The biggest news that came out of Nintendo Direct yesterday was the announcement of New Super Mario Bros. 2 for Nintendo 3DS. To say that the revival of 2D Mario has been a gigantic success for Nintendo is somewhat of an understatement; both New Super Mario Bros. on DS and New Super Mario Bros. Wii sold over 25 million copies each worldwide by the end of 2011. Nintendo would be insane to ignore those numbers – but aside the obvious cash injection, what does a new 2D Mario game mean for 3DS and for Nintendo?
We saw how Nintendo reacted to the 3DS slowdown in its first year. Unafraid to pull out the stops, it cut the price and released some key first party titles at a critical time to turn the system's fortunes around. Super Mario 3D Land and Mario Kart 7 were important in adjusting perception of 3DS – and New Super Mario Bros. 2 is likely to be another pillar in this stratagem, another push to prove the worth of the handheld.
It's a reasonable bet that, when NSMB2 is released in August, there'll be another significant leap in hardware sales. That the Mario franchise sells systems is no new revelation, but the timing of launch could prove to be hugely beneficial – to both third party developers and Nintendo. As well as plugging in part of the traditional annual games drought, a summer release for New Super Mario Bros. 2 ensures plenty of new console purchases in the run up to the lucrative holiday season.
Placed closer to the end of the year itself, New Super Mario Bros. 2 would have the potential to cannibalise sales from other Nintendo titles and, more dangerously for long-term support, chomp away at the chart positions of third party games. Placing it a few months clear, however, is far more advantageous for all involved.
Nintendo gets its sales now and can still release an important, but perhaps not so mammoth, title or two when November and December roll around. Meanwhile, Mario makes the bed for upcoming third party titles even comfier with a larger audience to sell to – an audience that wouldn't necessarily be present if the new hardware purchases were to be made during the holiday period, as extra funds would go towards the system itself rather than additional games.
We recently floated the idea that Nintendo might be over-reliant on Mario, and a good number of you seemed to agree. Many of the responses to the New Super Mario Bros. 2 reveal followed along the same lines. While almost-guaranteed successes and, consequently, a sound business decision, there does seem to be a growing concern that Nintendo is resting on its primary IP a little too much. By the time NSMB2 launches, 3DS will already be home to four Mario-based titles: Mario Kart 7, Super Mario 3D Land, Mario & Sonic at the London 2012 Olympic Games and Mario Tennis Open, all having come out in less than a year. Paper Mario 3DS is also lurking on the horizon.
Though these games all offer something different – plus one is a third party title – and are usually of high quality, Nintendo must be careful to avoid the dangers of franchise fatigue. Mario is, of course, one of the most powerful brands in the industry, and also an inventive one despite the familiar outer shells, so it's extremely unlikely to succumb to the same fate that struck Activision's Guitar Hero, but the warning signs have been ignored to disastrous effects by companies before. The last thing Nintendo wants is for Mario to lose his special sheen.
To end on a positive note, however: that Nintendo is willing to reveal a massive title like this so early, mere weeks ahead of E3, speaks volumes about its current attitude. It is confident, strong, determined as we sail towards the fever pitch of the gaming industry's most important yearly event, surely driven by 3DS' twist of fate and unrelenting in its pursuit of further success. To right now show off what would usually be an ace in a strong hand saved for the stage implies that Nintendo knows it has something wicked up its sleeve come E3.
How do you feel about New Super Mario Bros. 2? Are you excited or deflated by the prospect of another Mario game? And what do you think its announcement says about Nintendo's current position? Let us know in the comments below.