In just over one month, Nintendo will release their next console into the wild. After Wii U struggled to gain momentum and sold just 13.56 million units worldwide (the lowest ever for a major Nintendo console), Nintendo is hoping to rebound and capture a much larger portion of the market with Nintendo Switch. Analysts have predicted that Switch could sell 40 million units by the end of 2020 (which would be a pretty impressive turnaround for the company), but Nintendo is setting their sights even higher.
Nintendo President Tatsumi Kimishima recently sat down with the Japanese publication Nikkei to discuss Nintendo Switch, and he was brimming with optimism. After expressing that preorders are going well (well enough that Nintendo is ramping up production of the console and manufacturing more than originally planned), Kimishima stated that he believes Nintendo Switch has the potential to sell as well as Wii did.
Wii was Nintendo's most successful home console of all time (in terms of hardware sales), with 101.36 million units sold to date. As Kimishima explained, Switch offers gamers "a new type of play style," but it also has a controller that can sense players' motion, which he hopes will seem familiar for Wii fans.
Of course, Nintendo executives also used to say that they expected Wii U to sell just as well as Wii, and that didn't pan out so well. That said, Ubisoft has expressed faith in the console multiple times, even going so far as to predict that it will attract lapsed Wii owners who skipped Wii U.
Perhaps more importantly, Nintendo seems more willing to leverage some marketing power for Switch. While the late Satoru Iwata cut back on Nintendo's TV presence, stating that TV commercials don't help sales, Nintendo will now be airing a Switch commercial during the Super Bowl. As the most-watched event in the world, 30 seconds ads in the Super Bowl are not cheap.
Securing a 30 second spot during the big game will cost Nintendo $5 million to $5.5 million this year, but it will likely be worth every penny. When The Pokémon Company decided to open their wallets up and air a Super Bowl commercial last year, it stole the show and greatly increased the franchise's brand awareness. The Pokémon mania that ensued led to incredible success for Pokémon GO, and that in turn led to boosted sales for Pokémon Sun and Moon and even older Pokémon games.
According to Nintendo, 17% of Pokémon Sun and Moon players had never played a 3DS Pokémon game before. That means well over 2 million people skipped X, Y, Omega Ruby, and Alpha Sapphire but picked up Sun or Moon. The increased awareness of the Pokémon brand also boosted hardware sales, causing Nintendo to change its 3DS sales projection from 5 million to 7.2 million.
If Nintendo's Super Bowl commercial does the same thing for Nintendo Switch and The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, that's money well spent. Over 100 million people watch the Super Bowl every year, and some of them are lapsed Zelda fans who haven't played in years, or newcomers to the series who might find themselves interested in it for the first time. It's a long, challenging road to get to 100 million units sold, but Nintendo is taking a great first step.