Most of the video game news you’re going to see in November will be about the new Sony PlayStation 5 or the new Xbox Series X. Both of those consoles launch this month, and they come with a very attractive-looking range of games available on day one. It’s quite right that most of the gaming world’s attention will be on those flagship consoles because they’re going to make huge money and become the platforms upon which most games are played for at least the next five years. While the rest of the world focuses on those two companies, we want to give Nintendo a shout-out.
In many ways, Nintendo is a name that’s associated more with the past of gaming than it is with the present. Gone are the days when Nintendo made the most-popular and most-played home entertainment consoles. They used to dominate the market with consoles like the Super Nintendo System and the N64, but in the past two decades, they’ve been pushed out of the top-tier in terms of performance by Sony and Microsoft. They captured a share of the family entertainment market with the Nintendo Wii, but in the 2020s, the company is more focused on smaller, handheld devices like the Nintendo Switch. That hasn’t harmed them as a brand. In fact, thanks to unprecedented demand for the Switch, the company’s year-on-year profits are up by more than 200%.
Part of the handheld console’s success can be put down to the fact that it went out of stock around six months ago, creating a buzz in the market about its popularity. It took a while for Nintendo to pick up production to the point where they could supply everybody who wanted a Switch, but since they got back on their feet in July, they’ve sold almost seven million units of the device. That’s forty percent more than they sold during the same period last year, despite the fact that the same period last year saw them launch the “Lite” version of the Switch and enjoyed what was seen as a strong quarter at the time.
The success of the Switch – and the company that makes it – is a reminder that Nintendo has found new ways to thrive thanks to its ability to diversify its products. We know that the company is currently collaborating with television and movie producers to make live-action shows, cartoons, and films based on famous Nintendo properties. They’ve also been working with online slots websites and the companies that make games for them. We’ve seen two brand-new online slots released based on the iconic character “Link” from the “Zelda” franchise during the past twelve months. They might have been inspired to do this by seeing other video game products doing well on online slots websites like Kong Casino “Worms,” “Resident Evil,” and “Call of Duty” have all managed to draw dollars by becoming online slots, too.
Aside from pushing the Switch as hard as they can, Nintendo has also taken note of the success of “Pokemon Go” and decided that the time is right for them to investigate the possibilities of augmented reality. They couldn’t have picked a better character or game to do it with. The recently released “Mario Kart Live: Home Circuit” blends the virtual and physical world together perfectly, allowing players to race a remote-controlled Mario around their home inside their car while dodging obstacles that can only be seen when viewed through the screen of a Switch device. The combined toy-and-video game format might be a recipe for tripping over in the kitchen or annoying your pet cat, but it’s expected to be a very popular gift for younger gamers this Christmas.
Nintendo was already having an impressive year even before the doubling of its year-on-year profits. You might recall all the hype that was generated earlier on in the year when the latest version of “Animal Crossings” was released, and the world went crazy for it. The game has shipped more than 26 million copies across the world and is now the all-time second best selling Nintendo Switch game. Only Mario Kart 8 is ahead of it in terms of sales, and some projections suggest that it might even steal Mario’s crown by the end of the first quarter of 2021. That would be no small achievement when you consider Mario’s near-universal popularity and the size of the character’s fan base.
With so much momentum behind the company at the moment, Nintendo has adjusted its sales projections upward for the remainder of the financial year. In a statement released within the past few days, Nintendo informed shareholders that the business is on course to make just under four and a half billion dollars in operating profit before the start of April 2021. That’s a huge mark-up from its last projection in May when the target figure was listed as $2.8bn. It had almost reached that figure by the end of June and now has ambitions to go far higher. Part of that plan involves selling a further 24 million Switch units before the end of next May, which would be an increase of five million units compared to last year.
While this might be the strongest period of sales that the Nintendo Switch has ever seen, it might also prove to be its swansong. There have been reports in Japan – unconfirmed at this stage – that Nintendo has a new version of the Switch up its sleeve for 2021 and that this was the reason that the company appeared to scale back on production earlier this year. Nintendo has declined to comment on those rumors so far. That might mean that there’s nothing to them. Alternatively, it could mean that the company is keeping its cards close to its chest because it doesn’t want to put people off the idea of buying a current-gen Switch because they know that a newer model is on the way. We most likely won’t discover the truth about that situation until early 2021.
All of this goes to show that while tastes change in video gaming, legends never die. Nintendo’s old rival Sega might not be in the business of making video game consoles anymore, but Nintendo is one hundred percent still in the fight – and based on its successes this year, who’s to say whether they’ll feel bold enough to try re-entering the top-tier market with a new, more powerful console?