Despite the massive success of the Wii, Nintendo was struggling to sell consumers on the Wii U, and that, combined with a slow start for the 3DS, saw it take financial losses for the first time in decades. Then-Nintendo CEO Satoru Iwata still believed in the company and decided to slash his salary in half to avoid firing any of his employees. Support for the Wii U was then phased out as the Big N set its sights on the future, gambling on an innovative home console/handheld hybrid that would come to be known as the Nintendo Switch.
Thanks to the sales failure that was the Wii U, it’s easy to forgive people for not believing in the Nintendo Switch. Many wrote the system off as another gimmicky Nintendo system that would fail to resonate with hardcore gamers, let alone capture the casual audience that became so enthralled with the Wii. However, not even a year after its debut and the Switch is already proving doubters wrong, with it being on pace to surpass the Wii U’s total lifetime sales by March 2018.
The Switch’s momentum is showing no signs of slowing down either. The console just had a spectacular Black Friday and Thanksgiving performance, becoming the best-selling console of the big holiday shopping season in the process. Considering the Switch’s big successes so early in its life, some fans may be wondering what went wrong with the Wii U. The Nintendo Switch’s success is no accident, and there are a few reasons why the Switch is succeeding where the Wii U failed.
Video game consoles are only as good as their software library. Without any worthwhile games, video game consoles don’t serve many purposes, and that’s why it’s important for consoles to have a strong library of titles. Games are arguably the biggest reason why the Nintendo Switch is succeeding where the Wii U failed, as the Switch has already amassed an impressive collection of games, some of which are first-party exclusives.
Since its launch, the Switch has enjoyed two games that have each briefly held the title of highest rated video game made to-date before dipping back down below Super Mario Galaxy and The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. The console debuted with The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, which was enough reason for many consumers to pick up a Switch at launch. Then just a couple of months ago, Super Mario Odyssey launched to near universal acclaim, and is considered by many to be the Switch’s killer app.
Besides having juggernauts like Breath of the Wild and Super Mario Odyssey in its library, the Switch has also benefited by consistently having new software throughout the year. As some may recall, the Wii U had a strong launch, but the console was hit with a drought that saw very few new games. The Switch, meanwhile, has enjoyed a steady stream of releases, with a big new Nintendo game coming out for it almost every month along with plenty of third party titles.
Third party support is another major reason why the Switch’s library of games is off to a much better start than the Wii U’s. The Switch has attracted third-party support from publishers that have avoided Nintendo for decades, with Bethesda releasing multiple games on the console, including a well-received port of The Elder Scrolls 5: Skyrim. Other third-party publishers have taken note of the Switch’s success as well, with major players like Capcom and Square Enix both increasing production of Nintendo Switch titles.
Strong third-party support combined with critically-acclaimed first-party exclusives add up to give the Switch one of the most impressive launch years in gaming history. Assuming it’s able to keep this momentum going in 2018, the Switch’s library should eclipse the Wii U’s offerings in no time.
Hardware and Marketing
While having a number of high-quality games at the start is a big part of why the Nintendo Switch has been so much more successful than the Wii U, another reason is its hardware. Smartphone games haven’t quite taken over the handheld gaming market like analysts predicted a decade ago, as the Nintendo 3DS has sold nearly 70 million units at the time of this writing. Consumers want dedicated handheld gaming devices, and the Nintendo Switch fits the bill.
The Nintendo Switch’s portability has mass appeal, and the fact that it can be used as both a handheld and a competent home console is just icing on the cake. Being able to play popular current-gen games like Doom on the go is a big selling point for many gamers, and it will be interesting to see if people pick better-looking versions of games or versions that allow them to play anywhere they want.
The ability to play home console-quality games on the go has been the focus of its marketing since the system’s introduction. Marketing for the Nintendo Switch has made it very clear what the Switch is and what it does, whereas the Wii U’s marketing confused many consumers, as some genuinely didn’t know if it was a new console or simply an add-on for the Wii. Nintendo’s message with the Switch is clear, and it’s easy for casual consumers to look at it and immediately understand its purpose.
The Nintendo Switch is off to an incredible start, and multiple analysts have predicted that it will sell between 30 and 50 million units in its lifetime. Of course, these numbers could be derailed if Nintendo fails to keep the system relevant, but by all accounts, the Switch looks like it has a strong future.
Nintendo is expected to expand the Switch’s online capabilities in 2018, which will include the introduction of virtual console. While the Switch’s virtual console will likely feature ports of classic Nintendo titles like previous iterations of the service, fans can expect at least some games to have new online features, particularly NES titles. The Nintendo Switch’s virtual console is also expected to feature GameCube games, according to some rumors and the fact that the Switch has been updated to support GameCube controllers.
Beyond the ability to play classic games on the Switch, there are many new games in development for the console as well. Perhaps the most exciting titles in the works for the Switch are Metroid Prime 4 and the next main Pokemon RPG. Even though both games are potentially years away from release, they could make the console a must-buy product for those that are still on the fence.
Nintendo seems confident that it will be able to keep fans engaged with the Nintendo Switch for a long time to come. The Big N has doubled its production of Switch units for the next fiscal year, so hopefully those that have struggled to find one in stores will soon be able to see what all the fuss is about.
The Nintendo Switch is available now.