Okay, so this is interesting. When Nintendo went into details on amiibo sales at its latest investor meeting it created a handy little list of which amiibo was most popular where. There were deviations in different markets. Kirby was more popular in Japan, for example, Pikachu was more important in the US. Who was number 1? In all territories Link from the Legend of Zelda topped the list. He was the most popular amiibo in all territories. All territories except one.
Which begs the question: why does Australia hate Link?
Hate might be a strong word. Link wasn’t absent from the list; he just didn’t top the list. Mario did. Link just happened to come a distant third. But it is an anomaly. What happened?
I have a couple of hair-brained theories.
Mario Kart 8 was a big deal in Australia
Yes, I get it. Mario Kart 8 is a big deal in all territories, not just Australia — but hear me out. Mario Kart 8 is a big deal globally, it’s simply a bigger deal in Australia relative to other countries. The reason? Well it’s not necessarily the game per se, but the timing of the release.
Mario Kart 8 was released during a critical period for Australian retail. It was released around the time when local retailers like Big W tend to run massive toy sales. When Mario Kart 8 was released in Australia, the timing was perfect, Nintendo shifted a large number of Mario Kart 8/Wii U bundles during this time. Beforehand the Wii U was really struggling locally. Nintendo themselves even acknowledged this massive sales spike in its presentation.
My theory: a larger percentage of the Wii U install base in Australia own Mario Kart 8 Wii U bundles relative to regular Wii U bundles. People who own Mario Kart 8 are likely to buy Mario as an amiibo. Why would they buy Link if he only appears in the game as a DLC character?
The Wii U Skews Younger In Australia
This one is a little more speculative, but runs on the heels of the sales theory. If, relative to the local population, a large percentage of Wii U owners bought Mario Kart 8 bundles, and bought those bundles as part of, say, a Big W sale, you’d have to think that a large number of these consoles were bought by parents for their children, right?
I’m not saying the Wii U is exclusively for children. Of course not. I’m simply saying that, as a result of that documented Australian sales spike, which was driven by toy sales, a larger percentage of the Australian Wii U owning population are most likely children. Especially when compared to other global markets who didn’t see quite the same sales spike. I’d argue that those children are far more likely to ask for a Mario amiibo than a Link amiibo.
Smash Bros. Isn’t Quite As Popular In Australia
Again, this is speculative.
This whole article is speculative!
Smash Bros. is huge everywhere, but is it as huge in Australia as it is in Japan and the US? That’s the question. It’s difficult to get exact sales figures but, expressed as a percentage, sales of Super Smash Bros. make up more of a percentage in the US and Japanese market than, say, Mario Kart 8.
Therefore, people in the US and Japanese markets are more likely to buy a Link amiibo, since Link is a popular main character in Super Smash Bros., the game most people are using amiibo for at this point. If Smash has been (relatively speaking) more popular in other regions outside Australia, that would also explain why Link isn’t quite so popular here.
Australia’s Retail Situation Is Different
I can’t really speak with any authority on how Wii U’s are sold at retail in the US, but locally? Nintendo products appear to be taking up less and less space at specialist retail. I’m guessing that a large percentage of Wii U’s sold in Australia were bought in Big W, Kmarts, etc.
I also suspect that the majority of amiibos sold were sold in the same stores.
Massive retails outlets targeted at parents make up such a large percentage of money spent at retail here in Australia. Could that have made a difference? Possibly. These companies tend to use video games as a loss leader. Most likely the situation in the US is similar, but could this have had an impact? I think so. If more parents were buying amiibo for their kids they’d be more likely to buy Nintendo’s most recognisable mascot and that is Mario.
An Availability Issue?
Australia is a small market. We also happen to be at the arse-end of the world relative to the US and Europe. This often means we don’t get the same level of stock as other regions. Could it simply be that high sales of the Link amiibo in the US, Europe in Japan meant that there were simply more Mario amiibo to go around? Could Australians have simply been receiving the stock that was immediately available and that stock happened to have more Mario amiibo?
I think that’s very possible. Particularly since amiibo were selling out in every store in Australia almost immediately.
TL;DR: Australia didn’t get much Link amiibo stock.
Any other theories why Mario was more popular than Link in Australia? Let us know!