2017 could possibly be one of Nintendo’s best year of the decade. On Thursday, the company announced that the Switch has become the fastest selling game console in US history. IT was released on March 3rd, 2017 and it’s sold more than 4.8 million units in just 10 months. I remember when the Switch came out, but it honestly felt like it had been around for much longer than that. I guess that tells you that 2017 wasn’t my year? Time distortion, aside, this marks the most sales for a console in that timeframe. Ever. Including the Wii, which sold about 4 million units in its first 10 months.
Why is the Switch so popular? The Switch is a console that caters both to gamers who prefer playing on their couch and those who prefer their games on the go, but the real secret weapon so far has been the game catalog. They’ve released some pretty incredible games including – The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Super Mario Odyssey, Splatoon 2 and Mario Kart 8 Deluxe.
Those are just the games from Nintendo. They said that over 300 games from third-party developers launched on the Switch within the first year. Not having third-party gaming options is likely what killed the Wii U, but publishers have come running back to get their games on the Switch. Which is great news for Nintendo. Live and learn, I guess. I always like to see a company that actually learns from these challenges and uses it to build a better product or system.
The big question now is whether or not Nintendo can maintain the momentum in the new year. In their press release, Nintendo points out that Nintendo-published games like Kirby Star Allies, Bayonetta, Bayonetta 2 and Yoshi are all set to arrive in 2018. Part of the challenge Nintendo has set for itself with the Switch is a more regular release schedule of big games. Historically, Nintendo has been plagued with delays for major franchises. The games were always big sellers when they did come out, but critics noted the gap between them was long enough to stall sales momentum for the company’s hardware.
In addition to being able to maintain this momentum, Nintendo also faces the challenge of attracting new fans as the excitement around some of these games begins to fade. But if they are able to get some of these games released in 2018, this might not be an issue. The company is still focused on their core audience, and that’s where the game development comes into play.
What’s interesting about this whole idea what kind of role the handheld systems play. According to Nintendo, their role is extremely important. Nintendo sees its legacy handheld systems as an opportunity to introduce new gamers to its franchises. It’s a tactic that consumer tech firms like Apple have also mastered: If a company can get a customer hooked into their software ecosystem, that customer is likely to keep coming back for more. And they’re not wrong. Once you’re in an ecosystem, you want to always be in that ecosystem. I don’t think it’s too hard to get people to switch over (no pun intended), but the challenge is in getting them to stay.