Originally published on Nintendo Enthusiast.
Nintendo’s president Tatsumi Kimishima hopes to sell 20 million Switch consoles during the next fiscal year, up from the company’s 14 million unit projection this year. Recently, I wrote an article on why Nintendo is unlikely to hit that sky-high figure. After all, the 20 million unit projection is nearly 50 percent higher than the projection for the console’s first full year.
The Switch could hit 20 million units sold, but several things need to take place for that to occur. By selling 20 million units in a single year, the Switch would be joining an exclusive club of some of the best-selling home consoles of all time: the Wii, PS2, and PS4. Here’s what needs to go right in order for the Switch to hit the 20 million unit goal.
Pokemon needs to sell a lot… very quickly
Pokemon is consistently Nintendo’s best-selling franchise. However, the franchise has historically only been able to move consoles up to a certain point. After all, when Pokemon X and Y launched on 3DS, that platform sold just 12 million units that year. In fact, although both Pokemon X/Y and Pokemon Sun/Moon sold roughly 16 million units, both launches are excellent examples of Nintendo’s evergreen titles. The games just keep on selling far past launch.
Normally, that’s an excellent quality! Evergreen titles keep the price of the game consistently at launch price, while also buoying platform sales to a consistent marker. In a quest to sell an astronomical 20 million units, however, Nintendo will need its Pokemon games to scoop up the next title at a faster rate.
Historically, Pokemon sells several million units at launch, but only hits 10 and 15 million units after years on the market. If the Switch is to sell 20 million units next year, Nintendo would need those more casual Pokemon fans to come home sooner, picking up both the game and the console within the first several months of the game’s launch. It’s not impossible, but generally, the part of Pokemon’s base that is more casual is willing to wait before picking the console up.
The Switch needs to break into the mainstream gamer market
So far, much of the Switch’s early success has come from two groups. First, Nintendo’s most hardcore base adopted the console at a very quick pace. Those who perhaps purchased the Wii U in its second or third year didn’t wait with the Switch. Most of Nintendo’s most faithful scooped up the Switch within the first several months of its launch.
The second group adopting the Switch at a quick rate has been more historical Nintendo fans. We know, for example, that about half of the console’s sales have come from the 25-34 year old demographic. Nearly 70 percent of sales were made to those aged 19 to 34. That is really impressive; it indicates that many of Nintendo’s historical fans are beginning to come back home.
The current landscape, however, has shaped up to be far different than that of Nintendo’s heyday. Mainstream AAA games rule the landscape on the PS4 and Xbox One. Nintendo’s big hitters would dominate the Twitter conversation for weeks at a time, but much of the “mainstream” and younger gamers stuck to the other platforms. At some point, Nintendo is going to need to break past its most faithful and nostalgic fans. If the company wants to hit the 20 million unit sales marker, it will need to sell Switch consoles to today’s gaming mainstream.
I can’t really say how Nintendo could get the stereotypical Overwatch, Call of Duty, or PUBG player to pick its console up, but if it figures out the trick then hitting 20 million Switch units for the year should be feasible.
Get more kids and women on board
Considering Nintendo’s recent history, it is slightly odd to suggest Nintendo needs to do better with kids, but the data indicates there’s a lot to gain by targeting the younger generation. In fact, according to the data, those under 18 make up just 12 percent of the Switch’s users. That’s crazy! This is the company of Mario, Zelda, and more recently capitalized on Skylanders.
It seems like Nintendo’s marketing is doing well so far. My nine-year-old sister was stoked to see me bring my Switch home for the holidays. She was excited about games like Splatoon and Mario, but our parents have not yet purchased a Switch for her. Nintendo needs to do a better job of capitalizing on the Switch’s awareness. The company needs to turn the platform’s recognition among children into concrete sales. If there is any company equipped to figure this puzzle out, it’s surely Nintendo. For the Switch to hit 20 million units, however, Nintendo needs to get the Switch into the hands of kids sooner rather than later.
Nintendo also cannot forget that its products have historically sold very well to women as well as men. Over 40 percent of 3DS owners were women and the same was true with the original Nintendo DS. Overall, women constitute 45 percent of gamers, according to ESA’s statistics. Yet, just 10 percent of Switch gamers are girls and women. This is a huge oversight; Nintendo leaves a huge gaming market untapped when sales are so lopsided. In the next year, it must leverage its properties including Animal Crossing. On the 3DS, nearly 60 percent of Animal Crossing: New Leaf owners were female.
I’m still rather skeptical Nintendo could hit 20 million Switch units sold in a single year, but the path is there for the company to do so. By leveraging its huge properties like Pokemon, breaking into the gaming mainstream, and doing a better job targeting children, Nintendo has a path forward to make its newest console among one of the most successful.