Why It's No Surprise That Nintendo Is Making Splatoon 3

Splatoon franchise sales are bigger than some AAA games, so you shouldn't be shocked that a third game is coming.

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One of the big announcements from the February Nintendo Direct on Wednesday was the reveal of Splatoon 3, the latest sequel in Nintendo's colorful shooter series. Some people were surprised that Nintendo is pushing ahead with a third entry despite the franchise not dominating headlines in the way that Mario Kart, Zelda, and Smash often do. The surprise, in the eyes of some, may also stem from the fact that Nintendo chose to announce a sequel to Splatoon as opposed to its other franchises.

Follow The Money

But it's really no big shock that Splatoon 3 is happening. As with most entertainment products, following the money is a good place to start. The original Splatoon for Wii U sold an impressive 4.95 million copies. That's a big number by itself, and it's more impressive when you consider the Wii U itself only sold 13.5 million systems over its lifetime.

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Now Playing: Splatoon 3 Reveal Trailer | Nintendo Direct

Splatoon 2 for the Nintendo Switch was an even bigger hit, selling 11.90 million copies as of December 31, 2020. Combined, the two games have reached 16.85 million units sold, which is a massive result that demonstrates there is a clear business opportunity to make a third one.

In fact, Splatoon 2 is the ninth best-selling Switch game to date. The bigger story here would be if Nintendo decided not to make Splatoon 3 because there is very obviously a market and an interest in more games. With sales of 11.90 million copies so far, Splatoon 2 for Switch is several million units ahead of the best-selling Wii U game of all time, Mario Kart 8 (8.45 million units).

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Live Services

Outside of the commercial opportunity, Nintendo's creative teams have demonstrated an ability and a desire to expand on and improve the Splatoon series with each new release. And that's exciting to think about for Splatoon 3.

Splatoon 2 made a number of improvements over the original game, adding a more robust single-player mode and adopting additional online modes. Multiplayer games and live services are a key vector of growth for Nintendo, so it makes sense to continue the online-focused Splatoon series going forward as people continue to embrace playing online and spending money on expansions and microtransactions.

A Unicorn

Splatoon 3 does represent a unicorn of sorts for Nintendo. Historically and typically, Nintendo only releases one entry in its multiplayer-focused franchises for each console generation. Some might have expected Nintendo to do the same with Splatoon, but that won't be the case. Business practices change all the time in response to recent trends. So while Nintendo may only tend to release one Smash or Mario Kart game per system, that doesn't mean it's a hard and fast rule for every Nintendo platform and franchise.

What's New In Splatoon 3

For Splatoon 3, Nintendo isn't changing the formula--you still play as Inklings and Octolings that can change form, spraying ink to cover surfaces to gain control. New for Splatoon 3, however, are additional abilities and weapons, including the brand-new bow and "squid surge" and "squid roll" abilities. A new character customization tool is in the game as well, while it appears Nintendo has also gone a step further toward representation with more options for non-binary characters. The sequel also takes players to a new location--the Splatlands--which is an awesome-looking region featuring the bustling city of Splatsville.

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Nintendo only just announced Splatoon 3, and the game isn't out until 2022, so it's still early days when it comes to learning about what's new and exciting about the next sequel, but what we've seen so far looks impressive.

Splatfests Are A Big Deal

Outside of that, the Splatoon series is a powerful mechanism for Nintendo to hold various promotional campaigns that help raise the profile of the series and the company itself. Splatoon 2's Splatfest events featured collaborations and crossovers with mega-brands such as McDonald's, Pocky, Nike, and TMNT. Nintendo likely doesn't want to walk away from these opportunities to expand its reach, but instead continue to embrace and grow them, which is where Splatoon 3 could come in to help.

Whether you expected it or not, Splatoon is now one of Nintendo's core franchises alongside Mario and Zelda.

For more on the February Nintendo Direct, check out GameSpot's recap of all the big announcements and reveals.

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