For February’s Nintendo Direct, I watched the show while chatting on Discord with Digital Trends’ gaming writers. Of all the new games announced, there was one in particular that elicited gleeful squeals from the crowd: Nintendo Switch Sports.
The unlikely sequel to Wii Sports brings the thrill of 2000s motion-controlled athletics to the Switch. Nostalgic gamers will get to bowl, golf, and more with the flick of a joy-con. It was the kind of left-field announcement that got everyone talking on social media. No other moment had my phone blowing up with caps-locked text messages more.
Once the initial excitement died down and I took a step back from the show, I started thinking about how strange the entire premise of the new game is. Wii Sports was a phenomenon in 2006, but will players really be willing to shell out for an updated version of it in 2022?
Wii Sports is one of the most successful video games of all time, but context is everything. The game came bundled with Nintendo Wii systems at launch and acted as a sort of free tech demo for Nintendo’s odd Wiimotes. It was a simple sports game that let players test out motion controls with intuitive mini-games. Anyone who owned a Wii had a copy of the game (depending on what country they bought it in), making it a built-in success story.
As of 2021, Nintendo reports that the game has sold 82.9 million units in its lifetime. For context, the next best selling Wii game is Mario Kart Wii at 37.38 million units.
It’s a skewed statistic since the game was bundled with a console. The number is more reflective of how many units the Wii moved than how eager fans were to buy Wii Sports. That makes it difficult to gauge how hungry audiences are for more. A sequel, Wii Sports Resort, launched in 2009 and would sell over 33 million units in its lifetime. Even that’s misleading though, as the game was bundled with later Wii consoles.
It’s difficult to tell how many players would have actually bought Wii Sports as a stand-alone release. That’s exactly what we’re going to find out when Nintendo Switch Sports launches on April 29. It won’t be cheap, though. A digital copy will run players $40, while Target has the physical edition (which includes a leg strap peripheral) for $50.
There’s one reason to think it could be a huge hit: Ring Fit Adventure. Nintendo’s $80 fitness game has been a surprise hit for the company, moving 13.53 million units as of December 2021. Though even that statistic is context-dependent. By the end of 2019, the niche game had shipped less than 3 million units worldwide. That number spiked significantly during the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic as players looked for an easy way to stay active at home.
If Nintendo Switch Sports sells well, it’ll likely be more attributable to Ring Fit’s success than Wii Sports. It’s not exactly an exercise tool, but it has the same appeal as a fitness game that gets a players’ body moving. For Switch owners that have grown bored of training with Ring Fit, Nintendo Switch Sports could liven up their digital movement routine.
That’s key because the gimmick that made Wii Sports special in 2006 isn’t as novel in 2022. Wii Sports was a revelation when it first came out, opening the door for intuitive games that anyone could play. It unearthed an entirely new market of casual gamers that reinvigorated Nintendo and the industry at large. Even your grandma could play a video game — that was a big deal at the time.
The reality, though, is that Wii Sports was a Wiimote demo that was free for a reason. Since then, Nintendo has gone on to implement motion controls in more full-fledged sports titles like Mario Golf: Super Rush. The idea of a modern Wii Sports successor has strong nostalgia appeal, but it’s hard to imagine it having the same cultural impact today when there are so many options available to players.
I’m still excited for Nintendo Switch Sports in any case. The simplicity of Wii Sports is its strong suit, one that made it into the best party game around. I can foresee a few fun game nights where my friends flail around and laugh over a round of tennis. I’m just not expecting it to usurp Mario Kart 8 Deluxe’s throne anytime soon.
Nintendo Switch Sports launches on April 29 for Nintendo Switch.
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