Saturday, January 23, 2010

Super Mario is Back! 10 Million in 2 Months

The spectacular success of New Super Mario Bros reveals a great demand for 2D arcade games.  This should surprise no one; with the arrival of the 3D polygon age, software developers focused entirely on the flashy new technology, and 2D was suddenly considered passe and outdated.

I think we're now at a point where the novelty of 3D has worn off, and the pull of classic 2D is reaching critical mass.  Now is the perfect time for a game like New Super Mario Wii.  It's astonishing that this game has sold 10 million copies more or less instantly.  Once I saw the game in action, I knew immediately it would become a smash hit - 20 million, easy.  Now I'm wondering just how high it could go.  What kind of numbers are we looking at next Christmas?

Mario is Back!  That's really the only message to gleam from this.  It's the return of Mario as a system-selling cultural icon.  We haven't seen this since the NES days.

This brings us to a surprising truth about the Mario games: 3D Mario doesn't sell.  I'm sure that sounds absurd, given that Galaxy has sold 8 million copies.  But Galaxy was not a hit in Japan.  3D Mario doesn't sell in Japan, and it certainly doesn't sell anywhere near the numbers of 2D Mario.

Most importantly, 3D Mario is not a "system-seller."  It doesn't move hardware.  The 1985 Super Mario Bros, that was a system seller.  So was Super Mario World and Sonic the Hedgehog in their day.  This is not to say the 3D games aren't good; I loved Super Mario 64 to pieces, and I thought Galaxy was amazing when it came out.  But notice that I didn't rush out to buy a Wii just to play Galaxy.  That's the key difference.

The general public has been starved for classic 2D arcade games.  There is still a great demand for these kind of games.  It's only natural that they would stampede over Super Mario 5 and its red box, and until the rest of the game industry gets over its Hollywood fixation and figures this out, Nintendo will have these crowds all to themselves.

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