Mario Kart 8 Deluxe just dropped and became the fastest-selling Mario Kart game in history and top-selling game on Amazon. This happened on its launch date in the U.S. That’s crazy! What makes it even more insane is this game is a port. How on Earth does a port of a game that already came out do so well it smashes day-one records? Well, I would argue that Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is a case study in how hardware matters just as much as software.
The Wii U was a failure, more or less. That’s a fact you’ll have a hard time disputing. Yet, it had great games; these were excellent pieces of software that did well critically, but didn’t light the world on fire in sales. The Wii U only sold around 13 million units. If you pay attention to things like attach rates, you’ll notice no single piece of software ever sells as much as the hardware itself.
Back in 2015 when the Uncharted remasters came to the PlayStation 4, a shocking number was tossed out as justification for porting generation-old games. Despite Uncharted being the huge brand it was, around 80% of people who purchased a PlayStation 3 did not purchase Uncharted. Isn’t that crazy? You see stuff like that all the time.
In the case of Mario Kart , that series is a guaranteed seller. But with the initial unit population of around 13 million and the expected drop-off from that, you get around 8 million or so. That’s a great number, but not necessarily what you’d expect from something as huge as Mario Kart . Take a look at the Switch. There’s roughly 2 million of those things floating around, and Mario Kart 8 Deluxe sold over half a million on day one. That’s huge. Considering the Switch population is only that low because it’s still being rolled out and we’re only on month three of the thing being available, you can do the math.
The bottom line is this: the Switch is attractive hardware. So much so that its success bleeds into the Wii U’s failure. It’s a unique business opportunity, one you sort of saw early on in the PlayStation 4’s life. Why so many remasters? Because the PlayStation 4 sold dramatically more than the PlayStation 3 did. Why sit on a mountain of critically-acclaimed software that didn’t sell as much as it could have because of the attach rate? The early days of the Switch could be that, but more.
People love Nintendo games, but not always Nintendo hardware. Now it seems like people love Nintendo hardware again. Not only do you have the rabid Nintendo dorks who are buying Mario Kart 8 twice, but you have a brand new audience of people who turned their noses up at the Wii U altogether. But they love Mario Kart and now that Nintendo’s system is cool, they’re back.
I want to see more ports to see how this really works out. Put Super Smash Bros . on the thing. Toss an enhanced Super Mario 3D World or maybe a collection of the Donkey Kong Country games. Maybe a reissue of the two Bayonetta games? Titles that struggled to find air on the choking Wii U could see a resurgence in this much more alive market. Just look at how well the Steam port of Bayonetta did. This might not be a position Nintendo is super familiar with, but it’s an opportunity that can absolutely be taken advantage of if done well.