As anyone could have expected, it’s more or less impossible to find a Nintendo Switch right now. The console just saw a successful launch with estimates up at 1.5 million sold, which seems to be more of a measure of how many consoles Nintendo made than anything else. Sellouts happen, especially with Nintendo — we’ll note that you still can’t reliably buy a mini NES Classic Edition — representing who knows how much lost income for the Japanese game maker. International retailers still aren’t sure when new stock is coming in, and what stock US stores received has sold out within moments. Memories of the Wii make me nervous here.
It could be a problem for a company that wisely chose to launch its console in a less competitive March, but needs to be able to take advantage of the spotlight. The next major target for Nintendo is the launch of Mario Kart 8 Deluxe in April, which qualifies as the Switch’s second big game despite already being out in "standard" form on Wii U. It’s important because local multiplayer forms one of the Switch’s main competitive advantages, and Mario Kart is one of Nintendo’s two best franchises to showcase it. So we’re going to need plenty of Switch stock available at that time, or else Nintendo’s plan of dripping out big titles over the Spring and Summer loses some of its advantage.
More than that, however, is the plain and simple momentum of launch and Breath of the Wild. The Switch is new and shiny right now, with one of the best reviewed games of all time to boot. If someone sees a Switch on the train and gets interested, Nintendo wants to be able to turn that into a sale. It’s all about striking when the iron is hot and building the post-launch momentum that the Wii U never quite managed. Scarcity can drive up demand, and I think that it probably would have looked bad if the Switch didn’t sell out at launch simply because that’s what people expect. But once you’ve generated demand it’s time to start capitalizing on it.
As I’ve said before, Nintendo faces competition when the big titles of the fall start coming out. Super Mario Odyssey will bring some excitement along with it, but the plumber doesn’t command the same loyalty that Zelda does. It’s hard to imagine Mario bringing the same level of hype as Breath of the Wild or, more importantly, Red Dead Redemption 2. Shoring up the console’s position in the interim will be the most important thing the company can do to take full advantage of the holidays. And that’s hard to do without stock.
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