With Nintendo rolling out additional marketing muscle to generate awareness for its Switch launch on March 3, including a traveling pop-up Switch and Play Store, retailers have been sold out of hardware for weeks. GameStop, the largest independent video game retailer in the world, has seen more interest in Switch than Nintendo’s previous console, Wii U, according to Eric Bright, senior director of merchandising at GameStop.
“We’ve seen tremendous demand for Switch,” Bright told [a]listdaily. “And of the initial allocation of pre-orders we took, the majority of them were done by PowerUp Reward customers. They’re definitely looking for this device. We have a ways to go before we satisfy all the demand that’s out there.”
There’s a link on GameStop.com for customers to provide an email address to receive news about the Switch, and Bright said that “the response has been amazing.”
Nintendo has captured gamers’ attention since revealing the Switch last month at events in Tokyo and New York City, where media got hands-on with the hybrid tablet and console device.
“They’ve taken a lot of franchises like Zelda and Mario that were popular in the Wii days, gave them HD graphics, and created a system that can be played on your TV and is portable as well,” Bright said. “Those are two big technology changes for games that didn’t exist before.”
Bright believes Nintendo’s decision to launch Switch in the spring will help propel the console throughout the year.
“The Q1 launch is one of the smartest moves Nintendo could have done,” Bright said. “Instead of pushing units out during the heaviest time of the year (in Q4), this allows them to build a base. So by holiday, we can focus on games. There will be millions of people who will be hungry for content, creating a richer development cycle for game publishers who will have an install base to support titles. This also will take some of the brunt off of Christmas and enable Switch to be better stocked at stores.”
Nintendo has also attracted over 60 developers who are working on over 100 games. “Nintendo has learned from the mistakes it made with Wii U because there’s a wide assortment of third-party games from developers like EA, Ubisoft, Bethesda and Take-Two, as well as first-party Nintendo titles like The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Super Mario Odyssey and Splatoon 2.”
Nintendo is also courting independent developers, including the GameStop-published Has-Been Heroes from Frozenbyte and GameTrust.
“The variety of indie games for Switch is one of the brilliant things Nintendo was able to do,” Bright said. “Any new console launch is all about software and content and providing people a huge variety of games. Indie developers will only expand how many consumers adopt Switch and expand the age range. We see this appealing from the hardcore gamer down to the overall family gamer.”
While there will be an assortment of different launch window games, Switch won’t include a pack-in game. Of course, retailers like GameStop are offering gamers bundles.
“The biggest win for the customer is they can make their own choice with games,” Bright said. “They can pick which of the games they want to pair with the hardware they’re buying—whether they’re Zelda fans or 1-2-Switch. From our sales perspective, we’re seeing incredible demand. We’re pleased with the Switch attach rate. People are not just buying one game. They’re buying multiple games.” Bright added that Switch is enjoying a higher attach rate than Wii U, which included a pack-in game, although he wouldn’t specify numbers.
GameStop will be rolling out hands-on opportunities for customers to play the Switch, which is expected to be in short supply for at least the foreseeable future.
“We’re looking at which stores, but you can expect to see all sorts of events throughout the year as we educate the customer on this launch,” Bright said. “We’ll also have incredible launch day activities on March 3.”
Bright sees Switch tapping into Nintendo’s Wii gamers. “Customers are going to easily be thrilled with the fact that it’s something you can play with anyone in the house because it has that Wii playability,” Bright said.
GameStop will carry the entire lineup of Nintendo products throughout 2017, which includes Nintendo 3DS, 2DS and Switch. The retailer is no longer selling new Wii U consoles. “We’re no longer purchasing Wii U units, although customers can come in and pick them up pre-owned,” Bright said. “That’s mainly because it’s no longer being made available to mass retailers. Nintendo and ourselves are fully engaged in the new hardware line-up.”
Another part of that Nintendo lineup is the NES Classic Edition. Bright said GameStop is steadily getting a flow of units that are either being put in stores or online to make sure customers can come in and get it.
“We’re still seeing incredible demand for the unit,” Bright said. “There’s no slowdown, and we don’t see that stopping. We see that continuing for some time.”