Nintendo France MD: Switch sales soar, EA to support platform, and why VR is a no-no for Nintendo

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In an extensive interview with French publication Les Numériques, MD for Nintendo France Philippe Lavoué gave a very interesting insight on the platform holder’s performance on the French market, where Nintendo is as successful as ever, and on the firm’s recent successes and upcoming projects, including retro gaming, 4K, VR, mobile and third-party releases.

The Switch has become the fastest selling console in the country, Lavoué revealed, having shifted 911k units in 44 weeks (from March to December 31st 2017) – as a comparison the Wii sold 703k units in a similar length of time and the PS4 shifted 650k units. The platform holder’s target is to reach 2m units sold in France by the end of 2018. After “targeting tech savvy consumers and early adopters, we now need to aim for the mainstream,” Lavoué said. Amiibo sales were also up in France in 2017, he revealed, with 630k figurines shifted, up 10 per cent compared to 2016.

Lavoué said the Switch’s success came down to its three pillars titles, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (410k units sold), Mario Kart 8 Deluxe (508k) and Super Mario Odyssey (512k), with the latter being key to “revitalise sales at the end of the year.” However, he noted that sales for Splatoon 2 were “a bit underwhelming” with only 252k copies sold.

Third-party titles represented 26 per cent of the Switch sales in France, he added, with Ubisoft’s Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle leading the charge with 150k copies. Talking more specifically about EA’s performance, he revealed FIFA 18 sold 73k physical copies in France but that the title was just a “test case” for the publisher. We should expect “more announcements on the Switch,” he added. He expects EA to “double down” this year thanks to the World Cup, with the console’s portability being key to FIFA’s success on Switch.

The Switch’s success didn’t overshadow the 3DS performance though, Lavoué revealed, with 507k 3DS units sold in 2017 in France and nearly 3m games. “It’s not the same audience [as the Switch], and it’s not the same games,” he explained. “Pokémon was a 3DS exclusive in 2017. We have an install base of 5.4m 3DS in France. It’s the biggest library of games available.”

Moving on to retro gaming and the successes of both the SNES and NES Minis, Lavoué said retro gaming is “as pertinent as ever” and a segment of the market Nintendo will “continue to look into in the long run.”  As far as stock is concerned, he said stock was doubled for the SNES Mini compared to the NES Mini, but Nintendo was still “unable to meet demand.” 221k units of the SNES Mini were sold against 110k for the NES Mini. He refused to comment on the upcoming offering for Nintendo’s Mini range and added that the success of these retro products was not a given: “220,000 SNES Mini sound simple but, looking back, we had trouble selling 800,000 Wii U in its entire lifespan in France, so we couldn’t imagine being able to sell 300,000 retro consoles, it was not an obvious result.”

Discussing the rise of 4K and VR, Lavoué made it clear that it’s not Nintendo’s intention to invest in those sectors: “If you look at VR headsets, I doubt they can appeal to the mainstream,” he said. “Consumers are not patient with entertainment if you’re not able to deliver an all-inclusive package. As far as 4K is concerned, is it useful to invest in a technology that has not been adopted by the majority? Where are 4K TVs now? Is it a good idea to invest in a technology before consumers do? We can’t invest in everything. And what novelty would we bring compared to our competitors? If we do the exact same thing than everyone else, we’re bound to die because we are smaller than them. With the Switch, we offer different uses, adapted to players’ pace of life. Its advantage is being able to fit into your daily life.”

Finally, talking about Nintendo’s foray into mobile, Lavoué said with the firm will keep the pace of two mobile titles a year (Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp and Fire Emblem Heroes both came out in 2017). He admitted that mobile is “not on par” with Nintendo’s other activities and is not a “key pillar from the firm” but remains interesting as it “spreads the word” about the brand. He added that Mario Run’s monetisation was “below [Nintendo’s] expectations” but Fire Emblem Heroes “did really well.”

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