2017 has been a transformative year for Nintendo. The brand has rejuvenated in the eyes of all but the most cynical of gamers. The Switch is selling like mad and so are all the games, even the new IP and Wii U ports. It’s ridiculous. DOOM is getting ported to the Switch, and folks are losing their damn minds. Nintendo, despite still being Nintendo at times, is doing a lot of things right. Or is it benefitting from happenstance? I say neither. Instead, it’s clear to me that Nintendo has had an underlying strategy brewing since the later bits of the Wii U life cycle. What may that be, you ask? Well, the answer is clear, if you’ve been paying any attention.
The answer to Nintendo’s rejuvenation is aggressively sexy, chiseled, and above all, shirtless, men.
Think back for a bit, join me on this journey, and recall the pivotal moment at which Nintendo planted these virile, studly seeds. Do you remember Super Smash Bros. for Wii U and-slash-or 3DS? Of course you do; for many it was the introduction to Shulk, protagonist of Xenoblade Chronicles. Shulk was a fanciful, vaguely British anime boy who may as well have been a sci-fi Fire Emblem character. Nobody knew or cared who he was for the most part, not unlike Marth or Roy back in the Gamecube days. But Nintendo really wanted to make Shulk a known quantity, to justify his amiibo and 3DS port of his game.
So, Nintendo took his shirt off. And we noticed him. Oh, did we notice him.
Shirtless Shulk became one of the most important video game events of the time. But this was only the beginning. Nintendo knew the effort had taken root and was ready to flower into precious fruit, but in order to capitalize after the Wii U’s regrettable sales numbers, Nintendo had to go big. Enter The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. Before we even truly knew what Breath of the Wild even was, we knew that Link could take his shirt off, showing the world his sleek, but bountiful, anime boy pec muscles. We had been weakened, but Nintendo still had to strike the final blow.
Link would then shiver in the cold. Immediately, Link became a precious, beautiful cinnamon roll to be protected at all costs by the player. But that’s not all. After the game came out and achieved the ludicrous, albeit short-lived, feat of having a more than 100% attach rate during the Switch’s launch, players would eventually discover Prince Sidon. Prince of the Zora kingdom, Sidon is the most inexplicably attractive fish-person gamers had ever seen. Twitter was almost unusable for about a week.
Breath of the Wild went on to become the fastest-selling The Legend of Zelda game in the history of time and space.
Nintendo had to ride this wave for as long as possible and continued to do so, but it’s holiday season and Nintendo had to bring things to the next level. Two new iterations of classic games series were shown off in detail in September 2017 Nintendo Direct, and two more iconic Nintendo fellas showed off some serious skin. First, with the new Kirby game coming to the Switch, King Dedede decided to get swole out of control and show off his new bod in a way that shocked the gaming community. Then the megaton. All I have to say about it is: Mario nipples.
So there you have it. The secret sauce when it comes to Nintendo’s resurgence is the earnest display of the male body. From the waist up, of course; Nintendo is a family-friendly company for the most part. Take it or leave it, that’s what’s happening folks. But what’s the next step? Will Luigi join his brother in frolicking on the beach, happily displaying his pudgy plumber parts? Will Captain Falcon make a comeback more epic than the brass nipples on his racing jacket? Now I turn to you, the reader, and ask: which Nintendo boy needs to rip his shirt off next?