Talking Point: The Possibilities of New Super Mario Bros. 2 DLC

More Mario per system

We’re well aware that some of you may read the headline and tagline for this article and immediately think that we’re losing our minds, foolishly allowing ourselves to be suckered into paying more and more for our Mario fix. That’s a danger of course, which we’ll come to, but with this week’s first batch of New Super Mario Bros. 2 DLC we can’t help but think that it could be the start of something rather good, though there are provisos to bear in mind.

Let’s get the big negative out of the way first. DLC – downloadable content – can be used as a rather manipulative, cynical ploy by developers and publishers to strip content away from a full-priced game and simply bolt it on with an extra cost later down the line. The most controversial examples actually have DLC on the disc, basically meaning that the content is already finished and in your game, but you have to cough up more money to unlock it. It’s a battle of wills that’s currently going on, as publishers desperately try to recoup their investment and consumers demand value for money, and balancing a fair amount of day one content with add-ons both desirable and at affordable prices is a challenge.

This is an issue that’ll be familiar to gamers on non-Nintendo systems, with a lot of HD system games featuring extensive DLC for practically every major release; Nintendo gamers will be aware of DLC, but it’s not been a major feature on their consoles to date. Tentative early steps have already been made on 3DS before now, but these New Super Mario Bros. 2 packs are the most high-profile DLC so far offered by Nintendo, so significant that the company felt the need to broadcast Nintendo Direct Minis to make the point.

So, are these three individual packs value for money? We’re just getting our thumbs around them now – a mini review will be with you soon – but the content seems to be decent value, if not mind-blowing. For one thing, we are at least given nine brand new Coin Rush stages to play for a combined cost of £6/$7.50/€7.50. Nintendo is also catering for all audiences, with a basic set for less experienced gamers and, at the opposite end of the scale, some downright cruel levels to test Mario experts. The middle pack, presumably designed to try and attract players of various skills, even has a high score leaderboard that’ll be updated on the title’s official website, though having that in-game would have been preferable.

There’s more coming, too, with plans to introduce more packs – and we assume new stages — in late October and again at the end of November so that fans of the game will, in theory, have a couple of World’s worth of new levels to play in the next couple of months. There’s also a great deal of sense in these being Coin Rush packs, too, as they open up possibilities for more online contests and will no doubt be heavenly fun for gamers who love to perfect stages and score big points.

What this early DLC does suggest, meanwhile, is that the days of waiting multiple years for more 2D Mario may be a thing of the past. Perhaps this is reassuring, especially in light of recent comments from Satoru Iwata that Nintendo only plans to make one 2D Mario per platform.

We only create a New Super Mario Bros. title one per platform. I think we'll probably go ahead and continue at that pace. That being said, that's probably [Mario creator Shigeru] Miyamoto's choice, so I can't give you a 100% guarantee that that's the pace we'll continue at.

Despite the get-out-of-jail “ask Miyamoto” comment, it’s a trend that Nintendo has followed, with this year’s double helping of NSMB2 and the upcoming New Super Mario Bros. U both wrapping up Mario’s 2D exploits early in the lifespans of 3DS and, especially, Wii U. Perhaps DLC can soften that blow, giving Nintendo’s most bankable asset an even stronger extended run on each system. Beyond level packs for one specific mode, perhaps in the future we’ll see new themed Worlds released, providing some extra secrets, star coins and challenges to defeat – assuming that the functionality on the game card isn’t restricted to Coin Rush updates. If Nintendo produced a new World every six months for around $5-8 – depending on its size – would we really complain after the cynicism has faded? This could be particularly important for New Super Mario Bros. U, after all, if Shigeru Miyamoto sticks to the ‘one per system’ policy.

Of course, the issue highlighted at the start of this article will inevitably rear its head. At what stage is DLC a welcome extra worth paying for, and when does it become a lazy tactic to grab more money from gamers with a minimal amount of effort, while giving less and less content in the main game? One bonus for avid Nintendo gamers, perhaps, is that the company’s slow and gradual steps into DLC mean that the past 5-6 years have still been all about day-one content. We’ve got a good sense of how much a Nintendo game should give us right out of the box, an understanding of the value to expect before DLC enters the picture. If our 2D Mario games give us a fair amount of stages, Worlds and platforming fun right off the bat, is there harm in getting even more for a price?

This’ll be an interesting couple of months for Nintendo, and it’ll no doubt be watching the reaction to and sales of its NSMB2 Coin Rush DLC very closely. Gamers will ultimately decide whether they represent good value, and if they succeed we wouldn’t be surprised if future DLC flows regularly and with more creativity. If the decision is made to introduce new Worlds as extra paid content, for example, then it could mean a consistent flow of New Super Mario Bros. content on 3DS and Wii U, probably with pleasingly economic development costs for the big N. It’s not as if we need to unduly worry about DLC upsetting the story too much: Mario always rescues the Princess.

What do you think? Is more 2D Mario DLC an exciting prospect to scratch the itch, or do you worry that too much Mario can indeed be a bad thing? Let us know in the comments below.

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