Many Tokyo residents are likely to have seen, and possibly even complained about, MariCar drivers. The novelty tourist attraction, which receives high ratings from users but some Tokyoites regard as a menace, has customers dress as Mario, Luigi and a host of other unrelated characters and take to the city streets in souped-up go-karts.
The phenomenon looks likely to become a thing of the past. On 24 February, Nintendo issued a statement on its website announcing it is suing the Shinagawa-based company for copyright infringement.
Nintendo states the name MariCar is an abbreviation of its own ‘Mario Kart’ game. It notes that the company also failed to obtain permission to use the character costumes. Nintendo vows to protect its intellectual property, which it has “built up over many years of effort”.
As you might expect, the go-karts are not alone in exploiting Nintendo’s brand equity. Last year saw the launch of ‘Sepia Go’ in China, a mobile game uncannily like the Wii U title ‘Splatoon’. China is also home to ‘Super Smash Bros’. With famously loose copyright laws, the country is much more challenging than Japan for Nintendo to police.