Disappointed about Nintendo’s 2013 lineup? Why these games?

This is partially a follow up to my last article regarding Nintendo’s strategy and just why we aren’t getting the Mario 64 or Galaxy type game we were expecting, as well as why Retro is doing Donkey Kong instead of Metroid. This time, with some data, for a little more insight.

Metroid Prime Corruption and Mario Galaxy were released in the 3rd quarter and 4th quarter of  2007 respectively.

Donkey Kong Returns, along with Metroid Other M and Goldeneye were released within that same 3rd quarter and 4th quarter period for the year of 2010.

There is no denying that as far as gaming experiences, 2007’s lineup is better. It offers Mario Galaxy, a type of game that is considered a “system seller” and an ambitious core Metroid game. In terms of the potential to sell more systems, 2007 looks like it would have 2010’s less ambitious titles beat.

Now the Wii as whole was a phenomena and sold extremely well. But this chart gives us an idea as to when Nintendo sold the most systems. Its a given that the most activity would be seen around the 3rd and 4th quarters because that’s the holiday season. But we can compare those spikes in sales to determine a general idea of which fall lineups performed the best.

Here we see that the quarters that included Donkey Kong Returns did better than the ones that had Mario Galaxy and Metroid Prime Corruption. Of some of the larger games released around the holidays in 2010, Donkey Kong Returns is probably the biggest in terms of brand. Metroid Other M was also present, but opinions of the title were very mixed, and I doubt it sold great.

The releases for 2007 were by far the better games. Why did Nintendo not sell as many systems in 2007?

Although it probably played some role, I doubt we can attribute all of this to Nintendo not always having had enough Wiis to meet the demand early in the systems lifecycle.

Now I’m not stating my opinions as facts. I’m merely putting on my Industry Analyst hat on and trying to read into the data, to come up with some theories as to how a period with some non-system sellers could sell more systems than a period that does have “system sellers”. Not only that, outsold it by almost 2 million system units according to this chart.

My bet is on the fact that the games released on 2010 were ones that had a broader appeal. None of those games are considered system sellers in the eyes of gamers, yet they seem to have had that kind of an affect; probably because their target audience is so broad.

But Donkey Kong isn’t the only questionable title. Super Mario 3D World is another controversial title. Like I said in my last article, I believe Super Mario 3D World strikes the same chords both in terms of experience provided to the gamer and appeal, to the New Super Mario Bros series. Both are casual friendly, both are Mario games, both titles seem to be in about the same league in terms of how ambitious they are, and both are multiplayer focussed.

The WiiU had a very successful holiday launch. Aside from the packaged in NintendoLand, New Super Mario Bros was the only other main first party title that launch. It isn’t considered a system seller. NintendoLand was also, not considered a system seller, because it didn’t have the instant appeal that WiiSports had. Where as on the Wii, people specifically bought the Wii for WiiSports, but NintendoLand didn’t have that same affect on the WiiU. It didn’t strike that must own chord that the Wii’s packaged in game struck with the general consumer.

Apparently 3rd party games didn’t sell all that well, except for maybe ZombieU; and that game isn’t considered a system seller either. So what drove that initial burst of system sales for the WiiU? Could New Super Mario Bros have played a roll? It did have an extremely high attach rate with the WiiU.

With Most people buying the deluxe bundle, that already included a game, and then going out to buy New Super Mario Bros (NSMB) Wiiu. Maybe a game like NSMB, although not considered a “system seller”, may have actually had the kind of affect that games labeled as such tend to have on system sales.

And if Mario 3D World is has the same type of appeal, it may cause the same type of behaviour in consumers. Generally speaking, the game is like a 3d version of NSMB WiiU. To me, it looks even more fun than NSMB, so maybe those who weren’t quite persuaded to buy before, just might now.

Past data might indicate that this lineup may sell more systems than if these games were more ambitious, but with a narrower appeal. As a gamer, I would rather have more ambitious titles, but as a fan of Nintendo’s, who wants to see them succeed, I am more or less convinced that there is merit to these games from a strategic standpoint. Strategically, this could mean quicker systems sales, which means a quicker return of the 3rd parties to support the WiiU.

Lets say more ambitious yet narrower appeal games would have sold more units this fall, and that Nintendo’s current lineup for this holiday season failed in generating a meaningful boost in system sales.

It would only have delayed the inevitable by about 6 months because Mario Kart is expected to come out in the Spring of 2014. There is no denying the system selling power of that game. We also have Smash Bros coming out sometime in 2014, which is also a system seller. Basically, 3rd parties are going to have to jump in if system sales is their only excuse. Either they do it based on the momentum built this holiday season on the WiiU, or they do it when they see the affect Mario Kart has on system sales.

In conclusion, we have nothing to worry about. It will a longer wait than we expected when we bought the system, but we and the WiiU will be fine.

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