Following their latest financial results, Nintendo has officially gotten themselves out of the Wii U hole and climbed back to the top of the mountain with Switch. It's been one hell of a journey, so why not look back on it? As always, thanks for reading.
What a difference a few years makes, right? Not that long ago, Nintendo was seriously hurting when it came to the home console side of things. The Wii U failed to capture a meaningful part of the market right out of the gate, and it struggled for its entire truncated lifespan. That platform just never caught on, and really put the pressure on Nintendo to deliver something new fast. Doing something new is easy. It's doing something successful that's the hard part.
Many a Nintendo fan will say that the Big N is at its best when its back is against a wall, and Nintendo was definitely backed into a corner with the Wii U. Nintendo certainly didn't plan for the Wii U to be a flop in the market. No company would ever think that way, but the Wii U likely tanked faster than Nintendo could have ever imagined. A short lifespan and a very small library of software meant Nintendo really had to swing things back in their favor with the next hardware outing. Would Nintendo once again prove that they shine brightest in the face of adversity?
Obviously no one knew what Nintendo was going to do for a Wii U follow-up, but plenty of people were already sounding the death knell for the company in general. Another thing Nintendo fans know is that Nintendo is always doomed. No matter how many years of success they have, how many millions of hardware units they move, or how many pieces of software they sell, the Big N is always just one step away from falling into its own grave. With the Wii U really stumbling in the market, countless armchair analysts were saying Nintendo was done and dusted.
Longtime fans knew different, and figured Nintendo would be able to cook up something that could bring in a bit more appeal. They've done it before and they'll certainly do it again. Nintendo is never one to give up, and they're always ready to tackle any challenge ahead. Nintendo couldn't guarantee a success with their next piece of hardware, but you can bet they analyzed absolutely everything that happened with the Wii U and made all efforts to do the exact opposite with the Switch.
When the Switch was first revealed, there was an intense amount of excitement. That was something the Wii U never really had. Nintendo fans may have been interested in what the Wii U could do in terms of gameplay, but the larger gaming public was intrigued by the Switch's reveal. That first segment where you see the Switch taken out of its dock and the Joy-Con are attached is a real 'wow' moment. It was an instant way of showing those who ragged on the Wii U that things would be different this time. Everyone wanted the Wii U to be a system that would let you play your games on the go, rather than a system that let you move roughly 6 feet away from your TV. Within 30 seconds of its debut video, Switch showed that Nintendo was listening.
The rest of that trailer was absolutely perfect as well. We saw Nintendo exclusives like Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Super Mario Odyssey, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, and Splatoon 2. There was footage of mainstream third party successes like NBA 2K and Skyrim. The ease of play for local multiplayer was undeniable. Nintendo even showed off a more traditional method of input with the Switch Pro Controller during an eSports segment. The trailer was slick, jam-packed with information, and brought with it an excitement that was palpable. This was the trailer Nintendo needed to get things going on the right foot.
While the sentiment from the gaming public was largely positive, there were still those who were wondering if Nintendo could pull it off. Would Nintendo actually come back from the dark days of the Wii U and have another console success? Even after the Switch trailer, there were still outliers who weren't so sure. The important thing to note is that they were indeed outliers. The majority of people who checked out the trailer were eager to learn more. They were excited by Nintendo's new games, wanted to see more about playing Skyrim on the go, and needed to know what other features this quirky system would pack in.
Before we knew it, Switch launch was upon us. Nintendo had spent months and months going over multiple aspects of the system, and they'd done all they could to convince gamers to become early adopters. Actual launch week wasn't going to be a challenge, as Nintendo's system almost always face near sell-outs at launch. That was the case for Switch, just like it was the Wii U. The real question on everyone's lips was whether or not the system would keep selling. Could Nintendo keep the momentum going when the Wii U fell so hard?
Once the system launched, the negative voices started creeping back in. Among gamers and press alike, there were complaints about a shallow launch lineup in terms of both quantity and quality. Some said the lack of plentiful launch titles showed that third parties had no interest in Nintendo again, and the system would get even less support than Wii U. Others mocked the Switch for having a collection of ports, saying no one would want to grab a new system that offered so much in the way of old content. These voices were a bit hard to get away from online in the early launch days, but they served an important reminder. Sometimes the smallest groups have the loudest voices.
The months rolled on, and the Switch seemed to be gaining more ground. Systems were still hard to find months out, and more games were trickling in. Nintendo themselves proved that they realized just how important a solid software roll-out was when it came to their own offerings. Nintendo made sure to show players what was on the way soon, and what would be hitting later in the year. The library started to take shape, and it was a veritable who's who of first party favorites. Some of Nintendo's biggest and brightest stars were getting brand-new games or revamped ports. This caused even more interest in the system, more sales overall, and more attention from all sorts of developers.
Things really started to take off when devs/pubs realized that Switch owners were eager to get their hands on content of any type. It was an audience that would gobble up a traditional RPG just as much as they would an indie platformer or visual novel. The people who owned a Switch were willing to try something new, and support those games in a big way. Whether it was a port of a previous-gen game or something brand-new for Switch, audiences were ready to dive in. More and more developers started to take note, and they moved from considering Switch support to seeing it as a must-do situation.
It seems that the Switch's most defining feature was the one that wooed countless gamers, and that holds true to this day. The ability to play on TV or on the go was something quite irresistible for gamers. Being able to take console-quality games with you to play anywhere you want was pretty staggering. This one feature made old games feel new again. People who loved playing Skyrim on their PC or console were excited to have that same experience in the palm of their hands. It was a fresh way to experience content that you knew you loved, and you could play it seamlessly on your terms. Having that versatility is something any gamer can greatly appreciate.
Nintendo's approach to Switch is still paying off today. Switch owners continue to jump in on content from any genre, leading to many Switch releases selling best among multiplatform efforts. Playing docked and undocked has become a godsend for players with busy schedules, and remains just as appealing as it was on day one. Nintendo is still cooking up new installments for their big-name franchises, while also pumping out off-beat experiences like Ring Fit Adventure and Nintendo Labo. Nintendo's entire approach to the Switch shows just how much they've learned from Wii U, while still holding onto their fiercely independent spirit.
It's pretty crazy that Nintendo saw a path forward in the Switch. Before we knew what the Switch was, plenty of people would have told you that portable gaming was dying, and no company that valued its place in the business would pursue it. As usual, Nintendo ignores the trends and does their own thing. This is always going to be a "for better or worse" situation, but this time Nintendo's decision was definitely for the better. You really have to appreciate just how willing Nintendo is to roll the dice each time, be it with new hardware or software. You never know what they'll do next.
The story of the Switch is one of redemption. Nintendo soared to unseen heights with the Wii and DS, creating to platforms that simultaneously took the world by storm. Millions of new gamers were created, and audiences widened like never before. From those great heights came the fall with Wii U. Nintendo somehow followed up one of their biggest successes with one of their most damning failures. As a fan, it truly hurt to see that happen, but we all knew Nintendo wasn't down for the count. They weren't going to give up, and they were once again ready to give things their all with the Switch. Thankfully, the Switch turned out to be the Cinderella story Nintendo needed.
The Switch can already be considered a success at this point, but there's more to come. Nintendo has other big-name games in the works, and we are probably only at the halfway point for the system. Following another 20+ million units sold in the last fiscal year, Nintendo has shown that the Switch certainly has staying power. No matter what happens from here, the Switch can always be considered a success. The question is just how high will it climb? Will it reach the high watermark of the Wii, or will it peter out towards the end like the 3DS? Time for the armchair analysts to once again debate the future. All I know for sure is that no matter where things go with Switch, I'll definitely be along for the ride.