MetalFRO's Blog

Posted on Mar 8th 2020 at 08:00:00 AM by (MetalFRO)
Posted under Nintendo Switch, Hybrid console, game console, portable gaming

Image linked shamelessly from Nintendo.

3 years ago this month, Nintendo released a new console, dubbed the Switch. After all the lead-up to the reveal, and all the "NX" rumors that were flying around, the name was met with some skepticism. As someone who works in Information Technology, "switch" means something entirely different in my world, so it also hit me a little funny, because I thought it might get confusing. That said, I think the name fits, and after the underwhelming performance of the Wii U, Nintendo definitely needed to change their approach. By consolidating their home console and handheld business lines into a single product, they took a huge risk, but at this point, I think it's safe to say it was a gamble well worth taking.

I still remember the excitement leading up to the reveal of the system, as it was palpable. Several YouTube gaming channels were constantly giving us any scrap of information that sounded remotely credible, and the drip feed of news was barely enough to satisfy the fans, starving for something new from Nintendo, that would help move them past the previous console's market flop. Finally, in January 2017, we got confirmation of many rumors, with the official reveal trailer. It was smart marketing, on Nintendo's part, to do the trailer the way they did, and it immediately caused the gaming segment of the internet to explode. I vividly remember watching the trailer, myself, and being captivated by what I saw. When the guy pulls the Switch out of the dock, to take it on the go, while out walking his dog, we knew the rumors were true, that Nintendo's next console would be a hybrid, merging the portability that Nintendo had been known for nearly 30 years at that point, with the ability to play at home, on your TV, with a controller. For a short while after the trailer came out, videos of people reacting to it was my favorite thing to watch on YouTube.

I still randomly get the song in this trailer stuck in my head. And now you do, too. You're welcome.

I was fortunate enough to get my Switch on launch day. I remember thinking I wanted one, but I didn't have the money to preorder, so when the day came, I had the money, but thought I had no chance of acquiring one. I called around to several stores, and they had all sold out almost immediately. On a whim, I called the one store in town that might be carrying them. To my shock, surprise, and delight, they had two! By 6:30 PM that evening, they had one. The other was in my possession, and went home with me. Unfortunately, they only had the consoles, and didn't receive any games. I debated whether to buy a digital game (or two), or wait until I had the chance to drive down to the nearest small city, and buy some physical games. I elected to do the latter. I waited in anticipation through the rest of the work week, and on Saturday, I finally had my first two games: Super Bomberman R, and of course, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, which I reviewed a couple months later, right here at RF Generation.

Smelling your newly opened Switch was a thing. Don't ask.

I could regale you all with tales of playing my Switch over the past 3 years, but I've already done some of that in previous posts. Instead, I thought I might share some information to show just how well Nintendo has bounced back from the Wii U's commercial failure. As much as I love the Wii U as a console, I understand that it didn't appeal to enough people. The Switch seems to have rectified that, and its appeal is far more wide in scope, in part due to its status as a hybrid. Much like how the Wii took the Game Cube internals, and just made it friendlier to a larger audience, the Switch took the fundamentals of a home console, combined that with a modicum of portability, and sprinkled in just enough of Nintendo's signature magic to make it all work.

According to figures from VGChartz, the Switch passed 50 million units sold in early January this year. The Switch passed up Sony's PS4 in sales in Japan, in mid-May 2019, according to this article from Business Insider. And while gaming might be more ubiquitous, commercially viable, and more socially acceptable in the new millennium than in the early 90's, it only took just over 2 years for the Switch to outsell its forefather, the Super Nintendo/Super Famicom, which has a lifetime sales figure of 49.10 million, based on the information as compiled on Wikipedia. In fact, the top 4 selling games on the Switch, as of January 2020, had all sold through more copies than the Wii U's lifetime worldwide sales numbers. There's also speculation that the Switch has now likely outsold the struggling Xbox One, as well.

Image shamelessly linked from Business Insider.
One might think the Switch Lite would go against the entire ethos of the console, but sales figures haven't reflected that.

Given the sales trajectory of Nintendo's powerhouse, it's interesting to look at how it compares with the previous generation. The 3DS debuted in early 2011, so at this point, it's been on the market for a solid 9 year span, having sold over 75 million units, according to NintendoLife. Consider that the Switch has managed to do roughly 2/3 of that in a third of the time. The Wii U, which hit the market in November 2012, managed to only sell approximately 13.56 million units, was surpassed by the Switch in less than a year, according to this article from HypeBeast, and is poised to quadruple that lifetime figure in short order. If you look at the total lifetime sales of both the 3DS and Wii U, from the February 2011 3DS launch, and the November 2012 launch of the Wii U, up to the point where the Switch debuted in March of 2017, you'll see that in 3 years, the Switch has managed to gain substantial ground, at approximately 52 million units (and climbing), as compared to the 89 million units combined that Nintendo sold through of Wii U and 3DS units, during their respective lifetimes up to that point.

It's not unrealistic to think that, since Nintendo has gone all-in on the hybrid console gambit, and it seems to be paying off, that the Switch will continue for a little while longer, as the company's only platform. Rumors persist about a "Switch Pro" model looming on the horizon, but while Nintendo hasn't totally confirmed, nor denied, these rumors, the success of the console thus far would lend credence to the idea that the next iteration, however it looks, will be less of a full successor, and more an iterative update, not unlike the PS4 Pro, or Xbox One X. This means that the Switch could continue to sell through systems under the same moniker and platform, well into the future. With that in mind, I wouldn't doubt the ability of the system to reach the heights of the Wii, in terms of lifetime sales.

As long as Nintendo continues to maintain a strong attach rate for first party titles, and indie games continue to sell well on the system, as well as receiving continued support from 3rd party studios and publishers, I don't see any indicators to say that the Switch will be anything but one of Nintendo's most successful ventures, by the end of its lifespan. That might be strange to speculate, at what may barely be the console's halfway point, but I haven't seen evidence to contradict strong projections. While nothing in gaming may ever be as successful as the Nintendo DS, or Sony PlayStation 2 again, Nintendo's little hybrid that could has garnered more market share, and more support, than most anyone would have predicted, coming off one of their biggest market failures. Time will tell how it stacks up with the rest of the pack, but at this juncture, I think it's safe to say the Nintendo Switch has proven many detractors wrong, and given Nintendo the big win they needed to close out the 2010's.

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Sadly, my Nintendo Switch lost its "new console" smell mere days after I freed it from the box. Now it bears a a faint whiff of Dr. Pepper, Flamin' Hot Cheetos, and whatever plastic they make Transformers toys out of. Love that picture, though; that bad boy is highly meme-able! Looks like I have some work to do...

@Zagnorch: And I appreciate those memes Cheesy

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