What just happened? Nintendo of America president Doug Bowser recently sat down with the crew over at Polygon to reflect back on the wacky year that was 2020 and give some hints as to what we might see from the gaming giant once the calendar rolls over.
Bowser said they realized early on that Covid had the potential to have a major impact on their business. “And we began probably in early March, as a leadership team, really shaping out, if this ever got to a pandemic situation, how would we manage the business?”
Bowser added that Nintendo always had continuity plans in place, but they didn’t necessarily include a pandemic. “I’m not sure many companies have a pandemic plan structured,” he said.
Nintendo also didn’t foresee Animal Crossing: New Horizons being such a success.
“I don’t know that we expected it to be truly the cultural touchpoint that it became across the globe,” Bowser said. “We saw people celebrating graduations; having birthday parties; weddings, even — virtually, through the game itself,” he added.
Polygon also questioned Bowser regarding Nintendo’s puzzling decision to only offer select Switch Online games, like Super Mario 3D All-Stars, through March 31, 2021. The executive said it ultimately came down to a celebration of Mario’s 35th anniversary.
It’s not a strategy they will be widely adopting, but it has worked well thus far. The aforementioned Super Mario 3D All-Stars has sold over 2.6 million copies in the US alone, Bowser said.
Polygon pressed further.
Q: Yeah, and the celebration aspect I totally get. Obviously, you have gone whole hog on releasing amazing Mario games this year. I just don’t understand the consumer side of it, where someone who buys a Switch in June of next year is just never gonna be able to buy those games. I just don’t see the upside, quite honestly.
A: Yeah, at this point, the decision was really made around that celebration feature and aspect. I can’t speak to plans beyond the end of March.
Shifting gears, Polygon asked whether or not Nintendo was holding back the launch of internally developed games in preparation for refreshed Switch hardware. Bowser said Nintendo plans to release content on a regular cadence year-round, adding that “we’ll release it when it’s right and when it’s ready and when we’ve got great gameplay experiences.”
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As for Switch Pro rumors, Bowser pointed to the continued strength of the Switch platform, highlighting a recent policy briefing from Nintendo president Shuntaro Furukawa about the Switch being at the midpoint of its life cycle.
“It allows us to manage the life cycle differently, I would say. I think that’s the easiest way to put it. Right now, with the momentum that we have, our focus will be on the existing form factors.”
When asked about new developments with highly anticipated games like The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild 2, Metroid Prime 4 and Bayonetta 3, Bowser said he had nothing more to share on them at the moment.
Be sure to check out the full interview for more information on Nintendo's plans for 2021.