Nintendo Has Made The Console War A True Three-Horse Race Again [Opinion]

When Sony launched the PS4 and Microsoft the Xbox One in 2013, it’s undeniable that the infamous console war had become a two-horse race. In their first few months on sale, both consoles managed to massively outsell Nintendo’s Wii U, which had already been on the market for nearly a year, despite Nintendo’s previous tremendous success with its predecessor, the Wii.

In recent years, Microsoft and Sony have traded blows more or less equally in the console space. Ever since Microsoft entered the world of console gaming in 2001, the two companies have traditionally released similarly powered consoles, which share the same large catalog of third party games. Meanwhile, in that time, industry veteran Nintendo has managed to both significantly underperform and outperform the two other companies, with the successes of the Wii and its predecessor the Wii U starkly contrasting.

However, Nintendo’s most recent console, the Switch, which launched globally in March, looks set to make the console war a true three-horse race once again and could even push Microsoft out of its long-running competition with Sony.

According to Tech Radar, in a recent financial call, Nintendo proudly exclaimed that the Switch has already sold nearly 5 million units. In contrast, the console’s predecessor, the Wii U, sold just 13.5 million units during its lifetime, and it took almost a year before the console managed to shift the same number of units that the Switch already has. In all, the Switch is projected sell double of what it’s already achieved by the end of its first year on the market, which would be considerably more successful than its predecessor.

'Mario Kart 8 Deluxe' on Nintendo Switch.

It’s hard to envisage a world where the Switch will outsell the PS4, which sold 7 million units in its first five months before going on to sell a staggering 14 million units in its first year on the market. However, what’s more interesting is how the Switch’s sales compare to the Xbox One, which as aforementioned, Microsoft expected to be in a two-horse race with Sony’s PS4.

As it stands, the Switch looks to be on an equal sales footing with the Xbox One, and by the end of its first year on the market, it could even have beaten Microsoft’s console, despite being a considerably less powerful piece of hardware.

Whilst the Switch isn’t able to match the Xbox One in terms of power, it does seem to be picking up the same level of third party support – which is a huge problem for Microsoft, with its consoles largely relying on third party titles in the absence of big-name exclusives. We’ve already seen that Nintendo is making it much easier for developers to bring their games to the Switch, and whilst big studios are yet to commit titles like the next Call of Duty and Battlefield installments to the console, it isn’t difficult to see how the Switch’s current popularity amongst small to mid-level developers will lead to attracting more and more bigger studios.

In fact, many of those major studios are already testing the water when it comes to the Switch. EA plans to release the next installment in their infamous sporting series FIFA on the console, whilst Bethesda will release their incredibly popular RPG Skyrim. It is worth noting that Skyrim on Switch is a port of a game that originally came out in 2011, while the Switch version of FIFA 18 is missing many features present in the Xbox One and PS4 versions of the game. However, both are titles that would never have seen the light of day on the Wii U.

Microsoft's upcoming Xbox One X console.

According to the Verge, Nintendo is reportedly using the mistakes it made with the Wii U to ensure the Switch’s success, which would explain Nintendo’s enthusiasm for enticing third party publishers to bring their games to the console.

“We knew during the development of Nintendo Switch that we had a product that was really breakthrough,” Nintendo of America president Reggie Fils-Aimé said. “But taking all of our learnings from past launches, we also knew that we needed to make sure that the concept was clearly communicated and I think we’ve done that in spades. And we’re going to continue to do that. And then we needed to make sure that a regular cadence of great content would be there. We’ve been able to do that to date, and with what we’ve highlighted in the E3 Spotlight and what we’re going to be talking about all week, we’re going to be able to continue to do that. That’s the key for us.”

The Switch’s early success shows that Nintendo has undeniably been effective in communicating its message with the Switch, which is something it was never able to achieve with the Wii U. That early success should, in turn, ensure that the Switch continues to receive strong third party support, eventually including larger releases previously reserved for the PS4 and Xbox One. Coupled with Nintendo’s usual plateau of high-quality first party titles, it’s difficult to envisage how the Switch won’t be a success.

Nintendo of America president Reggie Fils-Aimé with the Nintendo Switch.

In just five months on the market, the Nintendo Switch has turned the console war into a true three-horse race once again. Whilst the console is undeniably far from achieving the same successes as the PS4, it could just nudge the Xbox One out of the market.

[Featured Image by Christian Petersen/Getty Images]