As the former head of Sony Computer Entertainment Worldwide Studios and of Xbox’s Interactive Entertainment Business in Europe, Phil Harrison was once a vital part of two of the industry’s three main console holders’ leadership. Today, however, he spending his time investing in games industry ventures — that, and playing a lot of Nintendo Switch with his family, which has surprised even him.
“Nintendo has surprised me in a good way,” Harrison told GamesBeat in a recent interview. “They’ve put some excitement back in, or at least added a dynamic to the console equation that wasn’t there previously. From my focus group of a household with younger children, Switch is definitely the console that gets used. Mainly because of the content types. Surprisingly, the TV-to-mobile use case works way more effectively than I expected. Maybe I should give Nintendo more credit. I really enjoy that.”
So, after nearly 20 years working for Nintendo’s biggest rivals, Harrison is now enjoying hardware from and giving credit to the one console holder he never worked for. Given the Switch’s incredible success since its March 3 launch, though, maybe it shouldn’t be that surprising. Many gamers, industry personnel, and media members have credited Nintendo with fulfilling its broken promise made with the Wii U. Harrison is no different.
“The tablet mode on Wii U just wasn’t powerful enough,” he continued. “It was rendered as a single frame from the console sent wirelessly from the console to the device. The Switch combined both modes into one and just switched the power state. When you’re tethered you get access to more wattage on the CPU and GPU. Maybe that technology didn’t exist when they were developing the Wii U. I suspect not. A great idea is about timing as much as it is about technology.
The game pipeline they have coming through looks pretty strong, with the greatest hits from Nintendo coming down the pipe in the next 12 months. That puts them in a strong decision.”
As for the other guys, Harrison credits Sony for having built a “very powerful districution network” in the US and UK and for delivering on what he says has been a very clear value proposition: “a powerful games console,” nothing more, nothing less. He also shares the same opinion most of the rest of the industry has of Microsoft. They muddle their messaging out of the gate, but they’ve made a “fantastic recovery.”
Despite Sony’s massive sales and market share leads — Sony has definitively sold over 60 million PlayStation 4’s, while Microsoft is believed to have sold 10’s of millions fewer — Harrison still sounds like he isn’t ready to declare Sony this generation’s sales winner.
Meanwhile, the Switch doesn’t fit so neatly into the picture. Released only this past March, whereas the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One launched in 2013 — Nintendo’s home/mobile hybrid console has been selling through stock constantly. And while its confirmed 2.74 million sold in its first month is miniscule compared to even Xbox One’s sales numbers, Nintendo is forecasting sales of 18 million by the conclusion of the console’s first year on the market.
It is believed to have taken Microsoft more than three years to hit that same milestone with the Xbox One.