Behind The Game: Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle

As a fun concept, I thought we could take the lead-up to, and release of, a game and see how it shaped up commercially, critically, and with the fans! 

First up: Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle from Ubisoft!

 

Marketing

Mario + Rabbids has had a very turbulent run up through its development. Initially leaked simply as a Mario and Rabbids crossover, it drew ire immediately, only compounded by later details like being an RPG, then a strategy RPG. The developers later revealed that this reduced moral, as the incredible pushback against the game, which they believed and cared for visibly post-reveal, was a demoralising worry to many staffers.

Compounding this was promo art and even internal slides revealing the schedule for the game, with a 3-month marketing turn around. What began to many as someone seemingly joking, became very real, and almost unanimously the concept of the Rabbids was a boiling point of contention, let alone working with Mario in an RPG.

Roll around E3, and the game is the opening act for Ubisoft. Shigeru Miyamoto rocks up on stage and the enthusiasm from the crowd, Ubisoft CEO Yves Guillemot, and those watching sparked a change. They showed lead developer Davide Soliani in the crowd, in tears at the immediate reaction to the enthusiasm around his creation, and then came the trailer. At that moment the charm, the humour, even (mostly) the fear of the Rabbids evaporated. Those opening 15 minutes of Ubisoft at E3 showed the commitment and passion into the game and the drive to do it right. Then the game was shown off alongside Nintendo, and press previews began pouring in, and the tune changed entirely.

While previous stigma against the Rabbids will likely never disperse, the gentle trickle of information, constant display of charm and humour, and numerous instances of the dev team explaining how, and why this game exists, what it means to them and what they want to achieve, relieved and resonated with the audience.

 

Critical Response

Critical response has been promising, with numerous previews from E3 and other events praising the depth and challenge of the game, including the simple yet deep combat and skill tree. Also of note is the fascination with characterisation and visuals, noting how it feels like a Mario game gone wrong, matching the invasion of the Rabbids.

The game has struck a chord with critics for opening a genre such as strategy RPGs to new fans in an accessible and fun way, with the game’s humour sticking with many critics noting how crazy the game is, but how well it all sticks together, cementing the pre-reveal concern based on limited information as a needless concern.

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Upon release, the game scored exceptionally high reviews, especially given trepidation pre-release. Praise was aimed at the visuals and depth of gameplay, as well as surprising amount of content. Praise was also piled onto characterisation, an aspect many felt was weak in the Mario series of late, and of note, the Rabbids being reduced from the hated screaming punch lines in search of a joke, to actual personalities, often riffing on the Mario series counterpart.

 

Fan Response

Initial response to leaks was ire, chiefly for pairing Mario with the much maligned Rabbids, seen as flat comedy shoe ins. This persisted even as details trickled out, until E3, when along with critical reception, the opinion switched (ha) completely, minus, again, some disdain to Rabbids. High points include visuals, the effort and complex but simple gameplay, and many likened it to a beginners XCOM.

Some internet dwellers have been caught saying they will pick up the game even though they hate the Rabbids, showing that a book by its cover is one thing, but another is to see the contents, as many were put off just by the premise.

General community response is one of enthusiasm, for a project that was originally considered a hoax, this is perhaps the most promising aspect of the user response. For the developers especially, the relief must be extraordinary, as the community turns to the game as a tent pole release in both a unique genre but in concept and execution.

 

Upon release the game was still held in contempt by some who refused to see the Rabbids beyond their Wii era screaming, which is typical of any release with any existing character, as nothing is without detractors, but the buzz has been great, and of amusement, fun, and shock at the overall quality of the product, and how competent it stands for both strategy fans and now as a unique Mario RPG alongside existing series within the franchise such as Paper Mario.

Sales

This is already the fastest selling, and best-selling, non-Nintendo published title on the Nintendo Switch. And the word of mouth has been astounding. Certainly the genre isn’t for everyone, but sales have shown a strong appetite not just for a new Mario adventure, but a unique take on a tried and true genre. The rewards are being reaped for all the effort poured into this gem. This is a game that will easily sell later in life for the system both as a game on its own, and because of what it offers.

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The Future

The future is certainly bright for both Ubisoft and Nintendo, if nothing for strengthening the relationship between the two companies and the possibility of future franchise crossovers from both sides. As for Mario + Rabbids specifically, it has been new wind for the Rabbids as more detailed characters, and a new successful spinoff for Mario, entering the tactical genre.

The two major possibilities are more crossovers, perhaps letting Ubisoft take command with some of their specialised genres with Nintendo characters, or Nintendo doing the same in reverse. Certainly though, one can expect a sequel to Mario + Rabbids, when all the additional content into 2018 is said and done.

 

Frankly, Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle is fantastic. An idea so crazy that it was reviled on sight until the passion seeped out onto a stage and the world just stopped and stared: It not only legitimizes Nintendo’s trust in Ubisoft, and their talent to make incredible games, but also the old saying “Don’t judge a book by its cover”. This is a very meaty book.

As always, if you like what you read, leave a comment, share this article, and see you next time!

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