Nintendo's downward trend is not cause for concern
On Aug. 5, Nintendo released its financial data regarding the first quarter of its financial year, covering hardware and software sales for April, May, and June releases. While the Nintendo Switch continues to sell well, a quick glance at the report will reveal that sales were down across the board compared to this time last year. Of course, this can be attributed to two major factors: The ongoing global pandemic, and the release of the juggernaut that was Animal Crossing: New Horizon, which bumped sales to record highs last year.
Published alongside these numbers were the best-selling games on the system, which included a mostly homogeneous list of Mario and Pokémon games. However, when financial information like this is shared, the conversation on the internet tends to shift towards negativity. Why isn't every Nintendo game selling 10 million units? Is Nintendo doomed? Can they only find success by making Mario games?
While "Nintendoom" is not new, I think it's important to discuss how we measure success when talking about games. Every game doesn't need to sell 30 million copies to be successful.
Taking a look at the hardware itself, the Nintendo Switch hardware sales are down 21.7%. In particular, the Nintendo Switch Lite is down a whopping 56.7% when compared to last year. But in the same breath, Nintendo Switch sales surpassed both the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, making the Nintendo Switch the seventh best selling console of all time. It's also outpacing every past home console in history on the way to 100 million. That hardly counts as slowing down.
As mentioned before, the downward trend can be attributed to the ongoing global pandemic somewhat, though to say gaming is dead because we're getting vaccinated, is tossing a blanket over a much more nuanced conversation. Gaming is not a sudden trend that people picked up during the pandemic. It's a billion-dollar industry that continues to get bigger year to year. It also fails to take into consideration just how massive Animal Crossing: New Horizons' success was.
Call it good luck or good timing, but Animal Crossing: New Horizons launched just before the world seemingly shut down, and the already popular life-simulator offered a vacation away from the dreary real world. It pulled in a huge number of gamers, many of those who bought a Switch or Switch Lite for the first time, and as of June 30, sold a whopping 33.89 million units in just over a year's time, just four million shy of the top spot held by Mario Kart 8 Deluxe and almost 10 million units above the third-place holder, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate.
In truth, there's just not a system seller out right now, and there likely won't be until Pokémon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl arrive in November. But with the Switch OLED model releasing in October (and preorders selling out in mere minutes) there's no lack of interest in new consoles from Nintendo. It's very likely that the series could hit 100 million consoles sold by the end of their financial year.
If it's not fun, why bother?
Nintendo's 2021 lineup has been interesting, as it's mostly been made up of Nintendo's more niche offerings. Games like Mario Golf: Super Rush and New Pokémon Snap were big hits in this quarter, selling 1.34 and 2.07 million respectively, and the second half of the year is packed with games like WarioWare: Get It Together, Metroid Dread, and Advance Wars 1+2: Re-Boot Camp, two sequels to decade dormant franchises, and a remake of two GBA games.
But you don't need to sell upward of 30 million units to be considered a success. Metroid Dread, for example, only needs to sell three million units to be considered the best-selling Metroid game in its 35-year history, toppling the record set by 2002's Metroid Prime. For a series that has historically never sold that well, three million is an incredible sales number.
In fact, many of the Wii U ports have done significantly better on the Switch than on the Wii U. Recent ports like Pikmin 3 Deluxe and Super Mario 3D World + Bowser's Fury, outsold their Wii U counterparts in a fraction of the time frame. Even the remaster of the 3DS RPG, Miitopia, crossed the one million threshold and is on track to outsell the 3DS version. Every one of these should be considered a success, as the Switch's larger install base means more brand recognition and higher sales for many of Nintendo's "smaller" titles.
Coupling all of this with the continued success of evergreen titles like Mario Kart 8 Deluxe (a remaster of a Wii U game), The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Splatoon 2, and Super Mario Odyssey, and the Nintendo Switch's successes are hardly slowing down.
With reports of astronomical gains from games like Fortnite, Call of Duty, and Grand Theft Auto, it's easy to lose the sense of the barometer for success. Games that are lower budget with smaller, niche followings can be successful, while dips in sales are not by any means an indicator of disaster. With a new Switch model on the way and plenty of fan-favorite titles on the horizon, Nintendo has never been in a better place.
But what do you think? Do you think that Nintendo's output has been as successful as I think, or do you think that the tank is running dry for the Big N? Let us know in the comments.
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Zackery Cuevas is a writer for Windows Central, Android Central, and iMore. He likes playing video games, talking about video games, writing about video games, and most importantly, complaining about video games. If you're cool, you can follow me on Twitter @Zackzackzackery.