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 Friday as part of the Kyoto, Japan-based company's campaign to expand licensing of its characters outside of 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.

"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, Yasuhiro Minagawa, a spokesman for Nintendo, said in a phone interview.

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

Iwata said the company would seek partners to expand licensing of its game characters and boost their use for non-game products.


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 $196.6 million in the same period, compared with $228.1 million loss a year earlier.