that could convince current MK8 owners that there will eventually be enough new content here to upgrade. (While we’re at it, bringing back some old Mario Kart games as part of a Virtual Console launch wouldn’t be a bad idea either.) Nintendo needs to show off its marketing muscle and make sure MK8D is on gamers’ minds today and in gamers’ hands on April 28th.

My plan is to walk into my local Gamestop at the end of April and leave ready to take my Mario Kart experience on the go. My fear is that I’ll have to buy Mario Kart 7 to make that happen.