Can The 3DS Sell Without Mario?

A year and a half into its life span, the 3DS has carved out a pretty decent fanbase with all signs pointing towards increased sales over the next half a year or so. When you really think about it, it’s almost a no brainer that the 3DS has had such success early on; the system has seen far more than its fair share of Mario titles. As the highest-selling video game series of all time, Mario is a title that simply makes a system sell.

You can’t blame Nintendo for showering us with their biggest money-maker of a franchise early on, but sooner rather than later they’re going to have to stop relying on Mario so much to boost 3DS sales. As much as gamers flock to a new Mario game, there’s still a limit to just how much Mario we can take, and the 3DS is getting dangerously close to that limit. How will the 3DS continue to be prosperous in life after Mario? Read on to see my thoughts.

Last Christmas we saw Nintendo rather successfully attempt to boost 3DS sales by releasing Super Mario 3D Land and Mario Kart 7. This summer Nintendo released Mario Tennis Open and ran a series of eShop deals on classic Mario titles. The 3DS XL and Nintendo’s new digital download gameplan were launched alongside New Super Mario Bros. 2. Heading into this year’s holiday season it looked like Nintendo was primed for another Mario 1-2 punch with Paper Mario: Sticker Star and Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon, but the latter was delayed till 2013. Still, it’s blatantly obvious that Nintendo is counting on Mario almost exclusively when it comes to re-igniting the flame that is 3DS sales. Every major push by Nintendo to jumpstart system sales, with the exclusion of the price cut, has been led by the release of a new Mario game.

There’s only so much Mario you can make on one system before it loses its effectiveness. Not only does Nintendo risk boring its fanbase with an excess of one franchise, but eventually these new games will stop having any effect on system sales. By the time you’ve released six Mario games on one system, most of the Mario fans will have already bought one. Selling software is great for profits, but if Nintendo is looking to increase their 3DS install base, they need to do a better job at diversifying. Mario may be Nintendo’s golden boy, but there are plenty of other franchises that need to come to the 3DS if Nintendo wants the system to keep selling well beyond its second year.

Beyond any reasonable doubt, the best way for Nintendo to boost 3DS sales in a post-Mario life is with Pokémon. I’ve said before that I firmly believe Pokémon can achieve a new level of greatness on the 3DS, and if Nintendo wants to see a sales increase, they should prove my point. It’s still way too early to release a completely new “generation” of Pokémon games, as the hype of Black/White and Black 2/White 2 is still strong, but there are other ways to get the ball rolling. Sequels to popular spin-off games in the Pokémon universe – such as Pokémon Stadium and Pokémon Snap – would be outstanding additions to the 3DS library. Given Pokémon’s history of remaking their old games once superior tech is available, Pokémon Ruby and Sapphire versions are just about due for a rebirth on the 3DS. With these spin-offs and remakes selling at respectable rates and buying Game Freak more time, they have plenty of time and money to develop the next generation of Pokémon games for release a few years down the line.

Another series that would undoubtedly keep the momentum rolling is Legend of Zelda. Ocarina of Time 3D was a fantastic gift to Zelda fans, and a great way to keep us happy for a while, but we’re ready for a new Zelda game. From personal dealings with various Zelda fan communities, I know there’s a large number of people who are waiting for a Zelda game to buy the system. If Nintendo focuses their efforts there’s plenty of time for two new games. One would launch in the near future and boost hardware sales, while the other would launch later in the system’s life, giving it a strong title to go out on, and buying the Zelda team more time to work on a game for Nintendo’s next handheld system.

Of all the games confirmed to be in development for the 3DS, there may be none with more hype than the next incarnation of Super Smash Bros. This series has built up a huge following on the home console, and having it available to play on the go for the first time is sure to be a huge hit. If Nintendo does some kind of promotion or bundle along the same lines as Sony’s Cross-Buy, this game’s going to sell like hotcakes.

These are just a few of the top-selling titles that Nintendo has yet to release, and starting next year, I’d be shocked if we didn’t start hearing more about them. Of course, there are plenty of other games Nintendo can turn to. Donkey Kong, Kirby, Metroid, and Animal Crossing are all big-name games that have yet to come to the 3DS, with only the last of that list confirmed to be in development. Nintendo doesn’t need to just rely on their “tried and true” games either; there’s always room for new IPs. Retro Studios, makers of the Metroid Prime Trilogy and Donkey Kong Country Returns, has been rumored to have a 3DS project in the works, and I’d love to see that be true. Then there’s a virtually endless list of third party games that Nintendo could lure to the system. Resident Evil: Revelations is probably my favorite 3DS game to date, and Nintendo needs to ramp up their efforts to bring third party games of that caliber to the system.

A huge chunk of the early sales of the 3DS can be attributed to our favorite plumber, but that doesn’t mean that Nintendo has to keep relying on him or risk a sales slump. In reality, if and when the 3DS builds up a more diverse library, sales are likely to increase. Most gamers love Mario, but they want more than just Mario. Try telling a friend who is on the fence about buying a 3DS about Nintendo’s lineup of first party games without saying “Mario” and see well you do. Starting next year, Nintendo needs to prepare for life after Mario on the 3DS, or they’re just going to continue catering to the same audience again and again instead of expanding. There’s plenty of options out there, so there’s no excuse for monotony anymore. The 3DS can sell just fine without a new Mario title every 3 months; Nintendo just has to kick things up a notch.