Nintendo is one of the most important companies in the history of video games. Unlike many that came up in the 1980s, they’ve thrived this whole time. Nintendo saved the industry after the first home console crash with the Family Computer/Nintendo Entertainment System, and just this year released one of the most successful phone games of all time: Pokemon Go.
So when Nintendo announced their new console last week, the Switch, it’s important to understand why that console is a good idea, and what it needs to succeed.
Home consoles are dying. They used to be great for players because they were cheaper than a computer, a lot more reliable, and easier to use. They used to offer an experience of no patches and no system updates. You could just put in your game and play. Not anymore!
So while the Wii, the last great home console, sold 102 million units, none of the current consoles are going to touch that. And the Wii couldn’t touch the best selling home console of all time, the Playstation 2 at 155 million sold.
Playstation 4 is languishing between Megadrive and Nintendo 64 at 38 million. Wii U is a disappointment, between Sega’s last hurrahs in the Saturn and Dreamcast, at 11 million. Xbox One is down between Mega-CD and PC Engine at 10 million. These are not largely successful consoles to be compared with.
The handheld world is doing better though, and that’s a world entirely ruled by Nintendo. Nintendo’s DS was the most successful ever, beating even the epic Game Boy and Game Boy Color era. 3DS naturally hasn’t lived up to that, but it is at 60 million units sold (six times the Wii U unit sales). 3DS’s competitor in the Sony Vita is only at 13 million (a third of the PS4’s sales). The 3DS is the only truly successful console on the market today, and is Nintendo’s last bastion.
So that brings us to the Nintendo Switch, the successor to the disappointing Wii U. Nintendo announced it last week to mixed reviews. Some think it’s a dumb and clunky gimmick, that you can take it with you like a handheld console. I think it’s exactly what they needed.
Nintendo’s only remaining success, by historical standards, is the mobile console market. If they can merge mobile and home into one, then they can win at both ends at once. What this means is that they need to make one important decision in order to secure the Switch’s success.
Nintendo must release the next flagship Pokemon game on the Switch instead of the 3DS. Two of the top three 3DS games were Pokemon games: Pokemon X and Y at 15 million, and Pokemon Alpha Sapphire and Omega Ruby at 12 million. Again, Pokemon Go was the most successful phone game of all time. Nintendo must move the next main Pokemon games exclusively to the Switch.
If Nintendo make the Switch their single platform, and drive its sales with Pokemon, then they can succeed. Otherwise the Switch’s new feature really is a stupid gimmick, and will fail.