If you ask the average person who “Super Mario” is, they’ll almost certainly tell you some variation of “He’s that Italian plumber guy in the Nintendo games.” Like Mickey Mouse and Ronald McDonald, Mario is a household name.
That isn’t the case for Nintendo’s newest game console just yet. The Nintendo Switch is already off to a great start: It’s Nintendo’s fastest-selling console ever, and demand has outstripped supply since it launched in March — it’s still relatively difficult to walk into a store and just buy one.
That’s led to some great headlines for Nintendo in the past few months, but the reality is that Nintendo’s still got a massive uphill battle ahead. The company’s last console, the Wii U, was a massive flop. The Switch, by comparison, is a major success story so far. But while strong early sales of the Switch are a good sign, what really matters is long-term success.
And long-term success demands awareness — something the Switch is still lacking, according to the annual Nielsen games study:
As seen above, the average consumer in the United States still doesn’t even know what the Nintendo Switch is, nonetheless why they should buy it. Just 22% of respondents said they’d heard of the Switch, compared with 60 – 70% for the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One — the order of the list approximates the market itself. The PlayStation 4 is the highest-selling, followed by the Xbox One and, in a distant third, the Nintendo Switch.
Things look a bit sunnier when the same survey reaches self-described “gamers”:
The percentage of people who’ve heard of the Switch rises to nearly 30% when you ask people who identify as “gamers” to answer the same question (“Which of these video game systems, if any, have you heard of?”).
Nintendo, however, has confidence that its star is rising.
In its most recent financial filing, the company estimated sales of 10 million Nintendo Switch consoles in the first 12 months (between March 2017 and March 2018). Compared with the over 50 million PlayStation 4 consoles that’ve already been sold (as of December 2016), 10 million may sound like a splash in the pan. But it would mark a huge turnaround for a company whose last home game console, the Wii U, sold just over 13 million units across four years.
Whether Nintendo can keep up momentum for the Switch is the big question.
With major games like “Splatoon 2” and “Super Mario Odyssey” planned for release this year, Nintendo’s making a real effort. But first, people will have to be aware of the console those games are on.