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Paper Mario proves that 2020 is Nintendo’s year

All eyes are on Sony and Microsoft’s much-anticipated consoles, but Nintendo is the bigger winner of 2020. The announcement of Paper Mario: The Origami King just solidified that.

Nintendo is already well-poised, despite the coronavirus leaving the gaming industry — and the rest of the world — in turmoil. Its flagship Switch is currently the best-selling console. That’s unsurprising given the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One are now long in the tooth. The Switch, now accompanied by the handheld-only Switch Lite, is among the best selling consoles in history, with nearly 56 million units sold as of March 2020.

Recently, Animal Crossing: New Horizons gave the Switch yet another massive hit. The two-decades-old franchise achieved success never seen with its previous titles and became the fastest-selling game on the Switch. As a first-party IP and an exclusive, it’s a two-fold boost for Nintendo.

Some of Nintendo’s other games, notably Super Smash Bros. Ultimate and Super Mario Maker 2, are winding down, and will no longer provide updates. This leaves room for newer games like Animal Crossing and the upcoming Paper Mario, which goes on sale July 17, to take the spotlight.

Paper Mario takes center stage

Image used with permission by copyright holder

Paper Mario is the latest addition to Nintendo’s lineup of 2020 releases. It might not be noteworthy in another year. But in a barren period for gaming, Nintendo’s slate stands out with indie titles, New Horizons updates, DLC for Pokémon: Sword and Shield, the remaster of Xenoblade Chronicles, and other ports.

More notable than what Nintendo has coming out, however, is how it’s announcing that news. Nintendo’s now well-known Directs already streamlined the game reveal. For most of the last 10 years, Nintendo has staged these pre-recorded videos highlighting upcoming games, DLC, consoles, and accessories.

Nintendo is free to focus on what actually matters: Making games people love.

It ushered in an era of worldwide simulcasts that lets gamers see the news directly and react at once. Nintendo eventually adopted this model for the massive E3 gaming convention, and others have tried emulating the model. Sony started hosting a series of “State of Play” presentations for smaller titles.

Still, Sony and Microsoft mostly cling to grand in-person presentations. Microsoft, for example, unabashedly leaned heavily on E3 2020 for a Series X heavy showcase (before the event was canceled). Now, it and other gaming companies are scrambling to adapt to an online-only world where Nintendo already shines.

Yet, for Paper Mario, Nintendo ditched the Direct entirely. It’s a strategy the Japanese game company has used periodically, but it remains a smart one nonetheless. This straightforward approach leaves Nintendo free to focus on what actually matters: Making games people love.

Games are just as important as consoles

That goal is a central tenet with Paper Mario. Nintendo of America President Doug Bowser has expressed his yearning to create a stable of games that can reach every kind of gamer or every age.

Paper Mario is a family-friendly game that seems to promise a strong replayability factor. This is nothing new for Nintendo, which is far more likely to offer family-friendly games than its console and PC counterparts. This is a serious advantage right now. Kids are stuck at home while school is out.

Nintendo Switch
Photo by Matteo Grobberio on Unsplash

This leaves Nintendo in an excellent position without breaking a model that worked well for it. It’s relying on its successful IP, Mario, which makes the game a sure bet.

Nintendo continues riding the Animal Crossing wave while Sony and Microsoft prepare to release high-end, next-gen consoles amid one of the worst economic downturns in U.S. history. Both Microsoft and Sony have confirmed that the Series X and PS5 should still ship on their expected holiday 2020 timeline. In terms of exclusive IP, however, that largely remains a mystery mere months ahead of release, with the major exception of Halo Infinite.

Meanwhile, the Switch sports a $300 price tag, and the Switch Lite is downright affordable at $200. For those still in the market for a console, the Switch is a much better option than a PlayStation 5 or Xbox Series X that might cost upwards of double that amount. The Switch also already offers a substantial library, easily accessed through its eShop.

What better hype could Nintendo ask for than a surprise Paper Mario announcement that left gamers buzzing without the flash and pomp of a formal video pitch to be picked apart by its own fans?

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Lisa Marie Segarra
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Lisa Marie Segarra is the Gaming Section at Digital Trends. She's previously covered tech and gaming at Fortune Magazine and…
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