To say physical game sales have been on decline is probably an understatement. With the reinvigorating of the PC game market (which has a heavy lean towards digital media) and the latest console offerings requiring installs (thus, making digital purchasing much more enticing since you can preload a game), there are a lot of reasons the past five years that physical games just aren’t selling at the same rate as they once were.
Pokemon Sun & Moon appear to be an exception, at least in the United States, where GameStop owns a large percentage of overall retail game sales. While GameStop in their recent earnings report showed a revenue and profit decline year over year, it also saw Pokemon Sun & Moon become the most pre-ordered game in the past five years. Is it any surprise then that we got a seemingly rare midnight launch event for a Nintendo game?
There are many reasons this has likely happened that may paint a blueprint for future games at retail. The first step is naturally creating an incredible game. The critical reception is off the charts. While in the moment it hasn’t beaten out X and Y in terms of overall critical reception, it has beaten out much of the Pokemon games released in the past decade. It is also doing this while creating some of the series’ biggest changes, such as replacing the entire gym system. Thus, it not only is just a damn fine Pokemon game, it’s doing it while adding much needed innovation to the series as well.
Pokemon fever is also at an all time high in the here and now. Pokemon GO may have dipped after the initial launch hype, but as of today it is still among the top grossing apps across all mobile devices and still has one of the highest active daily users bases. That certainly brought a lot of older Pokemon fans out of the woodwork and thus got them re-interested in the series again. It’s actually an interesting prospect to think about, as Super Mario Run releases next month and Mario Switch could land in March, as Nintendo attempts a similar selling point strategy.
How other series could replicate this culmination of events to push more retail sales is still up in the air, though notably Breath of the Wild has made a pretty positive impact in terms of innovating the Zelda series while getting positive reception. We’ll see if that continues over should the game not be there at launch.