Mario Kart 8 Deluxe might be a victim of its own success. Nintendo announced earlier today that it sold more than 459,000 copies of the game on its launch day, making it the fastest-selling Mario Kart game in history. But that popularity might come at a cost: Many players have taken to Reddit and other forums to complain about the game's online multiplayer. That's bad news for both Mario Kart 8 Deluxe and the Nintendo Switch.
We've noticed connectivity issues ourselves. The most common are a notification in the game's multiplayer lobby that "a communication error has occurred," a bug that makes the same items appear many times in a row, and abrupt changes in other players' locations. These issues have occurred several times since the game's April 28 launch--and, at least in our experience, they appear to be getting worse instead of better.
Other players have complained about lag and issues with the game's hitboxes. This makes it hard to use items--many are based on hitting other players with projectiles--or play in the game's new Battle Mode. The latter is especially problematic because the new and improved Battle Mode is one of Mario Kart 8 Deluxe's biggest changes from its Wii U predecessor, Mario Kart 8. It's not the only change--Mario Kart 8 Deluxe also includes new modes, extra characters, and all of the first game's downloadable content--but it's one of the best reasons to upgrade to the new release.
The issues also raise questions about the Switch's online service. Many of the console's games currently focus on single player campaigns or local multiplayer; Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is the first big release to stress Nintendo's online capabilities. There was the Splatoon 2 Global Testfire in March, but that was expected to have problems. Many of Mario Kart 8 Deluxe's players are unlikely to have those same expectations. After all, they paid a full $60 for a game with online multiplayer; it's not like they installed a free demo that was explicitly made to stress test Nintendo's servers ahead of a real launch.
There's also the question of how Nintendo plans to charge for an online service that can't handle a single (albeit quite popular) game. Nintendo hasn't revealed much about this service--much like how it hasn't shared details about the Virtual Console--but it has repeatedly said that the Switch's online features would be free only until Fall 2017. By then, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, Arms, and Splatoon 2 will have all debuted with online components.
Here's what Nintendo said about its online service on its page for Arms:
Online play will be free for Nintendo Account holders until our paid online service launches in fall 2017. After the free-trial period, most games will require a paid online service subscription from Nintendo in order to play online. Currently, the free-trial period, the paid service, and online play (for applicable modes in compatible games) will be available for customers in the U.S., Canada, and Mexico.
We also know that the online service will offer "exclusive deals," a free one-month download of an NES or SNES game, and access to a smartphone app used for team chats. That's about it. There's no information about how much it will cost, whether or not there will be dedicated servers for most games, or for how long a subscription will run. (Many services offer one-month, three-month, or 12-month memberships, for example.)
Problems like this can harm the service's public perception before it's even officially revealed. But it's worth noting two things: Many games suffer from online issues when they debut, and the people complaining on message boards could simply belong to a vocal minority. We reached out to Nintendo to learn more about what's causing these problems and how widespread they are and will update this post if the company responds.