Nintendo shocked the world on Sept. 3 when it announced, via a digital Nintendo Direct video, their upcoming “Mario Kart Live: Home Circuit” game/toy. The Nintendo Switch has not received an exclusive Mario Kart title — the only MK game on the system is a port of the 2014 game for the Wii U.
“Mario Kart Live: Home Circuit” is a Switch exclusive digital game you load on to your Switch and play with a real-world Mario or Luigi Kart toy. The toy Kart, a little larger than the size of your hand, has a camera above Mario/Luigi’s head. That camera’s view is displayed onto your Switch via the digital game, which you then control similar to the way one controls a drone.
The package comes with pieces of a cardboard (similar to Nintendo’s Labo sets) track that you set up around your home. The game registers the track pieces, then syncs them to one another to create a fully circular track within the game. As you steer your Mario or Luigi, using the Nintendo Switch controllers, the game displays in-game items like weapons, coins and enemies using augmented reality.
The concept is simple: You are turning your home into a live Mario Kart track that you can actually race a toy around. It’s brilliant in concept and, thus far, the review ratings have been exceptionally high. The only real downside is that in order to race against other humans, each player will need their own toy and their own Switch, with their own digital copy of the game. That makes the concept a bit pricey, as it means each player will need to cough up $100 to play.
Currently, Nintendo is only selling two variant karts: Mario and Luigi. For almost all purposes, they function the same and come with the same components. The only difference in the two toys is the figure that rides in the Kart and the Kart color. Nintendo has a history of milking their hot products and it seems a given that Nintendo will release additional riders/Karts in the future.
“Mario Kart Live” preorders
The day of the announcement in September, almost every retailer put up placeholders on their websites to purchase the toys. Preorders were grayed out at Walmart, Best Buy and Target with just a note of “Coming Soon.” At one point in late September, Walmart did briefly open their listing for preorders but sold out immediately. Since then, most — if not all — of those orders were canceled.
Mario Kart Live: Home Circuit had a release date of Oct. 16 and it wasn’t until 12:40 a.m. on the 16th that the product went live at almost every retailer’s website. The toy quickly sold out online overnight and stores were met with customers waiting at opening, eager to get their hands on the innovative product.
Although most retailers are currently sold out, it is interesting to note that the Luigi version of the toy sold out faster than the Mario version. A few hours after open, some retailers were completely out of Luigi but had four to six copies of Mario available. This could be due to a variety of reasons, one of which is that Nintendo has a long history of creating shortages and scarcity in their products. It’s possible that they didn’t think Luigi would sell as strongly as Mario and thus did not release as many Luigi sets to retailers.
Buying “Mario Kart Live” for the holidays
It remains to be seen how well Nintendo can keep “Mario Kart Live: Home Circuit” copies on shelves leading up to the holidays. We predicted that the MK game would be a huge seller in our Top Toys of 2020, but we never could have predicted the overwhelming demand on release day. Smart shoppers will want to make sure to select any “Notify Me” options on retailers’ websites that are currently sold out in hopes that a restock happens soon.