Nintendo has a rich library of iconic characters and franchises, with names like Mario, Zelda, and Donkey Kong guaranteed to sell millions. However, one of their most critically acclaimed properties has never achieved that same level of success. The Metroid series has always been treated as more of an afterthought than the others, but I believe that’s finally about to change. Here’s why Metroid Dread will smash franchise sales records!
Low sales and misfires
For as beloved and influential as the games are, Metroid has never sold particularly well. Only the original game on NES and Metroid Prime on GameCube broke the 2 million mark. The faithful audience then had its patience tested with Other M and Federation Force, both poorly received. Samus Returns was met with a warmer reception, but releasing it on 3DS six months after Switch had already launched made it feel obsolete on arrival.
Nintendo went nearly two decades without releasing an all-new 2D Metroid, and sales were on the decline for the games they did release. Frankly, a lot of us were worried that the series was in trouble. And that may not be far from the truth. We know Dread was scrapped once due to tech limitations, but producer Yoshio Sakamoto recently indicated that Dread’s second cancellation was due to a lack of resources.
But despite its unimpressive sales, Samus Returns seems to have re-ignited Nintendo’s interest. MercurySteam is back, and they’ve clearly got a bigger budget this time. Sakamoto finally has the tech and resources to make his dream game a reality. But how will Metroid Dread improve on the underwhelming sales of its predecessor?
The explosion of the Metroidvania genre
Nintendo may have neglected 2D Metroid for years, but its influence was arguably stronger than ever. Popular indie games like Cave Story, Axiom Verge, Hollow Knight, Ori, and Guacamelee all scratched that Metroid itch, but they did more than that. By iterating on the core formula in interesting ways, they expanded the genre’s fan base, bringing in new players. This is evidenced by the phenomenal sales numbers of some of these Metroidvanias. Hollow Knight hit 2.8 million sales, equaling the highest-selling Metroid, in early 2019.
Hollow Knight was especially popular on Switch, selling over 250,000 copies in its first two weeks on the platform. That’s despite arriving on Switch a year and a half after launch. Axiom Verge had a similar success story when it was ported to Switch two and a half years after its debut. Switch owners are buying up Metroid homages left and right, so I have little doubt the real thing will thrive.
The momentum of Nintendo Switch
Nintendo Switch is an unstoppable juggernaut. The hybrid console just had its best year ever, and it’s on pace to hit 100 million units sold even faster than Wii. That rapidly growing install base has translated into incredible software sales. Games like Breath of the Wild, Super Mario Party, Animal Crossing: New Horizons, and Luigi’s Mansion 3 all set new franchise sales records. Just being a first-party game on Switch practically guarantees a huge sales boost.
But Nintendo isn’t just coasting on momentum and trusting Metroid Dread will sell great on its own. They’re marketing the hell out of it! Nintendo unveiled Dread with two trailers at E3 2021, then gave it two half-hour Nintendo Treehouse segments. Since then, they’ve released 3 volumes of the Metroid Dread Report, revealing more gameplay and plot details. They’ve also highlighted the game in multiple social media posts each week.
I’ve never seen Nintendo give this much attention to Metroid before, and I’m optimistic that it’s working. The Dread reveal caused Fusion and Zero Mission to shoot to the top of Wii U’s download charts, and I’d wager many of those downloads were first-time players. Take a glance at the Metroid subreddit, and you can find new posts every day that proudly proclaim “I just beat my first Metroid game.”
Finally, Nintendo is positioning Dread to succeed by launching it alongside the brand new OLED model. When people buy a new console, they want an exciting new game to go with it. The sleek, white look of the new model even resembles Dread’s E.M.M.I. bots. It’s like candy bars in the checkout line at the grocery. They know you can’t resist when it’s just sitting right there. With all of these factors in play, Metroid Dread sales should set a new mark standard for the series.