- Oct 6, 2018
With the 3rd anniversary of the release of the Switch upon us, would anyone else like to confess to thinking the Switch was going to be a flop? For me, I think the word "failure" would be a little too strong to describe my attitude at the time, I just thought it would experience relatively middling sales (maybe 20 million by now). My reasons for thinking so were as follows:
1. Price. $299 for a console not much more powerful than its predecessor, the Wii U, and far weaker than similarly priced PS4 and Xbox consoles.
2. Hardcore Nintendo fans being reluctant to jump on board after feeling burned by the Wii U, as would third parties
3. A lackluster launch line-up. A full priced port of a Street Fighter 2 remake which had already appeared for budget price on other consoles, an average Bomberman game, and a cheesy party game (1-2 Switch - also sold for full price). The only big title was Zelda: BotW, and that was also already getting a simultaneous release on the Wii U (and unlike upcoming cross-gen PS5/XSX titles, the Switch version wasn't even much of an upgrade)
4. Jack of all trades, master of none. While sounding neat in theory, the hybrid concept meant that the Switch seemed too small and underpowered to be a decent home console, while also being too big and battery draining to be a decent portable. The compromises made to the joycons to allow them to be able to be taken off and used as separate controllers also seemed to have a negative effect on the comfort of actually playing on the console. When combined together with that little grip to form a single controller it just looked awkward and uncomfortable next to the PS4 and Xbox controllers, the individual joycons themselves looked too small for anyone other than small children, and a traditional d-pad was sacrificed as part of the design.
To be fair, my doubts were pretty reasonable. Even if you could travel back in time and tell me the kind of software that would be released over the next 3 years, I still would have stuck to my original prediction. In fact, that knowledge would have made me even more sure of it:
- are Nintendo really going to re-release so many Wii U titles? What, at full price too!? Those games didn't help sell the Wii U, why do Nintendo think they will help the Switch!?
- so you're telling me that despite being able to concentrate pretty much all their efforts on a single platform, the only big new first party titles Nintendo are going to release are a new Mario game and another Luigi's Mansion? But surely they will release a new F-Zero or a new Metroid game, right? What did you just say about Metroid Prime 4...
- at least they'll be getting that new Shin Megami Tensei game though. What, it still hasn't been released?!
- ah but you say they did announce a new Bayonetta game, thank god for small mercies. Oh....
It's usually pretty easy to make arguments after the fact as to why something went the way it did, but I'm still not entirely sure why the Switch has been so successful. If I were to guess, I would give these reasons:
- it has been seen as a successor to the 3DS rather than to the Wii U and Nintendo portables have always been successful (eventually anyway)
- Nintendo managed to claw back some of the casual Wii crowd, after the Wii U failed to make an impact
- although not particularly great as a traditional portable, the design has been good for older gamers who can now game on the couch while their other half/kids use the main TV
- better advertising?
- they lucked out with Sony and MS both releasing mid-gen systems, so delaying the next-gen (which could have made the Switch tech look even more outdated than it already is)
- the Wii U made so little impact on most consumers that the re-releases from that console all seemed like brand new games
It's interesting to speculate on what Nintendo's next move would have been if the Switch had sold as badly as the Wii U. Would they have doubled down on the 3DS? Launched a new portable only device? Launched a new powerful home console? Taken another weird and unexpected term and gone full on into VR? Going third party even? I think Nintendo would have had enough money saved up so as not to be in any kind of serious financial trouble, even in the event of the failure of the Switch, but would they have continued to support the Switch?
Still, it's good to see Nintendo sill doing well despite competition from gamepasses, free to play mobile games and Sony/Xbox.