Nintendo has found incredible success with its new hybrid console, the Nintendo Switch. It has been such a sales phenomenon that it was frequently out of stock at retailers across the world in the months following its March 3, 2017 debut. Supply was increased to meet demand, and by early fall most customers looking for a system in America could easily find one on retail shelves. This wasn’t the case in countries like Japan where some stores held lotteries just to get a ticket to purchase the console. Now that Christmas has come and gone, many retailers across the U.S. are also once again out of stock of the must-have gadget of 2017. Nintendo raised its sales forecasts for this fiscal year from 10 million to 14 million, and by all accounts they’re on track to hit that number.
Earlier this week Tatsumi Kimishima, President of Nintendo told a reporter at the Kyoto Shimbun that he hopes to sell over 20 million Switches for the next fiscal year (April 1, 2018 through March 31, 2019). At first glance this seems an impossible feat, especially when you consider the absolutely stellar lineup of first party games that graced the Switch in 2017. Arguably two of the biggest heavy hitters – The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and Super Mario Odyssey – helped propel the Switch into must-have territory for many gamers out there. Now that Nintendo has cashed in on those two franchises, what else could they possibly offer next year that would appeal to even more gamers and propel the system to even greater heights? Nintendo isn’t revealing their hand just yet, but there are some things that Nintendo could do to keep the sales machine churning.
Appeal To A Broad Audience
This approach worked with the Wii, which went on to sell over 100 million units, but failed with the Wii U. Some say that the “casual gamer” was lured away from the traditional video game market and over to smart phones and tablets. While this may be true, I think there are still a decent number of people who would buy a dedicated gaming system if the right killer apps were made available. One thing that Nintendo does better than any other game developer is create fun multiplayer experiences that are fun for the entire family. Wii U failed to capitalize on this because they muddied the message with awful marketing and confusing controllers. Switch has been the exact opposite and I think with the right software they could really capture that audience again.
Of course the challenge comes in creating software that’s compelling enough for that audience to take notice and play. 1-2 Switch, although selling over a million copies, isn’t the way forward. Games like Wii Sports and Wii Fit were the initial big sellers, but don’t forget that Super Mario Bros. Wii and Mario Kart Wii sold over 30 million each. Sure, we already have Mario Kart 8 Deluxe on the Switch, but perhaps for the first time ever we’ll see another, entirely new Mario Kart game hit the same platform. We haven’t seen a 2D Mario game on the system yet either, although I think it would be best to launch a new one of those further down the line. If Nintendo can figure out the next big thing in this category, they stand to really gain market share.
Another game series that’s ripe for the Switch is Animal Crossing. This one appeals to hardcore gamers and mainstream players alike. Nintendo has just released Pocket Camp on smart devices, and it makes perfect sense to bring a new game to the Switch. The mainline series completely skipped the Wii U and I’m willing to bet we’ll see a new entry in 2018. New Leaf sold exceptionally well, especially in Japan, and assuming there are some nice improvements and new gameplay ideas at play here it could be a massive success.
Keep Up The Pace Of Releases
One thing that Nintendo accomplished throughout 2017 was making sure a new first party game hit about every month or so. They avoided the notorious Nintendo drought that usually settles in a few months after a new system launches. This kept the momentum strong throughout the year and they need continue to do this throughout 2018. We already know that for next year they are publishing Bayonetta 2, which comes with a digital code for Bayonetta 1, and Dragon Quest Builders, both of which arrive in February. We also know that Kirby: Star Allies is slated for first quarter – most likely sometime in March. That’s three first party published games in the first three months of the year, but they’ll need to fill in the rest of the year with quality releases – and not just a bunch of ports from Wii U. Nintendo has another side-scroller with a brand new Yoshi (title TBA) game for the Switch. They showed off a few levels at E3 last year and it seemed very far along in development, so perhaps we’ll see that sooner rather than later?
Already announced for the Switch from Nintendo is a brand new Fire Emblem game slated to arrive sometime in 2018. We have yet to see anything from the game, but that doesn’t mean it’s not coming out sooner rather than later. Nintendo loves to keep details about games secret until just a few months from release. It’s entirely possible this one could come out in second quarter, but we will just have to wait and see for sure.
We also know that a new Pokémon game is in development for the Switch. When it was announced last June, the developers hoped to have the game released soon. What that means is anybody’s guess, but if they can deliver it by November of 2018 that would be a fantastic holiday title that would help propel system sales.
We mustn’t forget that a new Pikmin game has been in development as well. Mr. Miyamoto said it was almost done awhile back, but it was most likely moved to the Switch and may have needed to be tweaked to take advantage of that system’s unique feature set. I wouldn’t be surprised to see it appear this summer.
Although it’s most likely not coming in 2018, Nintendo has announced Metroid Prime 4 is in development for the Switch. We know nothing more than a logo. We know a new team is making it, but no word on how far along the development is. While it’s possible that it could make it out for the holiday season, I wouldn’t hold my breath. Of course we also have Retro Studios and whatever project they’ve been hammering away at for the past few years. Since it’s not Metroid, we’re even more eager to find out what it is. Will it be another entry in the Donkey Kong Country series, or something completely new?
There are plenty of games that didn’t reach their sales potential on Wii U that could be ported to the Switch, but as an owner of the failed system I don’t want Nintendo to rely too heavily on this strategy. Still, some games that would be right at home would be: Super Mario Maker, Super Smash Bros., Xenoblade Chronicles X, and Captain Toad, to name a few. If these types of releases were strategically placed throughout the year alongside strong new games, this could keep the momentum flowing throughout 2018.
There probably isn’t another video game company on earth that has as many beloved franchises and characters as Nintendo. As such, there are plenty of dormant series that are ripe for new installments. We’re talking new entries in racing games like F-Zero, Wave Race, and Excitebike. How about reinventing Star Tropics for a new generation? Nintendo keeps on renewing the Eternal Darkness trademark – do something with it!
There are games that have seen somewhat recent iterations, but I’d like to see new sequels. Titles like Punch-Out!!, Luigi’s Mansion, Kid Icarus, Paper Mario, Pilotwings, and Wario Land (or Wario Ware, we’re not picky) would be fantastic to have on the Switch. Given the huge success of Golf Story, Nintendo needs to bring back the Mario line of sports games with RPG elements as well.
We know that the Switch hasn’t even been out a year, and we’re not saying the price needs to be slashed just yet. However, by holiday of 2018 the system will probably need to see some sort of price adjustment, especially if Nintendo hopes to sell 20 million more. $299 isn’t outrageous for the Switch, but you have to consider that the PS4 and Xbox One regularly dipped down to the $199 mark during this holiday season, which is a mass-market price point. If Nintendo want to continue to sell at a fast clip, a price reduction of some sort is in order. At the very least they need to start packing in a free game to sweeten the deal. Obviously if the system continues to sell well throughout the year Nintendo probably won’t slash the price to $199 – but maybe a $249 retail price will be enough to keep system sales on the up and up.
It’s also probably too early in the system’s life to have a Nintendo Selects line of games at reduced prices, but Nintendo should try to lower the prices of its game cards so more third parties can reach price parity with PS4 and Xbox One. Having identical games release $10 higher on Switch than the competition is just a bad look and doesn’t bode well for third party support in the future. Requiring your customers to purchase additional memory just to play games like L.A. Noire, Resident Evil Revelations Collection, and NBA 2K18 is also an issue that needs to be resolved going forward.
World-Class Online System & Virtual Console
It’s no secret that Nintendo has yet to succeed in the online arena like Sony and Microsoft have. They seem determined to do things their own way, and usually it’s just an exercise in frustration. If Nintendo could launch their paid online service in 2018 with some quality of life enhancements that competing services provide it would go a long way in encouraging current owners and prospective buyers that they mean serious business.
Things that need to be implemented or fixed include a system wide party chat. We’re not talking about using a mobile app to communicate to friends, although fine if that’s what we have to use – but at least make a party chat at the system level so I can keep talking to my friends no matter what games we’re playing. This seems so fundamentally easy that it’s perplexing Nintendo has yet to figure this out.
Much like PlayStation Plus and Xbox Live Gold, I hope Nintendo finds a way to give out free games every month. They’ve alluded to doing just that with some of their retro games that are going to add in online connectivity. It’s a bit unclear if these games remain ours to keep or whether they get added to an ever-growing library of digital content, like Netflix. Either way, I want to play some classic games on the go. Honestly the more options the better – as some titles I’d love to buy individually and own them while others I’d be fine just having access to.
Increased Third Party Support & New IP
Finally, if Nintendo can continue to wrangle more third parties over to the Switch and offer up solid titles that will help solidify a more diverse lineup of games. Huge games like Call of Duty, Star Wars Battlefront II, and Grand Theft Auto V are conspicuously missing from the platform. This has an impact on potential buyers as they look at the game selection in stores and don’t see the biggest games of the year. Bethesda should be commended for getting Skyrim and DOOM onto the Switch this past fall, and for bringing Wolfenstein II out in 2018. Hopefully Nintendo can encourage more third parties to either port big titles or create original content. We know Square Enix and Capcom are committed to bringing more software out in the near future, which is a great sign.
Nintendo also needs to continue to create new IP with innovative ideas and unique propositions. We saw games like Snipperclips and ARMS in 2017, and even though I didn’t like the game, 1-2 Switch did sell decently well. Mr. Kimishima is promising new software in 2018 that enables new ways of playing – whatever that means! It also appears that Nintendo will be doubling down on DLC to keep players engaged with new software long after it comes out.
Nintendo got a lot of stuff right for the Switch in 2017. In order for it to continue to sell even better in 2018 and into 2019 they’ll have to deliver an impeccable lineup of software and keep people surprised and energized. The competition is sure to drop the prices of their hardware, which puts pressure on Nintendo to follow suit. If Nintendo can maintain a solid lineup of exclusive must-have games, garner greater third party support with some solid titles, and nail its paid online initiative, I think it could very well be on track to sell its 20 million systems during its next fiscal year. It’s difficult to predict the gaming industry – trends change so quickly and one day you’re the darling of the industry and the next day you’re in the gutter. As long as they continue to cleverly market the play anywhere aspect of the console and back it up with quality software, they should be in good shape!