Nintendo managed to just top its prediction of 15 million Switch sold in the fiscal year ending last month, bringing the total Switch sold to 17.79 million. And it thinks it can do much better in the coming year, selling 20 million more of the console hybrid into a market already partially sated and growing accustom to the novelty of the system.
The key, company management believes, is to tap into the same success of the Wii console, which managed to find an entirely new, relatively untapped market. But this time, Nintendo wants to also tap into the traditional hardcore gamer market.
Big software — the sort that attracts massive amounts of hardcore fans, new, enticing, unusual concepts, and games that plumb the depths of Nintendo nostalgia will all have to succeed to drive that success. Nintendo is predicting that the company will sell 100 million games this fiscal year alongside those 20 million consoles.
The main announced driver for the hardcore fan will be “Super Smash Bros.” due out sometime this year, but that won’t be enough. The best selling “Super Smash” game in the past decade was “Super Smash Bros Brawl for the Wii,” which sold 13.27 million copies. The “3DS Super Smash Bros.” sold 9.24 million and the “Wii U Super Smash” sold 5.34 million. But, historically, one of the biggest franchises on previous Nintendo systems has been “Mario Kart.” “Mario Kart DS” sold more than 23 million copies. “Mario Kart Wii” sold more than 37 million copies. “Mario Kart 7 on 3DS” sold 17 million. Even the poorly received Wii U managed to sell more than 8 million copies of “Mario Kart 8.” While Switch has a Kart game already which sold more than 9 million copies, it’s really just a port of the 2014 Wii U title. An entirely new “Mario Kart” for the Switch landing before April 2019, could drive massive growth. It also lines up with news that Nintendo is working on a smartphone version of the game, a creation that could be linked to a Switch version, or used to promote one. Nintendo could also release a new traditional Pokemon title for the Switch which would both pull in the vast Pokemon fanbase and also could tap into the fans of the smartphone’s Pokemon Go.
Support of the Switch from developers who don’t work for Nintendo is also going to have to play a big part in the sort of success Nintendo is aiming for this coming fiscal year. While the system didn’t launch with much major third-party support, that’s already changing. AAA developer Bethesda is bringing its biggest titles to the Switch and it’s likely more developers like Activision and Epic Games, maker of “Fortnite,” will follow suit. And indie support for the Switch is tremendous. Of all of the content on the Nintendo Switch, about 70% of the games with a 75% or higher average rating on Metacritic are indies, Damon Baker, Nintendo of America’s senior manager for publisher and developer relations, told a gathering of press at GDC earlier this year. The upcoming slate of indie games headed to the Switch, recently showcased by Nintendo, are impressive.
In terms of casual and non-traditional gamers, the company has “Nintendo Labo.” The company didn’t release any sales figures for the cardboard DIY gaming kits, which released on April 20, but so far it seems unlikely that it could be a major driver of sales. The first two kits do provide some insight into the massive potential the concept has if it is paired with the right IP or gameplay.
Nintendo also has a vast library of back-titles it can tap into. Most recently, Nintendo has been releasing those retro classics embedded in diminutive console remakes of classic systems. But Nintendo could drive even more business to the Switch by opening up its huge library to digital downloads through the system. These bite-sized games are both a good fit for a portable system, but also compliment Nintendo’s growing indies library.
Officially, all Nintendo said about its plans for hitting those big sales predications is that it will focus on expanding the number of people who have access to its original properties and services by creating games that everyone can enjoy regardless of age, gender or gaming experience.
“We will drive continual growth for Nintendo by expanding the dedicated video game business and establishing the smart-device business,” its fiscal report read. “For our dedicated video game business, we plan to keep our distinctive software-driven hardware and software business at the core of our operations, while actively investing resources in our unique platform business.”
This plan includes a stronger push into the smartphone and tablet business, where the company has seen some significant success. Nintendo released “Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp” this past fiscal year, adding it to the line-up that already included “Super Mario Run” and “Fire Emblem Heroes.” Overall, the company said, that the income tied to all three titles was up 62% over the previous year. But that increased income isn’t the real reason Nintendo is making smartphone games, the creations remain a smart marketing tool meant to draw in a broader audience to the Switch.
It also sounds like Nintendo believes that recent news of its theme park partnership and movie deal could help drive more people to its core gaming business, “including those who used to play our games but currently do not, and those who have never played our video games before.”
While it’s not entirely clear what Nintendo’s plans are for the year, what is clear is that the company is going to have to have a significant marketing push, major new titles, and the return of beloved franchises to outsell a year that was fueled by the tail of the Switch launch and its surprisingly strong launch library.