The Nintendo Switch hit the worldwide market back in March and has been a top-seller ever since. The system has continuously sold out across retailers worldwide, making it a rare item in some cases. It’s great to see Nintendo’s new home system selling so well compared to its underdog predecessor, but it raises a question: why is the Switch so popular? Well, it basically sells itself.
Nintendo has taken a very unique approach with the Switch. While its competitors are busy trying to reel consumers in with powerful hardware and fancy graphics, Nintendo’s biggest concern is introducing new and creative ways to enjoy gaming. What sets the Switch apart from the rest of the pack is its hybrid design.
Being a hybrid system, the Switch is able to function as both a home console and a handheld. Taking cues from tablets, the system has a very slim and compact profile. The detachable Joy-Con controllers are also small, keeping the whole portability factor consistent throughout the entire package. Nintendo teamed up with Nvidia to ensure that the tiny console still had a bit of power behind it, which allows it to seamlessly transform from a home console to a portable unit in literal seconds. This is what makes the Switch stand out.
Some might argue that this whole thing has been done before, citing systems like the SEGA Nomad, PSP and PS Vita. True, those portable systems were also designed to play home console-quality games on-the-go. In the case of the PSP and PS Vita, they could even be connected to a TV to turn it into a home experience. Even so, the Switch is the system to really nail this concept down practically to a science. While it isn’t the most powerful system on the market, it still has enough power to hang with its competitors. Many developers have praised Nintendo for the Switch’s capabilities and its simple development architecture. The Switch has truly been able to blur the line between home consoles and handhelds.
The Switch is a true hybrid system, which definitely catches people’s attention.
That’s what makes the system so great: it has unique functionality that isn’t really getting in the way. Nintendo has taken a more adventurous approach to the design of its systems since the days of the Wii and DS. Nintendo focused primarily on being unique, which left everything else feeling a bit too simplistic. For instance, the Wii lacked the processing power to produce HD graphics. While this wasn’t a big deal to the majority who loved the system (casual gamers), it was definitely a downer for more serious gamers. Nintendo tried to modernize with the Wii U, but the system still lacked features that were found in older machines like the 360 and PS3. Speaking of the Wii U, now’s a good time to bring up how Nintendo’s ‘dare to be different’ attitude actually costed success.
The Wii and DS became a hit because they were unique yet simple machines. People instantly understood what they were about; for instance, with the Wii all you did was pick up the Wii Remote and move it around in natural motions. The Wii U on the other hand a slightly more complicated experience. The Wii U Gamepad was a more traditional controller than the Wii Remote, but it still offered something different in the form of its 6.2-inch touchscreen. Nintendo pushed the second display as an a ‘new realm’ to the gaming experience, giving players access to a whole new perspective that would be impossible without the second display. Some titles used the Gamepad to produce a different view that what was on the TV. Others used both screens in tandem with each other, with the Gamepad screen usually functioning as a compliment to main the display, like featuring a detailed map.
While some titles were able to use the Gamepad in some pretty cool ways, that wasn’t the case for the majority of games. Developers found it hard to come up with solid ideas, so most ended up either taking the easy way out and implementing only the most simple functionality (Off-TV Play) or just skipping the Wii U altogether. The ‘unique concept’ of the Wii U wasn’t just difficult for developers to create games for, but consumers found it strange as well. Nintendo figured that since ‘Wii’ became such a huge brand name, it would be clever to keep it going with the next system. That turned out to be a mistake; a lot of folks thought that the Wii U was just an expensive add-on to the original Wii, which didn’t push them to make a purchase. I’ve seen some people in the media and gaming community insist that if Nintendo just called the Wii U something like the ‘Wii 2’ or ‘Wii HD’, that would have helped it to sell better. Honestly, I don’t think that would have been the case.
Nintendo has made some seriously solid decisions with the Switch, unlike its predecessor.
By the time that the Wii U came around in 2012, the entire ‘Wii’ brand name was exhausted. The casual market that made the Wii so popular never intended to stick around for the long haul, and as a result, the system was abandoned towards the end of its six-year life. On top of that, the core gaming crowd had moved on from Nintendo, since the company seemed to primarily be catering to only the kids and families of the casual market. Nintendo was no longer seen as a ‘serious’ or ‘hardcore’ brand. So, the Wii U was ultimately purchased and appreciated primarily by the core Nintendo fans. That’s why the system only managed to amass an install base of 13.5 million. So, how has the Switch been able to perform so much better than the Wii U?
Unlike the Wii U, the Switch isn’t being confused for something else. People are enamored with its unique features, features that make sense and are beneficial to just about every player. Developers are also pleased with the system, which means that there should continue to be a steady stream of games over the course of the Switch’s lifecycle. Nintendo is doing a great job at keeping the system in people’s minds with advertisements that only successfully drive home the message behind the Switch, but these advertisements also cater to the young adult crowd instead of kids and families like before. Nintendo has learned from its mistakes and is trying its best to make up for them this time around.
It’s still too early to determine how many units the Switch units Nintendo will ultimately move off store shelves, but the company is off to a good start. Will the Switch turn out to be a fad like the Wii, or will it be able to stand tall and brave the storm like the PS4 has been doing? Only time will tell. In any case, the Switch is definitely a step-up from the Wii U and even the Wii. Nintendo has finally found a way to create a home system that both stands out and also manages to still fit into the industry’s standards. Here’s hoping that it continue to prove successful.