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The Nintendo Switch has been on the market for over two months at this point, and it’s been doing remarkably well. After blowing past Nintendo’s initial expectations, the company is trying its best to keep the momentum rolling for its new system. The positive feedback from the gaming community actually surprised the company so much that Nintendo’s president Tatsumi Kimishima was left feeling “relieved” when the sales data started rolling in. Indeed, the Switch’s early success is commendable, but let’s not forget the reason why: because its predecessor had a number of flaws.
Before we begin, let me just say that I actually do like the Wii U. Having owned it since the very beginning of its lifecycle, I saw the system through its darkest and brightest moments. While I definitely enjoyed it through-and-through, it’s hard not to admit that there were definitely some shortcomings. Interestingly enough, they all arguably came as a result of the original Wii’s massive success.
Nintendo took an incredibly simple approach with the Wii, making the system pretty much all about inviting as many as people as possible to pick up a controller and join in on the fun. It wasn’t meant to produce stunning visuals or provide a fully-fledged multimedia experience—it was all just simple fun. This is what led to the system being such a big hit worldwide, thus making it Nintendo’s best-selling home console of all time. It’s no wonder why the company wanted to keep the brand alive in the form of the Wii U. Unfortunately, the Wii’s apparent success didn’t run as deep as Nintendo had thought.
After spending over a half-decade sticking with the Wii’s simple design, Nintendo got into quite a sticky situation when it moved onto the Wii U. The rest of the industry had already progressed far ahead, whereas Nintendo was really just starting to modernize itself. Things like creating a complex OS, proper online network, and of course getting into HD game development were all new to the company. What happened with the Wii U was that the company was just trying to get itself adjusted with all these large tasks, meanwhile its rivals had already gone through the growing pains associated with taking on these challenges.
After spending so much time with the simplistic Wii,
Nintendo had a lot of catching up to do with the Wii U.
The PS3 and 360 were well up in age by the time the Wii U came around. Those systems were built upon over time, gradually increasing their quality. The state of those systems in 2012 was definitely nowhere near as basic as back in 2005/2006 when they had first launched. Because Nintendo kept things so simple with the original Wii, by the time the Wii U had rolled around, the company looked painfully unprepared when compared to its rivals. But no doubt, the biggest hurdle was HD game development.
Developers had to get accustomed to developing for HD systems when the PS3 and 360 launched, thus giving them a number of years of experience by the time the Wii U came onto thes scene. Seeing that Nintendo’s studios were still creating games for the Wii during that time, when the focus started to shift to the Wii U, they had to go through the same learning process as the other devs in the industry. HD game development is obviously a lot more complex and requires more resources. This, combined with Nintendo’s well-known habit of polishing to the enth-degree for its high-profile titles, led to many Wii U titles being delayed and/or taking unusually long to complete. This is why the console’s early months were so barren. Nintendo expected third-party companies to fill in the gaps between major releases, but those developers saw the Wii U as more of a liability than a viable market. Thus, the console was left floating in still waters for far too long. All of this, combined with the constant negative comparisons towards the other systems, ultimately led to it having a very tough time on the market.
And thus, the Switch’s situation is looking to be the exact opposite of its troubled brethren.
Nintendo got experience in all the aforementioned areas when going through with the Wii U. The company finally got its feet wet in the true online age, and also gained experience in HD game development. In addition to that, it also had to endure the harsh reality of having its product widely ignored due to lack of understanding and interest. To add even more insult to injury, Nintendo also felt the sting of seeing developers leave en-mass due to having a difficult development environment and also because of the lack of sales. All of this served as a great big lesson to Nintendo on what not to do.
Going through the ‘pains of progress’ with the Wii U made Nintendo more prepared to properly handle the Switch.
From the initial debut of the Switch, it was clear that Nintendo had learned its lesson. That first trailer showed off the system’s key feature: taking home console experiences on the go. It’s a concept that’s so painfully simple, even a young child can understand, let alone an adult. This message was clear, unlike the Wii U’s. On top of that, the name and branding was much more appealing and fresh, making advertising even easier. Nintendo also addressed developers complaints by making the system not only more powerful, but also very simple to work with. Many developers both big and small have commended Nintendo’s efforts in this area repeatedly.
After making the mistake of dragging out the releases of major first-party titles on Wii U, Nintendo has now adjusted its output to allow for a much more steady stream of content on Switch. The Wii U took roughly two years to get its first batch of true system-selling titles, whereas the Switch is getting multiple big releases within just the first few months of its lifespan. Combine this with much better reception from the third-party sector and you have yourself a system with a high potential for continuous momentum.
The fact that it has been managing to fly off shelves despite launching at what is usually a quiet time of the year proves that Nintendo’s efforts to correct the Wii U’s mistakes are definitely paying off. The Switch is a much more desirable product to consumers and developers alike, which is exactly what Nintendo needs after coming off its now lowest-selling home system ever. And, seeing that the Switch is such a unique system, that gives it the opportunity to usher in a whole new era: the rise of hybrid consoles. If it continues to sell well, there’s a good chance that Nintendo will continue to build on the Switch’s legacy, and completely establish a whole new category of systems; no longer separating the home console and handheld sectors.
Nintendo’s executives indirectly admitted that the Wii U’s shortcomings paved the way for the Switch. Nintendo did not have to go through such a hard time, but it was a very profound lesson to the juggernaut company, showing that despite the its long and rich history, the gaming industry has no problem moving onto other areas if the situation isn’t favorable enough on a single platform. Nintendo still has a lot of work to do in order to capture back the market share that it has lost to its competitors over the years, but the Switch definitely has the potential to take on that challenge at least to a degree. Can it sell Wii numbers like Nintendo hopes? Only time will tell, but one thing is for sure—Nintendo is definitely playing its cards much more wisely this time around.