Spoiler alert: it’s a little of both.
The Nintendo Switch has been out in the wild for over half a year now, and it’s had a pretty successful launch overall, especially compared to the Wii U. Back in July the system had sold over 5 million consoles worldwide, and they’ve pushed console production up to 2 million a month at this point. This success is due in no small part to the lineup over the last six months, with more on the way in 2018. But is there some kind of secret to Nintendo’s success so far? In part the games speak for themselves, but Nintendo has used some smart tactics and changes to bolster the system’s success.
Taking a look at reviews for recent games you can see reception has been strong for a number of Nintendo titles on Switch including Breath of the Wild, Splatoon 2, Snipperclips, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, and Mario + Rabbids. Nintendo has kept their level of quality up with the Switch releasing some stellar titles for their new system, with the headlining games being Breath of the Wild, and now Super Mario Odyssey. While the quality of the games on Switch have certainly helped to drive sales, Nintendo also rectified one of the bigges mistakes they made with the Wii U.
The Switch was marketed a specific way, really leaning on the feature of being able to take the system on the go. Just like the original Wii which really delivered after release on its concept, the Switch had a fascinating gimmick that turned out to work, and work well. The marketing for the Switch was just so much stronger than the Wii U, actually showing what was unique about the system. Just take a look at the reveal trailer for the Switch, which we called a perfect piece of marketing, showing off people playing the system at home then taking it on the go, or playing at the airport, and in the car. Not only that, but we got to see a wealth of different games like Zelda, Skyrim, Mario Kart, and NBA. This seems like such a small deal, but after the Wii U launch, it was integral that Nintendo got this first impression right.
Starting things off on the right foot would help ensure the Switch’s success, and Nintendo certainly did get it right, clearly communicating the strengths of the system while giving players a lot to look forward to with software. Now that they were out of the gate on the right foot, it was time for Nintendo to slowly build momentum, which they clearly had a plan for. The key here was scheduling, revealing things at just the right time, and making sure there were consistent releases on the way.
Releasing the Switch with The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild was just about the smartest thing that Nintendo could do. The popularity of the Zelda franchise is unquestionable, especially when it’s a title that’s been highly anticipated for years. The quality of the game speaks for itself, but it showed a willingness by Nintendo to reimagine their biggest series and push forward their design, something we’d see more of later on too. Breath of the Wild is still one of the games most talked about for GOTY right now, and it perfectly showed off the hybrid capabilities of the Switch, letting players take an epic Zelda adventure out on the go.
While fans had time to digest Breath of the Wild, the slew of titles really began in June when ARMS released, a brand new Nintendo IP. After that Splatoon 2 in July, Mario + Rabbids in August, Pokken Tournament DX in September, Fire Emblem Warriors and Super Mario Odyssey in October, and Xenoblade Chronicles 2 in December. Pacing is the name of the game for Switch, and Nintendo has played it well.
Essentially they’ve ensured that Switch owners have something new coming out every single month the first year. Of course, besides the big Nintendo games, there’s a ton of indie titles and third-party releases sprinkled in like Disgaea 5, Golf Story, Dragon Ball Xenoverse 2, Stardew Valley, Skyrim, Doom, and Rocket League, all by the end of the year. This has all led to a critical mass of momentum for Nintendo, with more on the horizon for next year with Kirby, Yoshi, Metroid Prime 4, Fire Emblem, and Pokemon all on the way.
Now with the release of Super Mario Odyssey, the Nintendo Switch is one of the most talked about things in all of gaming this year. Through better marketing, smart timing and planning, Nintendo has managed to flip the script. Just a year ago they were seen as being in trouble, almost failing to a degree, and now the excitement is palpable. While the Switch has been their main focus, Nintendo has also made sure it’s not their only focus.
They’ve also supported mobile, releasing Fire Emblem Warriors earlier this year, which still has a dedicated fan base, and recently revealing Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp. The SNES Classic released to as much excitement as the NES Classic, and believe it or not it sold more units than PS4, Switch, or Xbox One in September. On top of this, the 3DS has seen its fair share of support with quality games, showing fans that the little system isn’t being scrapped for the Switch just yet. This year the 3DS saw the release of Dragon Quest VIII, Fire Emblem Echoes, Monster Hunter Stories, Yo-Kai Watch 2: Psychic Specters, Metroid: Samus Returns, Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga, and more.
This year has also shown Nintendo’s willingness to step outside of their comfort zone, and take chances with their games. Traditionally taking chances is how Nintendo has flourished, constantly redefining things for genres and video games themselves. Breath of the Wild completely broke the Zelda formula and gave us a fascinating open world, Ubisoft developed a pretty darn good Mario game, Fire Emblem was turned into a Warriors title, and Mercury Steam got the chance to bring back 2D Metroid. By bringing third-party developers into the fold, Nintendo has helped bring themselves up even more, and create excitement with third parties to be on the Switch. By not being so self-focused Nintendo has created new experiences on the Switch, and who knows what’s possible as they continue to loosen up.
Piece by piece Nintendo has meticulously built up hype and positivity around themselves. Even with the issues the Switch has like a lack of apps, frustrating voice chat, and still no monthly rewards system, no one cares. The flaws of the Switch and even the 3DS are talked about so little right now because Nintendo is riding high at the moment. It’s clear that a lot of time and thought went into this year for the company, right down to when they chose to announce things like Metroid Prime 4. So while most of the games released this year do speak for themselves, everything is only boosted up by how Nintendo has executed the release of the Switch and all of their other plans.