Hard times for the once-thriving Tokyo tourist attraction.
It goes without saying that a lot of people and businesses are struggling out there these days, but even among all that, it’s hard not to hear of Street Kart‘s recent fortunes and wince at least a little bit extra at their particular set of circumstances.
Anyone who’s been to Tokyo in the past half decade or read about their lengthy legal battle with Nintendo, will probably know Street Kart better by their former name MariCar, which was later changed to Mari Mobility Development due to MariCar’s similarity with the popular Japanese nickname for the game Mario Kart.
That plus their service allowing customers to drive around Tokyo in go-karts dressed as popular Mario Kart characters (Nintendo costumes are no longer available), drew the unwanted attention of Nintendo’s lawyers. The ensuing three-year legal battle resulted in back-to-back court losses for Street Kart who were ordered to pay Nintendo 50 million yen (US$456,000) at the end of January.
If that wasn’t bad enough, this would also coincide with the cusp of global tourism’s unprecedented COVID-19 drought, and since Street Kart’s clientele was almost exclusively from abroad, the combined impact of these financial blows had to be severe.
So since the end of April, the company launched a crowdfunding campaign to help them weather this storm. Let’s check in and see how close they are to their 2 million yen ($18,000) goal…
It would appear that as of this writing, over a month since the crowdfunding launched, they received 1,000 yen ($9) from two people.
The problem seems obvious, however. In losing their original name, it has become really hard to keep track of them, and even if someone came across this crowdfunding by chance, they might easily assume this was just another company trying to capitalize on MariCar’s popularity.
Then there’s the fact that the crowdfunding is being done on the Japanese platform Campfire. This might not sound so odd until you read what a sampling of rather unsympathetic Japanese comments online had to say about the company’s situation.
“It’s the inevitable end to anyone who crosses paths with Nintendo’s legal department.” “All the Nintendo stuff aside, it’s noisy and dangerous, so we’re probably better off without it, unless they can address these problems.” “I think trying to crowdfund from Japanese people is their problem.” “Hahahaha.” “No one wants them to continue doing what they’re doing.” “I think at best Japanese people are indifferent to this service, they should try Indiegogo or something that will reach foreigners.” “They leeched off Nintendo’s popularity.” “If they let me throw a banana peel or turtle shell, I’ll kick in.” “Even if the crowdfunding works, I don’t know if it’ll be enough. We won’t see tourists for a long time.”
It does seem odd that a business that seems to largely target customers from overseas is now appealing largely to Japanese people for support. Perhaps later they’ll try something with a more global reach like Kickstarter.