Nintendo & DLC: Downloadable Commercials

The first home console game I ever played was Mario Kart 64. My older brother received it as a gift, and I can clearly remember getting up early the day after his birthday to play it with him. I selected Yoshi and raced on Luigi’s Circuit using my new, green pipe kart. I remember thinking that the kart felt like something my father might have built in our garage; it looked simple, sleek, and wholly original.

Flash forward seventeen years. Tomorrow, I’ll be cruising down Toad’s Turnpike in a Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Roadster. Weird, huh? Yet this isn’t the first time Nintendo has opted for DLC – or downloadable commercials, as I like to call them. Just a few months back, Mario Golf: World Tour included unlockable Callaway gear: clubs, hats, balls, shorts, you name it. This new trend of introducing real-life brands into an otherwise original Mario universe raises numerous questions about marketing strategies interfering with creative designs.

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So that's where all those coins are going!

On one hand, I see nothing wrong with adding a few real-life objects into a Mario game. I actually thought the team-up with Callaway was brilliant at the time because it allowed for specific tournaments with competitive rewards. Furthermore, in Mario Golf, Mario is playing a real-world sport that is defined by the brand names associated with it. In other words, we cannot consider golf without thinking about Titleist or Callaway – they’re inexorably linked – in the same way that soccer is strongly associated with Adidas and Puma equipment.

But when we start thinking about these real-life objects as real-life products, the result is a little less exciting. I dread a future where Mario’s gear is sold to the highest bidder. Imagine, if you will, Mario’s F.L.U.D.D. being replaced by a Craftsman Power Washer. Imagine the Poltergust 3000 as a Hoover Windtunnel. Imagine Peach’s parasol as a Burberry checkered folding umbrella. I know what you’re thinking – that these examples would never happen – but for me, a Mercedes-Benz in a Mario Kart title is the equivalent of a Craftsman F.L.U.D.D.

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We hope the next DLC introduces a PT Cruiser to represent middle class families.

Mario Kart is a kart racing game; it isn’t a realistic car simulator like Forza Motorsport or Grand Turismo. The Mercedes-Benz team-up ends up distracting from the creative kart designs that drew me into the series in the first place. I want every object in Mario’s universe to be a product of innovative art design, not a result of a corporate advertising arrangement.

I’m not saying that the upcoming DLC is a bad thing. I’ll totally take that 1934 Silver Arrow out for a spin, and I know that Mario Kart 8 will still be just as fun tomorrow
as it is today. But, at the same time, I’m wary of a future where brand names and commercial advertisements fill an otherwise carefree and timeless Mushroom Kingdom.

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What are your thoughts on Nintendo's DLC strategy? Let us know in the comments below! And be sure to find out about Nintendo's newly announced DLC right here.
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