Super Mario Drives Benz Kart as Nintendo Expands Licensing

May 30, 2014 11:56 am ET

(Updates share prices in seventh paragraph.)

May 30 (Bloomberg) -- Super Mario’s new kart is a Daimler AG Mercedes-Benz and features all-wheel drive.

Nintendo Co.’s mustachioed plumber appears in a commercial for Japanese audiences launched today as part of the Kyoto-based company’s campaign to expand licensing of its characters outside video games. The ad coincides with the release of the Mario Kart 8 game, in which players will be able to drive a Mercedes vehicle for the first time.

President Satoru Iwata said in January that the company would “actively” expand its character licensing business as it struggles to retain customers for its Wii U console and titles from inexpensive games on smartphones. The world’s largest maker of video-game machines posted a fourth-quarter net loss of 33.4 billion yen ($329 million) in the three months that ended in March, greater than analysts estimated.

“Nintendo’s Mario Kart game can benefit with a collaboration with a car company,” Yusuke Tsunoda, an analyst at Tokai Tokyo Securities Co. in Tokyo, said by phone. “It helps Nintendo promote sales of the new game.”

The TV commercial is the first example of Nintendo using its intellectual property after Iwata announced the push in January, Yasuhiro Minagawa, a spokesman for Nintendo, said today in a phone interview.

“This commercial is for the Japanese market, but we are considering employing similar strategies for overseas markets,” he said.

Benz Kart

Iwata said in January the company would seek partners to expand licensing of its game characters and boost their use for non-game products. Nintendo shares in Germany fell 0.3 percent to 84.93 euros for a 12 percent loss this year. Daimler shares added 0.1 percent to 69.70 euros.

The commercial for the Mercedes GLA starts with an animated Mario driving the SUV, then ends with an actor portraying the character getting out of the car and stepping on a mushroom-like villain called a Goomba.

Mario Kart 8 players can drive the GLA kart in the game from this summer, the first time a real-life car model has been available in the series, according to a statement from Daimler AG’s Mercedes-Benz’s Japanese website.

Nintendo forecast that it would sell 3.6 million Wii U units in the fiscal year ending March 2015. The company expects net income of 20 billion yen in the same period, compared with 23.2 billion yen loss a year earlier.

Mario Figurine

Nintendo said on May 8 it plans to offer figurines that will allow the transfer of game information between devices through near-field communication. More details would be released at the E3 trade show in Los Angeles in June, the company said in a statement.

The company would not set numerical goal for the licensing business, but the day when operations contribute to its profit “will come in the not so distant future,” Iwata said in January, when the company cut its Wii U hardware sales forecast 69 percent to 2.8 billion units.

“We will probably embark on various types of businesses that we didn’t conduct in the past,” Iwata said at that time. “So please look forward to them.”