Nintendo ended 2018 with a huge bang, ending the year as the number 1 console in the US and Japan. Spearheaded by their big hit Super Smash Brothers Ultimate in December, the Switch is rumored to have sold more than the PS4 and Xbox One consoles combined in the US for the December (NPD US does not show actual unit sales). This is no small feat as its primary competitor, Sony’s Playstation 4 is in its 5th year of release where consoles have historically sold the most in its mature stage.
Critics were initially doubting the Switch on reaching Nintendo’s lofty goal of 20 million units sold for the fiscal year. The second year of the Switch wasn’t all roses as first party game releases slowed down compared to 2017. Still, the existing big hits such as Mario Kart 8 Deluxe and Zelda Breath of The Wild kept them in the race throughout the year along with the help of third party exclusive titles such as the hit RPG Octopath Traveler.
Nintendo bet everything on its big holiday releases Super Mario Party, Pokemon Let’s Go Pikachu and Eevee; spent a lot of time building up the hype and marketing for Super Smash Brothers Ultimate, and all of it paid off. With the help of the rabid fanbase spreading viral memes and celebrated character reveals, it broke through and became the best-selling exclusive game in its first month in history in the US; surpassing Halo: Reach for the Xbox 360 back in 2010.
While Nintendo is still not quite at their goal of 20 million Switches sold for the fiscal year (they have until March 2019 to do so), the holiday sales boost propelled them very close to that goal and allowed them to overtake the PS4 and take the lead for 2018 in the US.
Meanwhile in Japan, the Nintendo Switch ended up more than doubling the sales of the PS4 at 3.48 million units sold for 2018. The hybrid console continued its ascent on top of the charts week by week, and Super Smash Brothers Ultimate became the best selling game in 2018 in the country despite only having launched in December.
There is no doubt that the Nintendo Switch has proven all of the critics wrong and has given them something to think about. In my view, the Switch is proving that despite having a failed console cycle with the Wii U, Nintendo still has the strongest first party IP in the industry.
A good example is Mario Kart 8 Deluxe which has had very long legs on the charts and is continuing to sell consoles and software despite it being a re-release from the Wii U. The company takes very good care of its marquee Mario, Zelda and Smash franchises combined with their unique take on hardware. As a Switch owner, having the luxury of being able to play home console games on the go was something unthinkable just a few years ago. The Switch is a console I would like everyone I know to experience, as there’s nothing quite like having a race in Mario Kart with 2 joycons while waiting for your order in a restaurant, trying to knock each other out in Smash over a drink, or being able to play NBA 2k19 on the road (not the mobile version); and it seems that more people want that kind experience that as well.
The video game industry is also benefiting from a healthy Nintendo as all 3 manufacturers have posted very good numbers for their previous earnings calls. Each of them are forced to bring out innovation, new ideas and bring out better exclusives and services such as the Xbox Game Pass, Game Sharing and Cross-play.
2019 will prove to be once again an interesting year as Nintendo has some heavy hitters yet to be released such as Animal Crossing, Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3 and Metroid Prime 4, as well as new character DLC for Super Smash Brothers Ultimate. Third parties are also starting to solve the equation of “port everything to the Switch” with its portable hardware limitations. With still a month to go before the end of the fiscal year, Nintendo’s challenge to itself still stands: 20 million Switches sold. There are still a few weeks before we find out, but like the age old Nintendo meme says: It prints money.
Article by Franz Francisco Chan