Nintendo quietly had a strong year in 2023. The Switch continues to sell units and does not seem to be stopping. Nintendo will end 2023 with the Switch becoming the third best-selling video game console in history. Today the Switch is around 22 million units behind the Nintendo DS and the PlayStation 2. Likewise, The Legend of Zelda Tears of the Kingdom became a top 10 best-selling Switch title with over 20 million units sold this year. At the same time, Super Mario Bros. Wonder broke franchise records by moving 4.3 million units at its launch. It is safe to say they are as strong as ever.
A Look Back At 2023
Although it was nowhere near the year Zelda and Mario did, I feel the vibe around Pikmin now in my soul. Between three re-releases, and Pikmin 4, it is safe to assume Nintendo has sold somewhere between 7 to 8 million copies of Pikmin games on the Switch. There is something about Pikmin as a franchise now that reminds me of Animal Crossing leading up to Animal Crossing New Horizons. The New Horizons entry was one of Nintendo’s greatest-performing titles of all time and a total transition point for the franchise becoming a household name. If Nintendo can come back strong, at the right time with Pikmin 5, it might break through as another major Nintendo franchise.
In retrospect, Nintendo’s 2023 has a conspicuous feeling to it. Super Mario RPG, Pikman 1 + 2, Metroid Prime, Advance Wars 1+2, and Kirby’s Return to Dream Land Deluxe, all remakes or remasters released this year. Games like these make it feel like they are closing a gap between console generations. Along with revisiting the back catalog, Nintendo started the year on the wrong foot. At the end of 2022, Nintendo faced a rare harsh criticism for the technical shortcomings in Pokémon Scarlet and Violet. I think it is safe to say they are ready to turn the page on the Switch.
That conspicuous feeling or an aura around Nintendo now feels like a groundswell. What will most likely happen near the end of 2024, we are expecting to see a true successor to the Switch hardware. By the time that it happens, Nintendo will be approaching the seven-year mark of the Switch’s journey. While it is unlikely going to be a massive departure from the current model, a Switch 2 will surely look different when it comes to games.
Has Nintendo Been Holding Back the Switch’s Final Form?
Of course, we will have Pokémon and the indies we love but, I expect a change in direction from Nintendo themselves when it comes to software. For one thing, how much longer do they expect us to play Mario Kart 8? It has been 10 years since Nintendo released a new mainline Mario Kart game. Likewise, the same thing can be said about Mario and Samus, who are sure to return to 3D in a new game sometime soon.
As we enter 2024 it is no longer a question of if, but now a question of when Nintendo has that “first-year roadmap Nintendo Direct.” They are likely incredibly nervous over fragmenting the base that is nearly 140 million units sold. I expect them to come out guns blazing at some point this summer and try to outmatch the AAAA PS5 Pro and Xbox Series X games with foundational Nintendo titles. Nintendo is incredibly unpredictable but, one thing they do is lay their cards out when there is a new console, which is the whole reason why we even know Metroid Prime 4 exists.
We cannot wait to see what Nintendo has in store for 2024. As long as things do not get too crazy with the economy, silicon supply stays on the level, and overseas manufacturing stabilizes, they will have another fantastic year.