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Nintendo is betting on Smash Bros. and Pokémon for huge holiday sales

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Nintendo’s Reggie Fils-Aimé doesn’t seem worried, though

Photo by James Bareham / The Verge

The Switch has been a huge success for Nintendo, already outselling both of its predecessors: the GameCube and the Wii U. But the portable console — coming up on its second holiday season — is about to face its biggest test yet, with Nintendo needing to sell nearly 14 million Switches over the holidays if it wants to meet its lofty 20 million unit sales goal that it set at the beginning of the year. And it has to do it without the benefit of a Zelda or a Mario game to bolster sales.

It’s a big moment for the future of the Switch, but Nintendo of America president Reggie Fils-Aimé isn’t concerned. “This year, we think that we’re exceptionally well prepared for the holidays and truly have something for every type of gamer and every type of household,” the tells The Verge.

Pokémon Go

Crucially, Nintendo has a pair of aces up its sleeve: Pokémon: Let’s Go and Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, both of which are hitting the Switch in a one-two holiday punch on November 16th and December 7th, respectively. And those games are coming on the heels of Super Mario Party, which ended a dry spell of major Switch releases a few weeks ago in October, and which Fils-Aimé notes has already cracked the 1 million unit mark.

“As we look at our momentum right now that we’ve been able to drive with Super Mario Party,” he explains, “as we look at Pokémon about to launch this Friday, Super Smash Bros. on December 7th, we believe we’re exceptionally well positioned to drive through the holiday season to have a very strong quarter. That’s the key for us.” The two games are huge brands that are designed to leverage big audiences from across the spectrum of Nintendo fans, from the over 800 million Pokémon Go players around the world looking for a next, more expansive step, to the most die-hard of Smash Bros. fighters with the incredible attention to minute combat details that the latest game offers.

It’s a bet that may actually pay off. According to Fils-Aimé, “the pre-sale trends for both of these titles are tracking to the best we’ve ever seen on Nintendo Switch. The consumer engagement through all of our digital activity has been exceptionally strong.” Early reviews of Pokemon: Let’s Go ahead of release are positive, too, which bodes well for Nintendo, especially given that the Pokémon title was likely the riskier sell to fans. It’s both the first real console Pokémon game and one that is radically different from more traditional games in the series.

Another key part of hitting that sales goal this holiday season is actually having enough Switches, with Nintendo striving to avoid some of the supply issues that plagued the company last year. “We’ve worked really hard to make sure that we have enough systems, enough accessories, enough games,” Fils-Aimé says, although he warns that there’s always a risk that things will still sell out, especially at peak sale points. Still, it’s a far more optimistic outlook than previous years, where Nintendo products have been almost impossible to find on shelves during the holiday rush.

But whether or not Nintendo hits its 2018 numbers, the future seems bright for the Switch. In addition to already announced titles like Fire Emblem: Three Houses, a new Animal Crossing, and a proper, mainline Pokémon game, Fils-Aimé teased that there are also “brand new surprises that that we haven’t yet shared” to look forward to. “What we want to do is surprise and delight our fans in ways that they didn’t even think of.”