I Don't Have The Energy To Be Angry About Mario Kart

I understand why people are angry — I think that's pretty obvious (and justified). But personally I just can't find the energy to be angry at Mario Kart 8.

Yesterday we had an opportunity to take a look at Mario Kart 8's new Mercedes product placement in action. It ran under the headline 'Mario Kart's DLC Is So Gross'. I watched the video and agreed. "Yes, this is pretty creepy." "I don't know if I like this." But it didn't necessarily fill me with rage. Truth be told my reaction was one of ambivalence.

There were a number of reasons for this.

First is the fact that this content is optional. It isn't part of some mandatory update. The Mercedes product placement will not be forced down my throat or the throats of other consumers. If I want to experience the mild disconnect of driving real world Mercedes cars in a mascot driven karting game I can do that, but I first have to make that choice. This is product placement in its least obtrusive form — I have to literally choose to have that product placed in front of me.

So that's the first, most obvious point.

The second reason is this: being angry at the product placement in Mario Kart means being angry at everything. It means being angry at all product placement across all types of media. It means being angry when James Bond steps in a sexy new car, or when he uses a Sony laptop. It means being angry at every summer blockbuster. It means being angry at advertising in general. Real life cars are added to racing games all the time. Gran Turismo, Forza — we celebrate when certain racing games add new real world cars to their roster.

Obviously, there is a difference between Mario Kart and Forza. Obviously a brand new Mercedes is at home in one and looks hilariously out of place in another — but it's part of the same problem. It's stealth marketing. It's merely another avenue for big brands to battle for our mind space. One is merely a little more blatant than the other. If I have to get angry about Mercedes featuring in Mario Kart I have to be angry all of the time. That's exhausting.

Take a look from this perspective. Yesterday The Expendabros was announced, a tie-in between Broforce and The Expendable 3. The Expendabros is cross brand exercise designed to promote two separate products. I'm fairly certain money was exchanged here. This wasn't done for the hell of it. The Expendabros, without doubt, a marketing stunt for the movie The Expendables 3.

The similarities between the Mario Kart DLC and The Expendabros are astounding. They're basically two examples of the exact same thing. They're both free. They both feature product placement. In Mario Kart it's Mercedes cars and in The Expendebros it's characters from the movie. What's the difference here? Some vague concept of the 'purity' of the Mario Kart brand?

The argument, I'm guessing, is something along the lines of "real world cars don't belong in Mario Kart, it feels weird" or "The Expendebros tie-in feels right, it makes sense" — that might be right, but is the core concept any different? I'd argue no. The only difference is in the execution. One has been executed clumsily, the other is more subtle.

And which one should you really be more angry at? That's an important question. The marketing that seeps into your brain-space stealthily or the marketing you can spot from a mile away? Which one is more likely to influence your behaviour?

In a perfect world we should probably be getting angry at both examples — but marketing is an every day reality whether we like it or not. It assaults us from the buses we catch to work, to the television we watch, to the video games we play. This is the world we live in. Maybe I'm just dulled to the impact of it; but at this point, I'm finding it difficult to muster the energy to be angry about a couple of real world cars being added to Mario Kart.


    I'd hope not many people were genuinely OUTRAGED. But it was certainly disappointing. And I don't think your counter-points are entirely relevant.

    Do people care if real products are in Forza, or James Bond? Of course not, those are set in the real world, a world already full of real products. Whether Bond drives a BMW or Aston Martin is largely irrelevant.

    As for Broforce and Expendables...they're so complimentary I'm surprised it didn't happen sooner. They're exactly the same thing: bombastic experiences where the entire point is soaking up a roster of iconic action stars. So again, people don't bat an eye.

    But the Mushroom Kingdom? Having real cars intrude isn't outrageous, it's just stupid. It's commerce invading on hallowed, fantasy grounds. It's farcically out of place and out of context.

    The reaction you're seeing from this is no different to that you'd see if there were cans of Coke in Skyrim, or Samsung phones in Dragon Age.

    And it doesn't matter if it's free, or if it's optional; a lot of people have a lot of emotional investment in Nintendo, as a company and a publisher that's traditionally been above this sort of thing. I can totally understand them reacting poorly to this just on principle.

    Last edited 07/08/14 4:09 pm

      I dunno if it's anywhere near that extreme. It's cars in a racing game.

      Coke cans in Skyrim would be hilariously bad. It's so bad I sort of hope it happens.

        OK, it would be pretty great


        Personally it didn't bother me, cos I knew it was coming already due to a promo I saw when I was looking at buying MK8. One of the packages you could get came with the Mercedes already for dl. Kinda stupid yes, but I'd personally rather pay for DLC that does something, rather than just a costume/colour scheme change.

        Surely there's already a mod out there that does that.

        I would be annoyed if the cars have an unfair advantage as they aren't skins but Actual bodies for the vehicle so if they have gamebreaking stats ill be annoyed

        Can you imagine a guard saying: I used to be thirsty like you ... then I took a coke to my mouth

        I happen to agree with you on this one Mark.
        I made a post below but to be honest I think the W25 Silver Arrow shrunk down looks on place. A kart and a F1 car are similar on a very base level. I actually want to try the W25 and hope it works well in the game. The SUV is very jarring but is not an issue as you mentioned in the article. Just don't use things you don't like and ignore things so they don't irritate you. It is a fact a life from buses to TV like you said.
        Kudos as always Mr Serrels.

      I don't really know if the Samsung phones/Coke cans point is entirely spot on. Mario Kart 8 already has vehicles in it. Vehicles with 4 wheels. The Mercedes Benz DLC has vehicles in it. Vehicles that also have 4 wheels.
      A more apt point would be putting something like lightsabers into Skyrim or athletic jumpsuits in Dragon Age. Both are out of place, modern variations of things already in the games.

      Is this the actual Luke Plunkett???
      Because if it is, this comment contains more characters and paragraphs, and even looks like it required more thought than any 'article' I've seen from him

        Ugghh.. shut the f**k up, who cares?
        I hate comments like this. Maybe spare a thought that Luke has feelings and doesn't need his integrity brought into question every time he doesn't meet your ridiculous entitled standards.

        Last edited 08/08/14 10:55 am

    Am I the only one who thinks the W25 and 300 SL are pretty cool...

    Last edited 07/08/14 4:12 pm

      I think it's cool in the sense that considering nintendo don't really have a reputation for DLC, at least it's a functional piece. I'm a bit surprised that they chose mercedes, as a real car in an extremely toony game doesn't really make all that much sense, but it sure could have been a lot worse! What would be really cool, is if they let you submit user made creations! I'd expect that they would have to heavily moderate it, but it could open up to a lot of cool ideas!

      I actually think those two cars fit really well into the game, one looks like a silver low rider we've had since Wario turned up and the other looks like a Silver version of the Mach 8.

      The 4WD looks out of place, but honestly I don't care enough about it to be angry.

        Came here exactly to say this. Apart from the SUV, the other two fit perfectly and already look like current vehicles.

          I love that what I posted lines up with what others posted here. I am glad we all think alike.
          They W25 and SL do fit and I am soooo downloading it when I get home. Your lowrider and Mach 8 comparison is very on the mark dude.

    "One bag of apples please".
    "We've got a promotion with oranges at the moment. Everyone that buys a bag of apples is entitled to one free orange".
    "Yuck I HATE oranges, I don't want anything to do with them".
    "No worries, you don't have to take the orange".

    - The end.

    Last edited 07/08/14 4:14 pm

      They are just testing the water for how much advertising they can put in their games on release. Sooner or later the "its optional" response will no longer apply.

      By the time you hit Mario Kart 12 they will have replaced the ? boxes with packets of Doritos.

      Last edited 07/08/14 4:42 pm

        I agree, thinking "oh this is ok, its not that bad" is the start of a horrible avalanche of shit. It always is, with anything.

        Oh wow, a knee-jerk slippery slope argument. How alarming.

        They are just testing the water for how much advertising they can put in their games on release. Sooner or later the "its optional" response will no longer apply.

        That's not really the case though. It's Nintendo. They've been doing this sort of stuff for years without turning into a free for all*. I mean the Panasonic GameCube didn't lead to anarchy. It's weird, but sometimes they just decide to do stuff like this.

        Honestly I just trust that Nintendo are control freaks who are impossible to work with. Their idea of selling out is taking a huge sack of money from someone and then maybe, if they feel like it, they'll add something they thought of that the person who paid them might like. =P

        *Edit: Granted it's not often that it escapes Japan.

        Last edited 07/08/14 6:02 pm

    I'm just sad that they haven't created decent battle mode content yet.

    I'm constantly surprised by anyone who has the energy to be angry or outraged about anything to do with entertainment these days.

    Something I noticed while playing sonic all stars racing transformed:
    Hot wheels
    3 brands in 1 sonic racing game. I mean you are going stir crazy over 1 brand. yet the latest sonic racing games has promoted 3 brands. I mean this dlc provides the car that you can CUSTOMISE with other customisible features. I mean if you like to race in actual cars then go for it, I mean this news of the dlc happened on the same day as the bbc starting an investigation into jezza clarkson due to the latest contraversy. Man, at least this dlc provides some car eye candy

    For an online game like this, I would have thought the only sane way to handle it would be to put the Mercedes car models into the base game (either on the disc if the DLC was planned prior to release, or through a title update).

    Otherwise, what happens when a person with the DLC installed played online with someone without? Either everyone needs to have the models available, or the game substitutes in some other car.

      I'm guessing the Merc's are stat equivalent to some other car and it replaces them with that.

      If you break it down Mario Kart 8 has two Glider stats, but they have like a whole bunch you can choose from. My favourite car shares it's stats with two others, so that's three cars that are purely cosmetic variations.

        I guess we'll find out how its implemented once the DLC is released.

      Title update. It's the standard way of handling content expansion in an online game.

    My gut reaction was against the DLC. I think it's ridiculous, but not because I think product placement is evil. In context, product placement is, in fact, a necessary evil - many of the high budget movies and TV shows we know and love wouldn't exist without those injections of much-needed cash to afford the farcical paychecks of the select, bankable few. I don't mind seeing flash cars in James Bond films, or Sony laptops. The thing is that those brands and those cars belong there. The context supports their inclusion and hey, if the visual effects are a touch better because they went with a Ferrari rather than a Skoda, or they could afford to cast Johnny Depp instead of Gerard Butler, then fine. Intelligent product placement doesn't bring me out of the experience or the story - much as a good soundtrack will, it happens in the background, unnoticed, and the desired effect is still achieved.
    And I'm not even saying that Nintendo CAN'T put Mercedes cars in MK8. I'm not angry about their inclusion - it just doesn't make sense to me. To summarize a point I made yesterday, the Mushroom Kingdom is a fantasy construct and for the real world to encroach upon it is jarring. It would be like noticing product placement in Game of Thrones - it can be as subtle as it likes, but if you notice it and it doesn't belong, the construct falls apart. I stopped watching Weeds because the whole thing seemed like the writers got their advertising contracts and created scenes around shoe-horning them in.

    TL:DR - Advertising is an inevitability of entertainment as commerce - but if it detracts from the art or breaks the context, I don't want it there. And the case of this DLC and my WiiU, it certainly won't be.

    Last edited 07/08/14 5:20 pm

    I understand how childish it is to complain about this....

    But I don't care, Hey Mercdes get the fuck out of my mario kart !

    ... and Nintendo, shame on you.

    I love you Mark Serrels.
    I mean, uh, I agree with you.

    I see this as the Adult version of Mario Kart - for the sophisticated Gamer

    This is the best article I've read on Kotaku in a long time - I almost read the whole thing!

    I'd only be upset if the merc cars had stupidly awesome stats otherwise I couldn't care less.

    I'm not sure how much of a "stealth advertising" campaign it is... It's Mercedes Benz's in Mario kart.

    looks weird. I don't have MK8 so i can't complain. i mean i brought a real gaming system. *Cough* can't wait for the DV I'll eat them up like sweet sweet nectar.

    It is optional and free. I choose to not let it bother me.
    Mark makes all the right points in the article but I will add this. The old formula one car (W25) and even the SL do kinda fit in the way they have been added. It is only the SUV that sticks out absurdly.
    I will download this content and try them out just mainly to curiosity. I kinda hope that the silver arrow is a good kart in its own right as it looks like a car when shrunk down that far. I actually do WANT to use it.

    The fact that it's optional is kind of a moot point, given that most people play online. Whether the immersion is broken by you or someone you're racing against, the result is the same. And you can pretty much guarantee the cars will have great stats and ends up being used a lot online for that reason.

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