Nintendo called in fan favorites, including Mario and Smash Bros., at this year’s Electronic Entertainment Expo in Los Angeles. Super Mario Party will be heading to the Nintendo Switch this October, joined by Fire Emblem: Three Houses and the giant robot combat game Daemon x Machina.
However, it was Fortnite, the battle royale game that has become a worldwide phenomenon, that arguably stole Nintendo’s E3 Direct show on Tuesday with the announcement that a Switch version of the free-to-play game had become available for download via the eShop.
Sharing center stage was Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, which will arrive in December. It will feature just about every character who ever appeared in the popular series, with more than 60 fighters available for play. In addition to signature characters Mario, Link, and Donkey Kong, it will feature Pichu, Diddy Kong, and many others. For fans of the series, this promises to live up to the “ultimate” moniker.
“Super Smash Bros. Ultimate will be among the tent pole titles for the Switch for this year,” said Lewis Ward, IDC’s research director for gaming and VR/AR.
“It could be the iconic game that fans want to play,” he told TechNewsWorld. “These games have done well for Nintendo in the long run.”
With the arrival of the Switch last year, Nintendo arguably turned a corner and has righted its course with gamers. Its presence at E3 this week serves to highlight that fact, but its comeback is far from complete.
“Nintendo’s key aim is to maintain engagement from its existing Switch gamers and also broaden the appeal of the device to more casual gaming audiences,” said Piers Harding-Rolls, director and head of games research at IHS Markit.
“It will need to broaden Switch’s appeal to be able to deliver on its target of 20 million shipments during the current fiscal year,” he told TechNewsWorld.
Switch sales to consumers in 2018 are expected to reach 17 million, based on IHS Markit’s latest forecast.
“This broadening strategy is reflected in the reveal of Super Mario Party and the pre-E3 reveal of Pokemon Let’s Go,” added Harding-Rolls. “These games will appeal to younger gamers and family audiences but are also likely to be popular with existing Switch gamers. Super Smash Bros. Ultimate will also drive sales.”
Building on Success
Last year was a very strong year for first-party Nintendo content, and to replicate that in 2018 could be a challenge.
“Nintendo may have to lean on its third-party partners to maintain sales momentum,” said Harding-Rolls.
Fortnite could be the game that draws those on the fence to the Switch. Leading up to E3, there was a lot of speculation as to whether the hugely popular multiplatform battle royale gaming experience actually would make its way to the Switch.
“An earlier-than-expected release gives Nintendo a better chance of maintaining momentum through the summer months through to the big first-party releases in Q4,” noted Harding-Rolls.
Relying on a third-party title runs against the way Nintendo has operated in the past, but support for Fortnite could be a sign that the company has seen the writing on the wall: It will take more than signature characters to connect with the masses.
“In the past, Nintendo has often failed to maintain support from third-party publishers due to its content dominance on its own platforms,” recalled Harding-Rolls.
“The early success of the Switch has altered that dynamic, with many publishers keen to support the platform — although porting Fortnite across to the Switch was always going to be the case, considering it is already available across other consoles, PC and mobile devices,” he explained.
“Aside from Fortnite, there were no major third-party surprises, which is perhaps a little disappointing,” Harding-Rolls added, “although also a reflection of the seasonality of Nintendo’s business, with lots of releases coming towards the end of the year.”
Nintendo vs. Microsoft and Sony
In recent years, the battle for hardcore gamers has been fought between Microsoft and Sony for the most part, but the Switch was a surprise hit that connected with the masses. It didn’t replicate the success of the original Wii, however.
“Nintendo has bounced back in a huge way after what happened with the Wii U,” remarked IDC’s Ward.
“The Switch has tracked well with younger gamers, and that should continue,” he said. “This is the system that remains the most family-friendly. It has the right price point — at nearly (US)$100 less than its rival systems — and the games are mostly aimed at families. That is a trend we expect to continue.”