It is no mystery Nintendo’s Smash Bros. fighting franchise is one of their most lucrative properties. It was the bestselling Gamecube game, sold 5 million copies on the N64, and sold 11.49 million copies on the Wii (9th bestselling Wii game). Nintendo might be killing two birds with one stone with their cross over fighting game. Nintendo includes both popular characters like Pikachu and lesser known such as Pit in hopes to generate buzz for games these fighters are from. With this approach Nintendo hopes that their consumers will not only buy Smash, but also turn their unfamiliar IPs into blockbusters.
Not so much apparent in the first installment on the N64, this marketing attempt is clearer in the installment on the Gamecube. Two fighters that come to mind are Roy and Marth from the then Japan release only Fire Emblem. Marth became a favorite among competitive Smash players, most notably being the favorite character of King of Smash Ken. The buzz that Marth generated spurred a North American release of Nintendo’s turned based strategy game in 2003 for the Game Boy Advance in which the players controls Eliwood (Roy’s father) and his army against the Black Fang.
Though the payoff was not apparent in the first installment commercially (331,000 units sold in North America), it was a prudent financial move by Nintendo. In 2013, Fire Emblem: Awakening became one of the fastest selling titles on the 3DS. Nintendo continues to keep on giving to the fans, with two of the most popular characters in the 3DS version, Lucina and Robin, being announced as playable characters.
Nintendo pushed for this in the Wii installment of Smash. Pit, an angel from Lady Palutena’s army, was reanimated from his pixelated NES form to appear in the fighting game.
Keep in mind, Nintendo had not touched the Kid Icarus series after it was released in 1991 in North America. Nintendo decided to make Pit a playable fighter and then proceeded to release a 3DS version called Kid Icarus: Uprising about a year after Brawl was released. The game sold 1.18 million copies and won best handheld game on some websites. Response from both the 3DS game and as a character in Brawl resulted in the introduction to Lady Palutena in the upcoming Smash.
Nintendo has been wise if this marketing from Smash is intentional. They have a medium that is likely to be a success and can insert characters from an unknown series to generate interest. If a player develops an affinity for a certain character in Smash, they can easily look up installments their favorite fighter is from and pay for it. In fact, Nintendo had samples of many classic Nintendo games in Brawl players could sample before buying a virtual download of it. It has worked for the two mentioned franchises in this article. Nintendo has a method of marketing that their competitors do not necessarily have. If only Nintendo would get a hold Shigesato Itoi and try to do this for Earthbound to make the author of this very happy…