2D Sells

Nintendo recently released their Nine months financial results briefing for fiscal year ending march 2019, and it is overall nothing surprising to read. However, in comparison to Wii’s four million unit sales in December 2009, Switch is still lagging despite its high spike of sales in December 2018. Why did the Wii see so many units sold? New Super Mario Bros. Wii. What gave Switch sales the dominance over Xbox One and PlayStation 4? Super Smash Bros. Ultimate.

People still snicker at the Wii, ignoring the amount of sales and install base it had. The economy ten years ago was in the trash and people didn’t exactly have the money to buy things as much as we do now. Effectively, currently anything sells due to the good overall health of the economy, even if there are some signs of its starting to go down a bit. Wii’s strategy to disrupt the market with a cheaper, less-powered device with software that would hit the consumer wants both in and out the consumer market was a massive success. The Switch being a hybrid console could have lead to a similar position, but the software’s not quite as much there as it could.

However, the spike the Switch saw last December was solely due to Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. The Wii U, despite having the initial version of the game (and let’s be completely frank; Smash Bros. Ultimate is effectively just a souped up port) the hardware and the software library were abysmal. 3.32 million units within four weeks for one title is something other companies can barely dream of, often citing hundreds of thousands of sales made throughout a year or so. It should be noted that Smash Ultimate also sold more than any other entry in the series, with Melee and Smash Bros. for Wii U having the least sales. Nintendo 3DS, despite its lacklustre success (or maybe even slight failure compared to the DS’ userbase) sold about three times Smash Bros. units than the Wii U.

Ten years ago, both the industry and the press weren’t exactly friendly towards Nintendo or its software. Despite it being the era of Retrosploitation with titles like Mega Man 9 being a thing, the industry and media lambasted that there wasn’t any space for 2D games, people didn’t want that. The Wii wasn’t powerful enough console to run the latest games and that its games weren’t wanted. Even Nintendo themselves were wrong in this. The sales the Wii made with New Super Mario Bros. Wii. showcased that there was, and still is, a strong demand for 2D games, even when Nintendo trips with them to some degree. NSMB on the DS was the start of it all, and the stupidly large amount of sales Wii’s Virtual Console made were stupidly insane.

2D games sell. The tale from the late 90’s and 00’s that 2D is dead and have no place are time and time again shown wrong in sales numbers. Even titles like Octopath Traveler makes waves by being high-profile 2D game. Another title that kicked a franchise back into the general consumer’s awareness is Mega Man 11. Despite being a budget title all things considering, its sales have been impressive and have effectively given Capcom the boost to seriously consider reviving their old franchises, as I’ve discussed earlier.

There is a way for the Switch to effectively make Wii level sales. However, that would require using the same mindset and tactics the Wii utilised, which would mean using the same tactics and mindset the DS utilised, which would mean using same the tactics and mindset the NES utilises, but Nintendo’s more often than not unwilling to return to their Classic Era arcade roots in this manner. Look at the lack of success of the N64, the Game Cube and the Wii U how that often goes, or in case of an extreme, the Virtual Boy. Actually the Wii U is probably even worse failure than the VB. You don’t become the top selling console in the market by having the most powerful console on the market; you do it by having a library that the consumers are needing to consume. Want isn’t enough. 2D Mario is the perfect example for this, as Nintendo, Miyamoto himself and the whole of industry considered 2D Mario effectively dead after Super Mario 64. The few re-releases here and there did some good, and the DS hit around.

PlayStation 2 is the best-selling home console to date. How it managed that is a combination of effectively making the DVD market in Japan overnight (it was the cheapest DVD player despite being rather poor player in overall terms) and how both of its major competitors made mistakes with Dreamcast and GameCube. Granted, Sega pretty much fucked up everything after they started ignoring Western market during Mega Drive, but we’ve covered that few times already. Xbox didn’t enter the fray until later, and by that point the PS2 already had most of its success ensured thanks to how much games were rolling unto the platform, despite being a bitch to code for. Sony wanted to repeat some of this with the PS3 by using Blu-Ray discs, but that wasn’t cutting it. We won’t be seeing another success like the PS2 due to the massive changes in how consumers use and purchase media, and how Microsoft and Nintendo are playing completely different game than what they were almost twenty years ago.

However, the console generations have repeated the Atari and the NES model of sales more often than not. You could even say that his has become a sort of mantra for the blog throughout the years; The software matters, not the hardware. The Switch is able to make Wii like sales if it hits the same core the Wii and the DS did. Despite I see it becoming one of the best arcade ports platforms we have currently, these are still ports and that’s not enough. The industry and the red ocean market of video games have a certain view on what kind of games AAA titles are, and how they sell. It’s not exactly positive, all things considered. Now consider what would happen if even half of the budget of these titles would go into developing 2D games with the same mentality.

Sadly, that’s not going to happen, because it would appear the mentality for 2D games is still stuck in mud. If it’s not full-blown 3D, the price isn’t really worth it. Mega Man 11 didn’t get a physical release for the Switch in Europe because of this. More and more games of 2D nature are relegated for digital releases only, further downgrading their status. While digital distribution is becoming the standard, there is a view where stores are chock full of mediocre to terrible 2D games from various developers and publishers, and throwing one more amidst of this sea of dregs doesn’t serve them.

Will the Switch overcome Wii at some point in the future? It will, if the software is there. It’s not exactly an uphill battle at this point, but rather a battle against Nintendo’s own internal wants. After all, you can’t just do whatever you want when you’re providing entertainment like this.

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