Mario Kart 8 is one of Nintendo’s most successful games in recent memory. It’s a hit with consumers and critics alike, topping Nintendo’s Wii U and Switch sales charts. This game is a straight-up
Wario’s gold mine! It’s been six years since the game’s first launch on Wii U, and there’s been no word of a follow-up in all that time. Sure, an updated version hit Switch in 2017, but it’s still the same base game. So where’s Mario Kart 9? After carefully digging through several years of sales stats, I feel pretty confident in saying… it’s not going to happen until the next generation.
The dominance of Mario Kart 8
The Mario Kart franchise is what we call an evergreen property. While most games have their sales somewhat front-loaded, evergreen titles can continue to pull in respectable sales many years after launch. Still, they’re likely to have stronger sales in the first couple of years than in later years. That’s not the case here. Nintendo’s latest stats show that 2019, the game’s sixth year on the market, was its best year ever. Would you rush Mario Kart 9 to the market while 8 sales are still on the rise?
So that begs the question — why are sales still on the rise? My curiosity was first piqued when I was crunching some holiday sales data and realized Mario Kart 8 Deluxe sold 3.95 million last quarter. Almost four million sold in its sixth Christmas. I knew it was popular, but that sounded higher than normal to me, and that turned out to be correct. Nintendo has indicated that they see their mobile games as marketing tools that attract mobile gamers to Switch. Could Mario Kart Tour be responsible for the increase? I decided to crunch the numbers. Here’s how the game has performed over its three holiday periods on Switch:
- 2017: 2.91 million
- 2018: 3.31 million
- 2019: 3.95 million
Stats show rising annual sales
As the stats show, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe has actually gotten more popular each holiday season. At a glance, the increase in 2019 doesn’t strike me as being an anomaly. So I decided to crunch the numbers for the full (calendar) years. How well did the game sell each year, and how well did the console itself sell each year? Here’s how that pans out, with Mario Kart 8 Deluxe sales on the left:
- 2017: 7.33 million – Switch sold 14.86 million (49.3% ratio) in 10 months
- 2018: 7.69 million – Switch sold 17.41 million (44.2% ratio)
- 2019: 7.94 million – Switch sold 20.21 million (39.3% ratio)
Instead of a Mario Kart Tour boost, it appears the boost came from the Switch itself. Switch is selling like hotcakes, and around 40% of new Switch owners pick up Mario Kart 8 in their first year. That ratio has dropped by exactly 5% each year. Part of this decrease is likely due to households buying a second Switch but not needing a second copy of the game. Although the adoption rate slipped 5%, Switch itself saw a huge sales increase in 2019, and it took Mario Kart 8 along for the ride.
Mid-2020 Update (Updated August 6)
This article was originally on February 7, 2020, using sales data that was current as of December 31, 2019. Since then, Nintendo has released additional sales data covering the period from January 1, 2020, through June 30, 2020. Unsurprisingly, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is still selling at a brisk pace.
Nintendo’s latest 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) over the spring and early summer. That’s almost as many copies as it sold through nine months (3.99 million) in 2019, the previous best year. In other words, 2020 is on pace to be the best year ever for Nintendo’s racer… for the fourth year in a row. This game is absolutely unstoppable.
Mario Kart 9 next generation?
If the trend continues at roughly the same rate, more than one out of every three new Switch owners will buy Mario Kart 8 in 2020, and more than one out of every four will buy it in 2021. Nintendo president Shuntaro Furukawa recently indicated that Switch is about halfway through its life cycle. This game will still be selling millions per year until the next generation kicks off, or at least until Switch sales drastically plummet. I’m sure Mario Kart 9 will happen eventually, but it makes sense for Nintendo to hold off for new hardware. Then it can become the evergreen of the next generation, rather than cannibalizing the sales of its predecessor in the current generation.
All sales stats are courtesy of the Nintendo Investor Relations website.