Nexon’s Dennis Bernardo on KartRider Rush+ and the KartRider juggernaut

KartRider Rush+ recently launched for mobile platforms. A spin-off of the incredibly popular KartRider franchise, KartRider Rush+is a mobile take that Nexon hopes will help launch the franchise outside of South East Asia. In that region, KartRider is hugely popular with estimates that 25% of the South Koran population have played KartRider. Alongside KartRider: Drift, which is coming to PC and Xbox One, KartRider Rush+ is an expansion of the brand and a push for larger market share.

I recently had the opportunity to sit down with Dennis Bernardo, Producer on KartRider Rush+ to discuss the game and the future plans for the franchise. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we spoke via video chat and I took the opportunity to ask Bernardo if the coronavirus outbreak had affected development.

“Luckily we’re in an industry that can transition to remote work pretty easily,” he said. “Our developers and business partners are in Korea, so we already have that pipeline to work and communicate remotely.

“And in terms of developing of this game, ever since the quarantine and pandemic have ramped up recently we didn’t really change too much in terms of what our plans and schedules were. So it hasn’t affected us too much yet.”

As Bernardo told me, KartRider Rush+’s development was clearly unaffacted as it is now sitting on the charts on the App Store and Google Play. The fact that KartRider Rush+ is a global version of a game that was relased in China in 2019 also surely helped.

KartRider Rush+

KartRider has existed, as an IP, for over a decade now and it’s taking its first tentative steps into the western market. Bernardo told me that before launch, KartRider Rush+ had over 3 million pre-registrations, which was a surprise. “In the US we had KartRider on PC for a while, but it didn’t really take off as much as we hoped.

“This new version hit the goal much more quickly than we anticipated. We’re excited to see the potential of this game. It’s always been consistently big in Aisa and now we’re trying to branch out more into a global market.”

In the west, we’ve typically been dominated by the likes of Mario Kart with a few other games also achieving some degree of popularity. When it comes to comparisons with Mario Kart, Bernardo says that KartRider and KartRider Rush+ are unique in the genre, especially when it comes to esports.

KartRider Rush+ hearkens back to KartRider’s roots on PC. There are a lot of different nuances to the drifting mechanics and it really promotes and touches on a player’s sort of sense of mastery. That’s one of the reasons I think esports for this game has taken off.

There was that interest in Korea and China and those markets have nurtured that interest and helped it thrive by creating their own leagues.

Bernardo also explained that KartRider Rush+ is very accessible for players but also has a lot of depth. “It’s easy to pick up, hard to master,” he tells me.

As a mobile game, Bernardo says there are challenges in developing KartRider Rush+. For example, it had to feel like KartRider, only on mobile. Being fans of the franchise and the genre, the development team was eaily able to transition from PC to mobile.

“Almost everybody has a mobile device nowadays and they’re almost as powerful as a PC,” Bernardo said, adding “When we thought about expanding KartRider to a new audience we felt mobile was a natural fit.

“Then we started to think about thinks we can do on mobile that we weren’t able to do yet. These were things like updated graphics, mobile specific features and controls, new game modes and more.”

Unlike KartRider on PC, KartRider Rush+ is similar to Mario Kart Tour. The game controls acceleration and brakes while the player has to fine tune left and right controls. Bernardo says the big “core mechanic is drifting.” Players can combine drift with boosts and do so by tapping on the screen. Players can even earn special Turbo Taps on mobile that give you more boosts than ever.

Something included in KartRider Rush+ that’s designed to help foster the community is the mentorship program. This allows really high level players to partner with junior players and help them learn how to play the game. This is an end game feature that offers rewards for mentors while also helping new players get into the game more quickly.

Bernardo said the mentorship feature partly came from seeing a lack of talent in the upper-levels of esports. “Those people at the upper levels always feel like, well, how do I get people up here? How do we teach people to do this?

“And so that’s one of the reasons this system was decided to be put into the game is to see if that could work.”

Another reason the mentorship program is so important to KartRider Rush+ and Bernardo is because building a community is one of the goals.

I think that should be a goal for any game. Right? You know personally as a gamer that’s what I’m passionate about.

Building communities.

Building up this sense of playing together and having fun. And that’s really what KartRider has always been from the beginning. Even without all these features, people would always come together on their own third party message boards or chat rooms and set up their own sort of custom games for KartRider.

And so we really want to nourish that and we really want to make sure we keep that and provide tools for players to utilise and to engage in with other players.

Because every game is a lot more fun when you’re playing with friends, when you’re playing with people you know and you’re just having fun.

With launch having come and gone, Bernardo told me that there are post-launch plans and that Nexon wants to support it for as long as possible. “We want to support KartRider Rush+ as long as people are playing it,” he said. “If there’s an appetite, we definitely want to see what we can do to help nurture that.”

Players are able to download KartRider Rush+ right now, for free, from the App Store for iOS and Google Play for Android.

Thanks to Dennis Bernardo and Nexon for their time.

Leo Stevenson
Leo Stevenson
I've been playing games for the past 27 years and have been writing for almost as long. Combining two passions in the way I'm able is a true privilege. PowerUp! is a labour of love and one I am so excited to share.

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