In September, Sony and its PlayStation 5 ended Nintendo’s 33-month streak of having the highest-selling console in the U.S. It was the first time since November 2018 that any platform besides the Switch led the U.S. market in unit sales. But the OLED model boosted Nintendo back into its comfortable pole position.
“October this year is only 3 percent lower than what was sold last year, which I think we can all agree was a bit of an anomaly year when it comes to overall hardware sales,” Bowser said, referring to the covid-19 pandemic. “So we think this is a solid start for the OLED model. We also think this is a very strong indicator of the performance we can expect as we go through the holiday season.”
There’s some good news for Metroid fans, too: “Metroid Dread” sold 854,000 copies in October, which Bowser said is the best launch in series history. That Nintendo is proud enough to announce these numbers bodes well for the franchise, which has had a shaky sales history.
He said many of the Switch units sold were purchased by people who already own a Switch and were either buying another unit for themselves or for their families.
This messaging is reflected in a new advertisement starring Christina Aguilera, who is shown having her own Switch console and playing with her children. Bowser touted these celebrity-focused ads (including another recent one with Neil Patrick Harris) as very effective in selling the machine’s appeal to a wide variety of audiences.
Nintendo’s exclusive intellectual property also continues to boost the console’s sales. The two top-selling Switch games are “Mario Kart 8 Deluxe” (a seven-year-old game that still tops monthly games charts) and “Animal Crossing: New Horizons," which have sold 38 million and 35 million copies respectively. Bowser said new Switch owners are often filling up their library with Nintendo’s back catalogue, which keeps these games selling better than newer, modern titles.
Despite the Switch’s strong library of almost 7,000 games, longtime Nintendo fans continue to wonder why the company refuses to sell its decades-old archives of classic games from older platforms, like the Game Boy Advance, Nintendo DS and GameCube. Its previous platforms (Wii, Wii U and 3DS) each had robust digital shops filled to the brim with retro games.
The Switch, by comparison, has only focused on new games. Instead of a digital shop, Nintendo has decided to pack its annual online subscription service with games from the Nintendo, Super Nintendo, and, in recent weeks, the Nintendo 64 and Sega Genesis. Those last two were added as part of an “Expansion Pack” to its online services, altogether priced at $50 a year, as opposed to the original $20 plan for Nintendo Switch Online, which remains available to customers.
Bowser said Nintendo wants to continue to offer more classic games within that service in the future.
“As we looked at the Switch platform and we looked at the way people are engaging in games today, we thought that the Nintendo online service and its original offering of NES and SNES games was a great place for us to bring those games to market and offer value to that service overall,” Bowser said. “We’re at a point now where we have over 130 games available across all four of those different platforms [NES, SNES, 64 and Genesis], and the plan is to continue to focus on the quality of that content and adding to the value as we go forward.”
There are no strong signs in the Switch’s sales curve that might indicate it will “redefine” the console cycle, although the Switch has done “incredibly well so far” in its lifetime, said Mat Piscatella, executive director and game industry adviser at market research firm The NPD Group.
“And ultimately the consumer is going to make the decision of when the life cycle of a console slows,” Piscatella added.
But Bowser said October’s result and the Switch’s top-selling performance since 2018 keeps him optimistic going into 2022. He has good reason to be: 2022 is looking to be a banner year for Nintendo exclusive titles, including the long-awaited sequel to “The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild,” “Pokémon Legends: Arceus,” “Splatoon 3,” “Bayonetta 3” and “Kirby and the Forgotten Lands.”
The Switch’s launch was augmented considerably by the simultaneous release of “Breath of the Wild," as initial sales of both the game and the console were almost one to one. Beyond the sequel to that game, the upcoming Pokémon game promises to reinvigorate the formula of the world’s most popular media franchise for the first time in decades by offering gameplay that mirrors the experience found in “Breath of the Wild.”
“This is really part of an arc that allows us to start really bringing forward some of the biggest franchises to the platform,” Bowser said. “While most video game consoles start to see some slowing down at that point, we don’t believe that will be the case with the Switch. The games that we’re offering have something for everyone.”