Nintendo online subscriptions soar driven by ‘Animal Crossing’ fans

By Sam Nussey

TOKYO (Reuters) – Japan’s Nintendo Co Ltd on Wednesday reported surging user numbers for its Switch Online subscription service, driven by hit titles like “Animal Crossing: New Horizons”, as the firm belatedly builds the recurring revenues such services offer.

Nintendo Switch Online, which gives users the option to play friends, save game progress online and access classic titles, has been growing rapidly this year with more than 26 million users as of September, compared with 15 million in January, the Kyoto-based gaming firm said.

The rise is driven by the popularity of hit titles like “Animal Crossing”, which has sold more than 22 million copies, “Super Smash Bros. Ultimate” and the latest “Pokemon” titles, President Shuntaro Furukawa told a briefing.

Rivals Sony Corp and Microsoft Corp, which on Tuesday launched a cloud gaming service for playing Xbox titles on Android devices, have been targeting subscription services to extend the life of their consoles.

Nintendo has been slow to grow such services and is yet to move into cloud gaming, instead focusing on the portable Switch device, which has been on a tear this year from consumers looking for escapism amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Stuck-at-home gamers helped push up digital downloads to more half of Switch software sales in the quarter ended June. That trend is being tempered by the reopening of retailers, Furukawa said.

Nintendo’s president reiterated the firm’s commitment to both hardware and software. In October it will launch a “Mario Kart” toy that can be controlled by the Switch.

(Reporting by Sam Nussey; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)

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