It was no secret that Nintendo desperately needed a strong hit with the Switch this year. Despite having quite a number of great games, including Super Mario Maker, Xenoblade Chronicles X, Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze, and Super Smash Bros., the objective fact of the matter is the Wii U was a failure. With the company having officially discontinued production and support of the hardware back in November 2016, the final numbers as far as the fiscal year are concerned total up to 13.56 million. To give audiences an idea, this is the worst-selling Nintendo console since the NES was released back in the 1980s. This even puts it behind the beloved purple lunchbox that was the GameCube at 21.74 million, and a radical drop from its precursor the Wii at over 101 million.
There were many reasons why the Wii U ultimately did not do so well, but impartially-speaking, its lack of success can be attributed to three primary causes. The first was the choice of name. Calling a brand new home console the “Wii U” unfortunately suggested in the minds of many consumers that it would simply be an add-on to the preexisting system, rather than an evolution as the next generation should. What makes this point particularly painful is Nintendo suffered from an eerily-similar problem with the 64DD, a peripheral that, while not a new console, ended up failing because consumers saw it for what it was: an overpriced extension that seemingly did not grant much improvement. Even calling it the Wii 2, as Sony does with their PlayStation consoles, would have garnered a better marketing strategy.
The second was the lack of good launch titles. This is a problem that admittedly the other competitors suffer from as well with their new releases, but Nintendo has always managed to avoid falling into the same trap over the past few decades by at least providing one solid game: the NES had Super Mario Bros., the SNES Super Mario World, the N64 Super Mario 64, the GameCube Luigi’s Mansion, and the Wii Twilight Princess. To add insult to injury, Nintendoland, the party game that was intended to showcase all of the Wii U’s features the same way Wii Sports did with the Wii, was not bundled with some versions of console, unlike the latter, meaning consumers would have to shelve out at least $30 at the time for what was essentially a fun tech demo.
With the Switch, the revered corporation seems to be rectifying both those issues. The name “Switch,” combined with the admittedly great marketing, has created a distinct image for the console, while its major launch game The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild has been hailed as not only the best of the franchise but also one of the greatest video games ever made.
When it comes to the Switch’s sales, however, figures have been hard to come by in no small part thanks to Nintendo’s tactic of deliberately under-shipping systems to retailers, thereby inflating the demand. According to official press releases and reports by analysts, though, the Switch has apparently been a massive hit, first with outselling the Wii’s two-day sale record and next with hitting the 1.5 million milestone.
In spite of these good numbers, Nintendo may have even larger plans. According to Digitimes, a newspaper specializing in electronics, the company expects to sell at least 10 million units by the end of this year. Even more so, Kimishima Tatsumi, the President of Nintendo, expects to see sales reach at around 110 million by the end of the console’s life. The former might very well be possible given the fact that the Switch actually has a good lineup set for the remainder of the year, incorporating many amazing titles such as Splatoon 2, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, Xenoblade Chronicles 2, and, of course, Super Mario Odyssey. The latter, however, it is difficult to say at this point in time as the console’s longevity will depend on not just the upcoming library (remember, the GameCube had a wonderful catalog), but also its features. Mixed responses to the Switch’s’ proposed online business model joined with the lack of the popular virtual console feature are strong signs that Nintendo is already faltering on this aspect.
To end on a positive note, it was recently revealed that the large gaming magnate Ubisoft, which previously collaborated with Nintendo on the critically-mixed ZombiU, has some big things planned for the Switch. To unveil this, they will be inviting select Switch fans to join them in an online discussion between April 5 and 9, and later June 21 and 25. Whatever this avenue entails, it can only mean something good for the Switch at this point in its career.
[Featured Image by Koji Sasahara/AP Images]