Nintendo has been making market headlines, not only in the games industry but also as a business in general thanks to the incredible success of the Switch. In less than one year on the market the daring handheld console-hybrid managed to outsell its Wii-U predecessor and to this date has sold almost 15 million units worldwide. Add to that Mario Odyssey’s 9 million sold, and the switch version of Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild at close to 8 million, needless to say, Nintendo is back.
Nintendo has gone on to say to set a precedent of sales pushing past their 20 million sold goal for 2018, to a grand 30 million by the end of 2019. For those of you doing the math’s, that is 10 million units per year on average. And that’s after the first year included Mario and Zelda. Clearly, the item is beloved and is already a greater success than many of Nintendo’s other ventures. So the question becomes, what do they need to do to continue these numbers? And if they’re smart, gamers should be excited. Now let us never take the infamous randomness of Nintendo for granted. They have been known to make some questionable decisions, especially when on-top, but with the splendour of Zelda and Mario reaching new heights on the Switch, and the actual software development portions of Nintendo rarely being held in scrutiny, there are some specific things they’re going to need to get out to market to reach their goals.
They got Zelda, they got Mario, they smartly ported Mario Kart 8. Splatoon 2 continues to be a success, and Arms is the only arguable dud. 2018 has already featured the smart remaster of Bayonetta, solidifying it has a Nintendo property for more than the five people who got to play “2” on Wii-U, A decent, albeit uninspired release of Kirby: Start Allies, another Wii-U port in the form of the excellent Donkey Kong: Tropical Freeze and Mario Tennis will reach us this Summer, and of course who could forget the return to Super Smash Bros.
These releases, alongside the assortment of indie releases, have already made for a great 2018 lineup, as Switch continues to be the best place to play indie titles. But as most have assumed, there’s got to be one more big Nintendo release for this year, and you can bet it’s going to be a big holiday release. Most of the rumours and speculation would lead us to the only two logical conclusions: Pokémon or Animal Crossing. The difficulty of deciding which one it is quite complicated. I’ve given this a lot of thought over the past few weeks, since the last Nintendo Direct, but still, all I’ve got is speculation. So here is my assumption, because I think it is what makes the most business sense for Nintendo. Pokémon makes the most sense as a console mover. It has global appeal and is one of the best-selling franchises in the world. Pokémon, in reality, is Nintendo’s second best-selling franchise at close to 300 million units sold. Not even Zelda has broken the 100 million markers yet, so if there is a title for a huge push in hardware sales, it is certainly Pokémon that you want to get out the door.
Already this year, they are ahead of their sales schedule, and exited 2017, also ahead. Bayonetta, Kirby, DK:TF, and Mario Tennis are great, and the install base will be profitable for both, but they don’t move consoles. But Super Smash Bros. does move consoles. Especially when the console also holds a Zelda and a Mario already. I personally know four people who are purchasing a Switch by this summer, simply in preparation for 5mash. And herein, lies the problem with Pokémon. If they truly want to sell 30 million units by the end of 2019, they’re going to need at least one more big push after this holiday season. Pokémon is capable of moving consoles and selling gang-busters at any time in the year, holiday does not matter one bit.
And now for Animal Crossing, my sweet, sweet joy in an otherwise muddled life. I find that many people in the west are surprised to discover what a success Animal Crossing is. Animal Crossing is Nintendo’s tenth best-selling franchise worldwide with over 32 million games sold. Now that’s not saying much against the likes of Mario, Pokémon, and Zelda, but partnered in not only a year but at least the same half-year as Super Smash Bros. (the 7th best selling franchise), Nintendo could make some serious cash. This is not my only reason for this assumption. First of all, I think Nintendo is planning something quite large and potentially different with their Switch edition of Pokémon, and it doesn’t seem to me that Game Freak would have had enough time to pull that together sufficiently. This, of course, is a huge assumption on my part, so don’t quote me on it. However, two pieces of history would also dictate to us that it’s Animal Crossing. First is the often mentioned fact that Nintendo has now released a full-blown franchise instalment after allowing the Mobile adaptations about one year on the Market. Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp came to our mobile phones in October of 2017, and just as Mario Odyssey came ten months after Super Mario Run. Second, every single Animal Crossing game has had a November or October release date, including, not that it matters much, Pocket Camp. It also makes sense from a game development, not a business point, to release Animal Crossing as soon as possible, as the games are made better by gestation and over-time consumption due to the real-time clock and events.
I believe this timeline shows the absolute best way for Nintendo to achieve their financial goals and get the most out of their announced games. 5mash released at the end of Summer, August or September. Animal Crossing as the partnered holiday season alongside 5mash, released in October or November. And that leaves 2019 to release Pokémon, possibly in the Spring to get console sales up, and then Metroid Prime 4 sometime later in the year since Metroid doesn’t move consoles but will sell to those who have a Switch. I’m probably getting into the territory of conspiracy at this point, but I have also noticed that a lot of the gaming podcasts and sites I read were talking actively about Animal Crossing earlier this year, and lately have stopped even bringing it up. It makes me wonder if they are perhaps under embargo, though I don’t know what they would have been told at all. I just really want to play Animal Crossing on my Switch.