The Nintendo Switch and ‘Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild’ helped reboot the video game brand
Nintendo is back in the game.
The Japanese giant’s new Nintendo Switch – which doubles as a handheld device and a gaming system for your TV – has become the fastest-selling video game console the company has ever made. Nintendo sold 906,000 of the $300 Switches in March in the U.S. alone, the company revealed last Thursday, spiking its stock up 12% since the beginning of March. Industry analysts suspect that close to 2 million Switches may actually have been sold globally, but Nintendo won’t be releasing those numbers until its April 27th fiscal year-end earnings report.
Yet as recently as December, Nintendo’s stock was tumbling from poor reviews of its Super Mario Run app for the iPhone. And its last major console release – the 2012 Wii U – sold just 13.56 million units; a dud compared to the 101.6 million original 2006 Wii consoles.
Here’s how Nintendo got cool again:
- Pokemon Go re-energized the brand last summer. Although the popular app is run by Niantic, which snapped up Pokemon’s mobile gaming rights, Nintendo actually owns one-third of the Pokemon company itself. And it has the exclusive console rights to all other Pokemon games. “Consumers associate Pokemon with Nintendo, so the success of Pokemon Go last year got Nintendo back in the forefront of people’s minds,” said Michael Pachter, a video game analyst with Wedbush Securities.
- The NES Classic stoked nostalgia. Gen Xers and Millennials flipped over the mini NES Classic Edition in November: a palm-sized version of the original Nintendo Entertainment System that gamers grew up with in the 80s. The $60 console that came equipped with 30 fan-favorite games like the Super Mario Bros., Donkey Kong and Metroid sold out almost immediately online and in Target, Walmart and Best Buy. People are reselling them on eBay for $200 to $999, and those prices are poised to skyrocket even higher: Nintendo also announced on Thursday that it’s discontinuing the NES Classic. So what will those frustrated shoppers do? Maybe buy a Switch.
- The Nintendo Switch is a great gaming system. “It is a fantastic piece of tech,” said NPD Games analyst Mat Piscatella, echoing many other rave reviews. “Nintendo is still really good at what they do – it’s just been a little while since they’ve been up front in the console stage.” And people aren’t balking at the $300 price, since the popular handheld Nintendo 3DS launched at $250 in 2011.
- The new Zelda game is incredible. “The Switch is something they have gotten right. And the Zelda game released with it [“The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild”] is now the second-highest rated video game of all time,” said Pachter. In fact, more copies of the new Zelda game (925,000) have been sold in the U.S. than the actual Switch gaming system it’s played on. Nintendo suspects people are buying the limited special editions as collector’s items for $100 to $130, and then also picking up the standard $50 edition to actually play. “Not to superimpose my judgement over the reviews, but it really is amazing. Once you start playing it, you can’t stop,” said Pachter.
- There’s more great games on the horizon. Nintendo’s momentum is poised to continue this year with buzzworthy gaming titles from beloved franchises Mario Kart, Splatoon and Super Mario scheduled to roll out leading up to the big holiday shopping rush this fall. “Nintendo is still really good at what they do — making games like Mario Kart or the Super Mario Bros. that appeal to everybody, not just your mature video game aficionado playing shooter games,” said Piscatella.
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