Nintendo celebrated the 35th anniversary of our favourite plumber this week with a 16-minute Mario direct. It was great, with lots of exciting Mario (limited) releases between now and March 2021, including a competitive Super Mario Bros. game (akin to Tetris 99), an AR Mario Kart toy, and the original Super Mario All-Stars coming to Nintendo Switch Online.
Along with all this great news, we also got the heavily rumoured Super Mario 3D World coming in February next year, as well as, most excitingly, in my opinion, Super Mario 3D All-Stars — bundled ports of Super Mario 64, Sunshine, and Galaxy, coming on September 18 as a limited release. These games are great (even Sunshine, I swear), but there was one strange caveat…
Here is the quote from Nintendo: “Super Mario 3D All-Stars can only be purchased until March 31st 2021. Owners can still play its entire contents after this date has passed, and can also redownload it from Nintendo eShop if the software has been archived.” What? Are you as confused as I am? Why is Nintendo doing this? What are they up to…?
Well, I’m going to run down all the possibilities I can imagine, but it definitely doesn’t make any obvious sense. If you have any better ideas, let me know in the comments! Who knows, maybe your uncle works for Nintendo and you could ask him or something?
The first thing to note which would seem to influence this limited release is the fiscal year, which ends in March. Nintendo could be trying to pack as many sales in before the end of their fiscal year, but why?
Their profits rose 428% in the first fiscal quarter from April to June. Animal Crossing has set the world alight. The Nintendo Switch is flying off the shelves and has been hard to come by since the lockdown started. So why would they need even more success this fiscal year?
Learning from Disney
Nintendo has a heritage more akin to Disney than any video game company. They’re moving into animated movies, brand collaboration, and theme parks. We love them and because of that, they get to be weird. And given this, maybe they learned this limited release nonsense from the forced scarcity of the Disney Vault.
Disney removes its movies from sale for a certain amount of time, forcing scarcity and therefore creating focused demand when the product is available again. It’s weird, a little bit shitty, but probably successful for them. So maybe Nintendo took some notes.
But I’m not sure whether they’re looking over the correct shoulder to get their answers. Something has to happen after March 31 for anybody to feel anything other than confused and angry. This can’t be a Flappy Bird or P.T. situation, because these games are different. They’re available in other places and have been for ages. How much is a Switch with SM3DAS (I love this abbreviation) going to sell for in ten years if this is never on sale again?
Another thought I had, with Nintendo being Nintendo, was related to the 35th Anniversary. Maybe Nintendo just really care about the anniversary and want to celebrate it properly. This would make more sense if it was physical only — creating a limited edition copy for collectors isn’t uncommon — but it is digital as well.
So they have to do something after March 31. Maybe they release them separately for $25 each. Maybe they release an N64 emulator for Switch, and stick Mario 64 in there, making the collection worse value for money. Maybe they don’t do anything. What would be nice, however, is if they could at least tell us why?
The thing is, forced scarcity here won’t increase demand so much that they sell more by March than they would over the whole lifetime of the Nintendo Switch, that’s just not going to happen. Super Mario 3D All-Stars‘ limited release doesn’t make sense: this game will sell forever.
Super Mario 64 sold more than 11 million copies on N64 and again on the DS — not combined, more than 11 million on each. Sunshine sold over 5 million on GameCube, and Galaxy sold 12.80 million. Nintendo would be leaving money on the table to never sell these games again, which I feel almost certain they won’t do. But who knows… its Nintendo after all.