Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Nintendo is firing on all cylinders right now

Nintendo is firing on all cylinders right now
By Dave Smith

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe (Switch)Nintendo

Are you having a good 2017? Because Nintendo is having a great 2017.

The company is firing on all cylinders right now:

  • The $300 Switch is Nintendo's fastest-selling console, and stores are still struggling to meet demand months after its debut. Nintendo sold roughly 2.74 million Switch consoles in less than a month, which is impressive considering how supply issues have been both massive and pervasive. Retailers say they're constantly out of stock — selling out within "hours, not days" — so Nintendo is doubling its Switch production to meet demand. This means even shipping some Switch supplies via airplanes, even though it's more expensive for Nintendo to do so.
  • "The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild" is Nintendo's biggest hit in years. More people bought copies of "Zelda" than actual Switch consoles (2.76 million vs. 2.74 million, respectively). Perhaps people are waiting for Switch consoles to come back in stock, but it's also likely that people are buying multiple copies (both digital and physical) so they can show off the gorgeous-looking physical copy in their homes while keeping the digital copy with them everywhere. Even Nintendo's own president Tats umi Kimishima recently said "it is surprising that 'Zelda' is doing so well."
  • "Mario Kart 8: Deluxe," which is only three days old at this point, is already the fastest-selling "Mario Kart" game in history, according to Nintendo. It's already sold 459,000 copies in that three-day span, which is roughly one in every two Nintendo Switch owners. 
  • Nintendo had the confidence to kill one of its most popular products in years, the $60 NES Classic Edition. Though it was only available for just five months (and constantly sold out during that time), Nintendo said it sold two million units of the tiny NES Classic, named for its 30 classic NES games built-in. There are plenty of good reasons why Nintendo killed it, but as a way to get normal folks talking about Nintendo again, the NES Classic can only be called a success. And it looks like Nintendo wants to repeat that success: Eurogamer reports Nintendo is working on a similar Super Nintendo Classic Edition.
  • Nintendo surprised everyone by announcing a new portable console last week: the $150 New 2DS XL, which launches in July. The 3DS has been one of Nintendo's best-selling consoles in recent years, but not everyone is a fan of the console's 3D effects, which don't require glasses to see but also don't add much to the experience. Enter the New 2DS XL, which costs $50 less than the 3DS and looks just as good, minus those 3D features. It also comes in a bevy of gorgeous color combinations. If you've never owned a 3DS and never played any of its incredible games, this might be the best way to take advantage of that stellar library. Fan reaction has been very positive so far.

Nintendo also has a great-looking year ahead. It will make several big announcements at E3, the annual gaming conference that takes place in June. It will also release several great-looking games this year, including "Splatoon 2," the sequel to the Wii U's surprise hit "Splatoon," and a brand-new 3D Mario game called "Super Mario Odyssey" that will be ready in time for the holidays. (Plenty of other games will launch throughout the year.)

Super Mario OdysseyNintendo

But here's what's most impressive: In just two short months, Nintendo has flipped the script on the Switch. Prior to its launch, the biggest worry was that the Switch — an underpowered console, compared to the PlayStation and Xbox — wouldn't have enough games to justify its $300 cost. But thanks to the successes of "Zelda" and "Mario Kart," as well as several smaller and cheaper games like the $20 party game "Snipperclips," it's become very easy to recommend and justify owning a Switch. 

Also worth noting is that the Switch launch was far from perfect. People complained about all sorts of issues when it launched — connectivity problems, controller issues, general availability, etc. — and the console itself isn't perfect either. You can't charge the device in tabletop mode, and tabletop mode is pretty awful in general due to the flimsy, unsatisfactory kickstand. The Switch also lacks Nintendo's Virtual Console, a storefront to buy older Nintendo games that's has been available on every recent Nintendo console at launch.

And yet, people are willing to overlook these flaws because the Switch, and its games, are that good. Missing features mean little because what the console does have is so very good. It speaks volumes to Nintendo's focus on quality, which only bodes well for the future of the Switch and any other console it chooses to release — be it a new 2DS, a new mini "Classic" console with built-in games, or perhaps even some more smartphone games. It feels like Nintendo can do no wrong right now, which could absolutely not be said about Nintendo at this point last year — or even at this point six months ago.

Expect to learn more about Nintendo's plans for the Switch, the New 2DS XL, and more at E3, which takes place in June.

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May 2, 2017 at 08:45AM
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