Now you’re Playing with Power - Portable Power!
Arguably, this is Nintendo’s biggest draw, they give options for every kind of gamer, and the novelty hasn’t worn off.
Nintendo’s proper efforts with handheld gaming began with the Game Boy in 1989: a brick of a console with a tiny display and shades of green illuminating the rudimentary 8-bit graphics. But for all intents and purposes, it was Nintendo on the go. Cut to 2017, and the dream has become a reality. The Nintendo Switch makes Arguably, this is Nintendo’s biggest draw, they give options for every kind of gamer, and the novelty hasn’t worn off. Games feel like a true console experience, being able to compete with the heavy hitters from Sony and Microsoft. For a few reasons, the Switch has been outpacing sales of previous successes all around the industry: in almost four years on the market, it has over 70 million units sold. Compare that to the PS4’s first four years, and they’re on par with each other. So, what has led to this success? And what does the future hold for an already historied company?
The entire concept behind the Switch is of this hybrid console, one you can play at home, or at 35,000 feet in the air. Arguably, this is Nintendo’s biggest draw - they give options for every kind of gamer, and the novelty hasn’t worn off. If you look at the launch of the console alone, the forefront of the advertising involved how easy it was to play games through the system: whether it was gaming with friends at a rooftop party, or galloping through the fields of Hyrule from the comfort of your living room. Making the platform extremely accessible means anyone can play it. Take a look at the different hardware options available; controllers like the Joy-Cons and the Pro controller are supported by most games, and even a couple like Super Smash Bros Ultimate support older controllers from the GameCube. The most obvious example of this is the Nintendo Switch Lite, a budget, portable-only system that has been quite successful. There is a decent chunk of the Switch’s audience that only played their system’s undocked, so releasing a cheaper alternative that suits their needs was a fantastic idea.
In the Switch’s case, extra hardware has led to existing owners double-dipping with their purchases. A tightly-knit ecosystem means you can buy multiple Switches in a household and it wouldn’t feel excessive. One rumour floating around (that in this writer’s opinion is more of a poorly-kept secret) is a Nintendo Switch Pro incoming: a more premium console with better build quality, power and resolution. This is certainly more of a niché market, all you have to do is look at the PS4 Pro and Xbox One X, but it will increase longevity and overall sales for the platform. Recently, a special edition Mario Switch was announced for release in February, which may point towards the Pro coming later than we might assume, but a simple colour-change could just be Nintendo boosting sales in their regular model before a new version is announced. Nevertheless, with Covid-19 and the way the world is right now, everything is on the table.
In many ways, people who play games on a different platform will usually buy a Nintendo console as a secondary place to play.
When comparing Nintendo to Sony and Microsoft, it’s clear that they are playing an entirely different game. They have carved out their own environment with an incredibly loyal fan base, but that does not mean there isn’t any crossover between platforms. I would compare it to sports in a way, where something like basketball and football wouldn’t have much in relation to each other, but you can easily be fans of both. In many ways, people who play games on a different platform will usually buy a Nintendo console as a secondary place to play.
Nintendo excels with software, making games that anybody can get into. Especially on the Switch, the catalogue of exclusives after four years is incredible, and at this point, there is something for every kind of gamer. With a diverse range of games from Mario Kart to Breath of the Wild to Pokémon, Nintendo can pull people into a relatively inexpensive system - which is a big factor to its wild success. Mario Kart 8 first released on the Wii U in 2014 and quickly became the most sold title on the platform, to the point where over half of Wii U owners had it. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe’s Switch port followed in its footsteps by becoming the most popular Switch game, and while only around 40% of Switch owners have it, that still means 30 million copies sold. With Nintendo’s portable and home efforts combined into one platform, the number of exclusives are no longer split between the styles of play.
The next generation of consoles may eat up more market share, but considering Nintendo’s business model, they won’t necessarily be affected by competition. The PS5 especially has been selling out of its limited stock, but the Switch was still able to outperform it due to greater supply, affordability and an established library. In the coming months, Nintendo may not be at the top of the charts, but they will continue to have huge successes, and the Switch isn’t leaving anytime soon.