Earlier this year I wrote an article predicting that Nintendo won’t even consider Mario Kart 9 until the next generation. The reasoning is pretty simple: Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is an unstoppable juggernaut. Why spend millions developing and marketing a new game when the old game still prints money? I analyzed the game’s quarterly and yearly sales and argued that they won’t be slowing down any time soon. In fact, they’ve done nothing but go up. Thanks to the 2020 sales data in Nintendo’s recent financial report, I now have confirmation that this evergreen racer is on pace to have a record-breaking sales year… for the fourth year in a row.
Nintendo’s new data shows Mario Kart 8 Deluxe sales at 26.74 million, up from 22.96 million just six months earlier. That means Nintendo moved nearly 4 million units (3.78 million) from January 1 through June 30 of this year. Not bad for a game in its fourth year! If you include the earlier Wii U release, that makes this the seventh year on the market. Here’s a quick refresher on the game’s sales over the past three years.
- 2017: Game sold 7.33 million – Switch sold 14.86 million (49.3% ratio) in 10 months
- 2018: Game sold 7.69 million – Switch sold 17.41 million (44.2% ratio)
- 2019: Game sold 7.94 million – Switch sold 20.21 million (39.3% ratio)
On a record-breaking pace
It’s important to keep in mind that sales are not uniform throughout the year. The final quarter of the year (the holiday season) often accounts for around 50% of the yearly sales. In 2019, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe‘s best year, it sold 3.99 million from January through September, then another 3.95 million during the holidays. We haven’t reached the end of September yet, but as of June 30 the 2020 sales stand at 3.78 million. In other words, it sold almost as many copies through six months of 2020 as it did through nine months of 2019.
Thus, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is on pace for its best year ever, yet again. However, you don’t call a race halfway through. There are lots of factors to consider, so we shouldn’t take it for granted that 2020 will be another record-breaking year.
A holiday season challenge
Mario Kart‘s sales are incredible, but old software doesn’t sell hardware. In other words, its continued success is dependent on new games helping Switch consoles fly off the shelves. Its record-breaking pace thus far in 2020 can likely be credited to Animal Crossing: New Horizons. The peaceful island getaway has already sold an astounding 22 million copies since releasing in March, many of them to brand new Switch customers. However, Nintendo doesn’t really have anything else with major selling power announced yet for 2020.
Nintendo had a tremendously strong 2019 holiday season thanks to the success of Pokémon Sword and Shield. We don’t know what Nintendo’s holiday 2020 lineup will look like yet, but it’s hard to imagine it will have more selling power than Pokémon. Because of this, it would not be surprising to see Mario Kart‘s holiday sales dip this year.
Another factor to consider is the attach rate. As an “evergreen” title, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe thrives on being that game that you just have to own if you have a Switch. Nearly 49% of Switch sales were accompanied by a Mario Kart sale in 2017. While still incredibly high, that number slipped to 44.2% in 2018 and 39.3% in 2019. So far in 2020, that rate has actually climbed back up a bit to 42.2%. With the holiday season still months away, plenty could change before the end of the year, but that’s a great sign for the game’s stability.
The future is…more Mario Kart 8 Deluxe
Whether or not the game’s 2020 sales surpass its previous 2019 mark, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is undoubtedly here to stay. To date, the overall attach rate for this evergreen is 43.5%. With “must-have” status like that, this aging game will continue to sell millions for as long as Switch does the same. As much as we may want a Mario Kart 9 (or just a full-blown Nintendo Kart crossover), it doesn’t make much business sense for Nintendo to grant our wishes. At least not until they have new hardware to promote. Until then, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe can coast on cruise control to sustained success.
All sales stats are courtesy of the Nintendo Investor Relations website.