Nintendo has had a rather few interesting years of gaming history as of late. The Wii was a massive success, thanks to sales of games like Wii Sports and Super Mario Galaxy, as well as its innovative motion control system. But then its following system, the Wii U, bombed, mainly because of its lack of third-party support and awkward setup with its tablet control. (That said, Bayonetta 2 was pretty sweet.)
Now there’s the Nintendo Switch, which initially came out six (!) years ago and has become a sales juggernaut, with over 122 million units sold as of December. And while there’s no word on what console Nintendo has planned next, there are several factors that led to the success of this system.
Of course, it helps to have hit games, with titles like Pokémon Sword and Shield, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, Super Mario Odyssey, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and Super Smash Bros. Ultimate selling over 20 million copies each. But there’s also another factor at play here. Nintendo changed the focus on the audience it was reaching out to.
Let’s Blame Karen
Nintendo first unveiled the Switch on October 20, 2016, with a very effective trailer that was much different from previous advertising. Rather than solely advertising towards kids and families, the Switch advertising was more aimed at…well, everyone. Millennials, adults, kids, families, you name it.
In the first look, included below, many people try out the Switch in action in both handheld and TV form, playing a variety of games using JoyCon controllers. While not every title (namely 1, 2, Switch!) was a hit, there’s no question that the trailer had all sorts of appeal going for it. And it looked like something everyone could play.
More importantly than that, the trailer was a mass hit with social media, with many people excited to get their hands on Breath of the Wild and being able to take Skyrim with them
wherever they go (“Even the toilet!”) And it also got a lot of people buzzing with some of the characters in the first look, including “Karen”, a young female who brings the Switch to a party.
Now, some joked that she shouldn’t have brought the system (“We’re having drinks, Karen!”), but the fact is that Nintendo was getting major buzz all the same. And that led to huge sales when the system arrived in March 2017. As you can see from the sales figures above, they haven’t slowed down anytime soon.
It also doesn’t hurt the company followed up with a Super Bowl ad featuring Imagine Dragon’s “Believer,” continuing to move away from the “friendly” approach it had taken with previous ads. This almost felt like a whole new Nintendo, but with the same awesome franchises.
A Good Library of Games
In addition to excellent marketing, the Switch also saw a huge push thanks to a multi-tiered approach with games. Nintendo would make themselves much more accessible to indie developers, while at the same time opening the door wider for third-party developers – something it didn’t really do properly with the Wii U. As a result, the system saw a pretty good launch line-up, with Breath of the Wild, 1-2-Switch!, Fast RMX, Super Bomberman R and a handful of other titles for players to enjoy. Obviously, it would get many more hits over the years, as well as a growing array of indie titles that would reach into the thousands. We’re still trying to play catch-up with everything.
But with this system, Nintendo decided to overhaul its system in an effort to turn around its misfortunes with the Wii U. It had learned its lesson, and though not everyone came roaring back (EA and Activision still provide only a bit of support here and there), it’s got more than enough caring developers to offer something to everyone, old and young alike.
A Whole New World
In the end, the Nintendo Switch struck gold at just the right time. The new approach to advertising absolutely paid off, even with a few Internet jokes; the array of games made for the system definitely struck a nerve as well, especially long-standing sequels and original fare like ARMS; and the ability to transfer over games painlessly through an account instead of having to do a system transfer that would take an eternity. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that Nintendo Switch Online continues to pile on value with classic games and seamless online play as well.
Where it’ll go for Nintendo’s next system model is anyone’s guess. But one thing’s perfectly clear – the company is on the right track and it shouldn’t change course anytime soon.
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