March 31st, 2021 is going to be a rough day for fans of the Mario franchise. On that fateful day, Nintendo will stop selling Super Mario 3D-All Stars, as well as physical copies of the Super Mario Bros. special edition Game and Watch. That’s not all, as Nintendo will also take down Super Mario Bros. 35 from the eShop and shut down servers on the original Super Mario Maker.
At first glance, this looks like nothing more than a way to artificially inflate sales for Mario’s 35th anniversary. However, a deeper dive shows that there could be a bigger reason for the massive shutdown on March 31st, and it could have something to do with the Zelda franchise.
What Could Happen to Mario and Zelda on March 31st, 2021
Limited releases are not uncommon in the video game industry. The short-windowed nature of their existence can boost sales, as customers on the fence are more likely to buy if they know the opportunity won’t be around forever.
Originally, most assumed Nintendo was using this limited release model to boost the sales of Mario’s 35th anniversary products. On top of that, stopping Mario sales on March 31st perfectly aligns with the turn of the financial year. The strategy makes sense from a fiscal standpoint, as the Mario franchise is arguably the biggest in all of gaming. However, Nintendo is also making a few decisions that seemingly have no financial payoff.
Super Mario Bros. 35 is completely free with a Nintendo Switch Online account, and yet Nintendo is still shutting that down on March 31st. Additionally, Nintendo will take down the online services for the original Super Mario Maker on the same day.
On paper, Nintendo doesn’t have a financial reason to do either of these things. While you technically need an NSO account to play Super Mario Bros. 35, it’s highly unlikely that too many people paid for the service solely for this game. Additionally, there probably aren’t too many Wii U owners that don’t have a Switch, and the ones that don’t probably won’t buy one just because they no longer have the Super Mario Maker server.
While finances could play a role in Nintendo’s decision-making, there could be more to this picture.
Zelda’s 35th Anniversary
Mario might be the biggest name in Nintendo’s arsenal, but Zelda is a close second. The classic series of games initially debuted in 1986, meaning that 2021 will mark the 35th anniversary of the franchise. Seeing as Nintendo planned a year-long celebration for Mario’s 35th anniversary (COVID-19 affected some of these plans), it’s safe to assume the same will be done for Zelda.
Frankly, it doesn’t make sense to have consecutive 35-year anniversaries going on for your two biggest franchises. By removing all things Mario, Nintendo is giving themselves an opportunity to switch the focus completely to Zelda – and not have to worry about competing interests from Mario.
Chances are, Nintendo will wait until after March 31st to announce whatever they plan to do with Zelda’s 35th anniversary. That said, by clearing out Mario, they’re allowing the year to completely center on The Legend of Zelda. As an added bonus, the limited release also helps boost their short-term profit margins at the end of the financial year.