At any point in any console cycle, the launch of a new Super Mario game is a big deal. But "Super Mario Odyssey," which hits store shelves today, is a bonafide event.
The game is garnering some of the best reviews of any game this year. And consumer interest in those reviews is so strong that the servers for Metacritic, which acts as a clearinghouse for reviews, were unable to keep up with site traffic on Thursday.
That demand is expected to translate into big sales for the game — and sales of the game will almost certainly further drive demand for the already red-hot Nintendo Switch.
Nintendo expects to sell 10 million Switches this fiscal year and 35 million software units. (It could potentially bump either or both numbers up when it announces its earnings on Oct. 30 before the market open.) While it's easier now to find a Switch in a store than it was a few months ago, the rush of the holiday season threatens to drain store inventories again.
Michael Pachter of Wedbush says he expects the attach rate for "Super Mario Odyssey" to be close to 1:1 — meaning essentially everyone who buys or already owns a Switch will buy the game.
And other analysts say the lure of a new Mario game could push people who have been fence sitting to purchase a Switch.
"You have a high-demand product with the Switch and you're introducing incredible content all within a holiday sales window," said Mike Hickey of The Benchmark Co. "It's a recipe for ongoing success. Mario alone is some of the best IP in the world — and when you produce one of the best reviewed Marios of all time for a platform that's already in demand? They're going to kill it."
While "Super Mario Odyssey" will certainly be a hit, it's going to have a lot of competition this holiday season. Ubisoft's "Assassin's Creed: Origins" and Bethesda Softworks' "Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus" both release the same day as Nintendo's flagship holiday game. And next week, Activision's "Call of Duty: WWII" will release.
Other big games competing for consumer dollars this holiday include Electronic Arts' "Star Wars Battlefront II" and the previously released "Destiny II" (which, in one month, outsold every other game this year in September) and "Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle," a real time strategy game from Ubisoft.
The good news for Nintendo — and all publishers in the video game spaces — is that consumers are buying more software this year. In September, gamers spent $726 million on games, a 52 percent increase from the same period last year, according to The NPD Group. Year to date, consumer spending is up 7 percent compared to year ago at $3.7 billion — with the year's three biggest months to come.
Sales of video game hardware (including Switch, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One), meanwhile, were up 34 percent to $316 million. Overall this year, hardware spending has grown 20 percent versus 2016 to $2.1 billion.
That's in large part because of Switch, though year to date, Sony's PlayStation 4 remains the top selling hardware system.