If you haven’t read Part 1 of this article, you can do so here.
There has never been a time in Nintendo’s history where they have not been the dominant force in the handheld gaming space. Many have tried to challenge Goliath, but few have gotten close to the consistent success that Nintendo has enjoyed since the release of the original Game Boy in 1989. Nintendo’s current portable system, the DS, went beyond simply continuing the legacy of its predecessors - it redefined it by becoming the best selling portable gaming device in video game history.
So when the 3DS released on February 26, 2011, in Japan, it was no surprise that Nintendo had high expectations for the console. As expected, launch week sales were extremely promising, but the momentum wouldn't last for long. Sales took a nosedive mere weeks after release, and it would only take a month for Nintendo’s brand new three-dimensional wonder to start being outsold by Sony’s 6-year-old PlayStation Portable device. It seemed that after 22 years of releasing successful handheld consoles, Nintendo was about to run into some serious trouble.
Master of None
The trend continued well into the European and American releases for the 3DS. Like Japan, Europe experienced a sharp decline in sales almost immediately after launch. American gamers, on the other hand, seemed generally uninterested with the system as the 3DS failed to surpass sales for the original DS at launch. Let me say that again: A brand new console was being consistently outsold by its predecessor right out of the gate.
Nintendo had found themselves in a state of panic. With millions of Wii and DS owners hungry for more first-party software and a new home console launching the following year, the company had little room to make mistakes, but the 3DS was already on life support just a few months after its release.
President and CEO of Nintendo, Satoru Iwata, didn't have many options, and even with the help of Super Mario 3D Land and Mario Kart 7 arriving later in the year, he knew that Nintendo would have to do something big. “We have concluded that, for the Nintendo 3DS to expand enough to become the successor of Nintendo DS, we have to take a drastic approach.” On August 12, 2011, just 6 months after its initial release in the US, Nintendo had slashed the price of the 3DS by an astounding 80 dollars- ultimately taking the cost down from $249.99 to $169.99. The decision was unprecedented. Nintendo 3DS would be sold worldwide at a loss in hopes of regaining sales momentum and maintaining the newfound trust of third-party developers.
Unusual as it may have been to have a price cut so soon after a console launch, the sudden drop in price for the 3DS would ultimately prove to be the right decision for Nintendo. The crisis wasn't over, but the bleeding had stopped. As things began to stabilize for the handheld, it was time to take a step back and think about what had happened to lead up to this decision in the first place. Nintendo did have another console release rapidly approaching after all, and understanding what went wrong with the 3DS would help the company avoid similar pitfalls with the Wii U.
Iwata cited that the biggest reason for sluggish 3DS sales was due to the lack of “big hit software titles” during the console’s launch window. The rapid expansion of the gaming population with the DS and Wii left Nintendo in a difficult spot when transitioning from one console generation to the next. The company struggled to develop strong first-party content for the DS, Wii, 3DS, and the upcoming Wii U all at once, and this resource strain had caused major delays for 3DS games that were originally planned to arrive closer to launch.
“When we have a situation where we need to stimulate and maintain the momentum of the current platforms, and we need to prepare for the next platform, it is no surprise that we become short of hands. It would be a lie if we said that we were not facing any challenges inside Nintendo in respect to this situation”. - Satoru Iwata, Financial Results Briefing 2011
Of course, there were loads of additional reasons that could have impacted early 3DS sales. A majority of the system’s online functionality, including the eShop, were not available at launch. Nintendo had trouble conveying the general appeal of a glasses-free 3D experience to the same casual audience who had purchased the original DS. The rise of mobile gaming seemed to be screaming doom and gloom for dedicated handheld systems for years and who could forget to mention the fact that the original price for the 3DS, 249.99 U.S. dollars, was the most expensive handheld console Nintendo had ever released at the time.
The 3DS would eventually wind up conquering these low points, but the damage had already been done. By the end of 2011, investors began to voice their concerns about the current direction of the company. The 3DS required a last-minute hail-mary which had ultimately cost Nintendo millions in lost profit thanks to having to sell the hardware at a loss. Combine this with low software sales for both DS and Wii as well as the steep appreciation of the yen currency, and Nintendo’s 2011 fiscal year was beginning to look uncharacteristically grim.
“Under these circumstances, we posted an operating loss for the full year, which was the worst result since we went into business in the video game industry” - Satoru Iwata, Financial Results Briefing 2012
Nintendo had been around for over 100 years and never once reported an operating loss up until this point. So it was understandable when investors began questioning the company's preparedness for their next console: the Wii U. If Nintendo had fumbled one system launch, what made them so sure that they wouldn't screw up the next one. Mistakes could not be afforded this time around as the Wii U needed to be a major hit for the company.
Treading carefully, the lessons learned from the 3DS would serve as a starting point to ensure the future success of the Wii U. First, Nintendo was gravely concerned that the immediate price cut for the 3DS had damaged the trust of the consumers who had bought the console early. Nintendo was worried that gamers would hold off on buying the Wii U in anticipation of a similar price cut in the near future. To combat this, the decision was made to pick a price point that would prove to be more consumer-focused. At $299.99 dollars for the basic model, the Wii U would be sold at a loss from the start, an uncommon concept for the company.
The second important lesson that Nintendo learned from the 3DS, was that the Wii U needed strong first-party support at launch. Unfortunately, the company’s resources were still very much finite, and Nintendo’s internal development teams were still producing content for 4 separate consoles.
Nintendo had little hope in winning the quantity game with the Wii U when it came to first-party content at launch. Instead, the company would have to rely on a smaller subset of games that they believed would become “evergreen”. As mentioned previously, Nintendo considered a title “evergreen” if the game continued a healthy sales pace months and sometimes even years after its initial release date. What made these titles so important was the fact that they gave consumers a compelling reason to purchase the console during software droughts - an issue that Nintendo had experienced at the end of the Wii and DS generation and more recently with the launch of the 3DS.
With this in mind, Nintendo had two main contenders vying for gamer’s attention that would release alongside the Wii U. The first was New Super Mario Bros. U, a sequel to New Super Mario Bros. Wii - one of the best selling titles for the Wii. Nintendo Land was the second title. Iwata hoped that Nintendo Land would pack a similar punch to 2006’s Wii Sports and inspire an audience of casual gamers to once again pick up a Wiimote and have fun with their friends and family.
The number was small, but the potential was limitless. In any case, if one or even both of these titles failed to reach their intended evergreen status, the Wii U had a secret weapon that its predecessor did not: strong third-party support for the start. 32 games would launch alongside the console, and 30 of them came from external developers. The Wii took third-party publishers by surprise when it became a massive success within the industry and few were willing to let that opportunity slide by with the Wii U.
So with an unparalleled variety of games to play at launch and a consumer-friendly price point, it seemed that the company had very little to worry about when the system officially launched in November of 2012. Fortunately, like the 3DS, the Wii U would boast an impressive first few weeks of sales. Unfortunately, also like the 3DS, troubles for the console began almost immediately after that initial wave. In terms of hardware, the Wii U was the lowest selling home console in the U.S by the end of the year. As you would expect, this did little to drive software sales. Out of the top 20 selling games in 2012, none of them were Wii U titles.
If you are thinking to yourself, this all sounds a little familiar, then you would absolutely be right. Nintendo was experiencing deja vu to the maximum as the core problems that plagued the release of the 3DS were being similarly replayed by Nintendo’s new home console. Unlike the 3DS, however, the Wii U had games - lots of them in fact. 30 third-party titles launched with the system, and yet core gamers could not be persuaded to play on a Wii U. At the same time, Nintendo’s first-party content lacked the simplicity and mass appeal that games like Wii Sports had utilized in attracting a casual audience to the original Wii. The console was having an identity crisis, and with the next big wave of Nintendo games being months away from completion, the company was struggling to keep up.
While Miyamoto and other internal developers were working on future first-party titles for the console, Nintendo would have to rely on third-party publishers to fill in the software gaps. This, as it would turn out, was becoming increasingly unreliable as external studios were growing concerned that they had made a mistake by supporting a seemingly unsuccessful console in the first place. The most obvious example of this was Ubisoft. Ubisoft had benefited greatly from Nintendo’s quest to expand the gaming population with games like Just Dance selling millions for the Wii. When the time came to support the Wii’s successor, Ubisoft had the confidence to go all in. However, as weeks turned to months and Wii U sales continued to depress, Ubisoft Boss, Yves Guillemot, made the unpopular decision to delay the release of a Wii U exclusive title, Rayman Legends, so that the company had enough time to port the game to other consoles. They were ultimately concerned that they would not sell enough copies on Nintendo’s platform alone to justify their initial development costs. Decisions like Ubisoft's were being made by third-party developers around the world, and Nintendo could do little to change their mind besides trying their best to create positive momentum for the Wii U with exclusive and compelling first-party content.
But according to Miyamoto, creating this content was incredibly hard to do in a timely manner.
“When it comes to the scale of software development, Wii U with HD graphics requires about twice the human resources than before. Please allow me to explain that we may have underestimated the scale of this change and as a result, the overall software development took more time than originally anticipated” - Shigeru Miyamoto, Financial Results Briefing 2013
This placed them in an incredibly sticky situation. Internally, Iwata referred to this as the chicken-and-egg problem. Essentially, video game hardware and software sales were a lot like a chicken and an egg. In order for gaming hardware to sell, it needs a wealth of high-quality software. However, as a producer of video game software, one generally wants to take as little risk as possible when diverting development resources and thus would prefer to make games for the biggest platforms. Each end holds a heavy reliance on the other and without one, the other cannot truly thrive.
The 3DS also suffered from the chicken-and-egg problem early on in its lifetime, but Nintendo’s persistence to continually release exclusive first-party content would wind up saving the console as more gamers purchased more 3DS hardware, thus starting a positive feedback loop. Sony’s PlayStation Vita, on the other hand, was a fantastic example of what happens when a console cannot solve the chicken-and-egg problem. Sony ultimately ended up halting development on Vita titles, meaning the software well started to dry up. With little software, the Vita had little chance to move a significant amount of units, which in turn lead to third-party publishers shunning the console. A negative feedback loop.
Unlike the Vita, Nintendo had never questioned whether or not they would continue developing games for the Wii U. It was only a matter of when. The company was confident that the Wii U would eventually have a wealth of high-quality experiences, but waiting for these experiences to arrive with little external support would end up costing millions. In an attempt to increase the speed of first-party development, Nintendo began to look for external developers to work alongside their internal development teams. Games like Hyrule Warriors, Bayonetta 2, and even the next Smash Brothers title would ultimately come out of this initiative. The company would also slightly adjust their motto of “expanding the gaming population” to “expanding the developer population,” by creating a big push for indie content on their platforms.
While Nintendo was stuck playing the waiting game for their first-party titles, both Sony and Microsoft were preparing to launch their next generation of consoles during the upcoming holiday season in 2013. Xbox One and PlayStation 4 threatened to steal the thunder away from the Wii U which desperately needed a win in order to establish a greater sense of momentum. The software drought for the console continued long into the summer of 2013, where New Super Luigi U and Pikmin 3 failed to generate a noticeably significant bump in hardware sales. Iwata noted that Nintendo was “not in a position where [they could] change the fate of the system with just one title,” and knew that the company would need to make some serious changes if they wanted their home console to compete alongside Sony and Microsoft.
It started with a surprise announcement that Iwata would be taking over as the CEO of Nintendo of America.
“I believe this will be the best structure to achieve closer cooperation between the headquarters in Japan and Nintendo of America. It will enable faster business decisions in order to achieve the same momentum for Nintendo 3DS as we experienced in Japan. It can also revitalize Wii U and expand our digital business. Under this new management structure, we will make our utmost efforts to meet this fiscal year’s financial forecast.” - Satoru Iwata, Nintendo E3 Analyst Briefing 2013
Now at the helm of both Nintendo of America and Nintendo of Japan, Iwata hoped to bring a sense of urgency throughout the entire company. Following this executive change, Nintendo would soon announce that the Wii U would be receiving a $50 price cut months before the holiday season as well as a bundle which included The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker HD. The lower price point gave Nintendo an advantage over their competitors on the verge of releasing new pricey hardware. Combine this with a variety of first-party content aimed at wider audience, including Wii Fit U, Wii Sports Club, and Super Mario 3D World, and Nintendo was hoping that the Wii U could circumvent what Iwata called the “war of the game consoles” by attracting a casual market he believed would be under served by the Xbox One and PS4.
The 3DS would march alongside the Wii U in hopes of finishing the year on a high note. Two years removed from its own price drop, and the handheld had finally arrived. The software library was beginning to look incredibly impressive and a 2DS hardware iteration offered an entryway into the handheld ecosystem for those looking to save a few bucks. The problematic chicken-and-egg loop had essentially vanished for the 3DS, and Nintendo was eager to prove that the early woes for the Wii U would be as easily forgotten once the home console received the same first-party treatment. Help would eventually arrive for the Wii U, but as Nintendo was about to find out, it would be too late. The audience that Nintendo had hoped would be interested in their home console, the group of consumers who had treated the company so well during the Wii and DS era, had long since moved on from the world of Wii Sports and Mario.
The End of an Era
“I would like to apologize to our shareholders for having announced a steep downward revision to our financial forecast for the full fiscal year due to unexpectedly weak sales particularly in the overseas markets in the last year-end sales season.” - Satoru Iwata, Corporate Management Policy Briefing, 2014
This is how President and CEO of both Nintendo of America and Nintendo of Japan Satoru Iwata chose to kick off his January 2014 corporate management meeting with the company’s investors. Iwata had come under heavy fire as the results for Nintendo’s financial profits rolled in from the 2013 holiday season. He had called it the “worst year-end sales season in the overseas markets since [he] became president,” and it was obvious that Nintendo had failed to provide a compelling reason for gamers worldwide to purchase a Wii U console. Many investors were questioning Iwata’s ability to lead the company into a stable financial position, while others grilled the president on whether or not Nintendo should even remain a video game company that releases any kind of hardware.
The honeymoon period that was the Wii/DS era was long gone, and faith in Nintendo’s ability to produce successful video game consoles was beginning to grow thin. All thanks to not one, but two fumbled hardware launches in a row. The 3DS had just barely gotten back on track after a disastrous decline in sales early 2011, but the outlook for the Wii U seemed much less hopeful.
“Our biggest downfall last year was that we failed to communicate the true value of Wii U, failed to make children persuade their parents to buy our products for them, and failed to offer products that parents could not resist.” - Satoru Iwata, Corporate Management Policy Briefing, 2014
As a last attempt at conveying the appeal of the Wii U, Iwata announced that the majority of internal game development for the system would focus on highlighting the specific uses for the Gamepad. The Gamepad was what made the console truly unique from its competitors and having games that showed off the controller’s full potential would provide a compelling reason for consumers to finally jump into the Wii U ecosystem. This Gamepad initiative would begin later that year by highlighting the controller’s NFC capabilities in the next Smash Brothers title, but other titles that made religious use of the Gamepad were just starting to be developed including Splatoon and Star Fox: Zero.
However, none of these plans would calm down a furious group of investors looking for a solution that would ensure that a Wii U like disaster would never happen again. The juxtaposition from the highs of the Wii to the lows of the U was truly jaw-dropping, and Iwata knew that in order to secure a more stable future for the company, Nintendo would need to undergo a structural revolution.
“The popularization of the Internet and smart devices shows that people’s lifestyles are changing dramatically. Just as video games once needed a TV screen and then later handheld devices with built-in screens emerged with the shift in people’s lifestyles, we must once again change our definition of video games to keep up with the times.” - Satoru Iwata, Corporate Management Policy Briefing, 2014
This meant a new kind of Nintendo. A Nintendo that went beyond unique game systems and nostalgic first-party titles. Iwata knew that in order for the company to survive, it would have to better apply itself onto the direction that society was currently headed. The Wii and DS had arrived during a time period perfectly suited for the consoles, but that was back in 2004. By 2012, society had changed tremendously, and the Wii U proved that the same strategies used nearly a decade prior were no longer applicable in the increasingly mobile culture. So, for the sake of displaying a sense of leadership and vision for the company, Iwata quickly stopped talking about the Wii U in favor of describing the future direction for Nintendo.
Iwata began by highlighting a project which had started before the Wii U officially launched. In an attempt to combat software droughts for their platforms, Nintendo had started looking into integrating the architectures of their handheld and home console devices.
“What we mean by integrating platforms is not integrating handheld devices and home consoles to make only one machine. What we are aiming at is to integrate the architecture to form a common basis for software development so that we can make software assets more transferrable, and operating systems and their build-in applications more portable, regardless of form factor or performance of each platform. They will also work to avoid software lineup shortages or software development delays which tend to happen just after the launch of new hardware.“ - Satoru Iwata, Corporate Management Policy Briefing, 2014
The effects of this program in the short term were almost immediate. Games like Hyrule Warriors and Super Smash Bros were shared between both 3DS and Wii U platforms. In fact, Super Smash Bros for 3DS was so well integrated with the Wii U version that you could use a 3DS as a controller to play on the Wii U. However, the real prize for all of their integration efforts would be officially revealed alongside their next generation of systems. Iwata compared this transition to how Apple currently handles its array of iOS enabled devices, stating that their future consoles would no longer be identifiably separate and instead would act like “brothers in a family of systems.”
In this way, the platform would become more important than the hardware form factor itself. When asked if this would point to one ultimate console that would serve all purposes for Nintendo fans, Iwata was quick to shoot the statement down. On the contrary, since the underlying platform would become super flexible, it may, in fact, result in even more form factors depending on the needs of consumers. As for Apple, some want iPads, some want iPhones, and others may want an iPod touch. Regardless, all of them would be utilizing some version of the iOS architecture, and that is how Iwata hoped the future of Nintendo’s hardware devices would interact with one another.
Iwata decided to finish the meeting by discussing a topic that would act as a breath of fresh air for the company. Diversification. The 3DS proved that one small misstep from a console launch could lead to an operating loss for Nintendo. In an attempt to create a more financially stable situation for the company, Iwata announced that Nintendo would be branching out into other areas of entertainment. This would begin with the company loosening their policies surrounding the external use of their Intellectual Property.
“I think the reason that Nintendo is now considered to have this “abundance of character IP” is perhaps because of our passive approach toward the character IP licensing business, which tends to have a high risk of damaging the value of the character. In other words, we think that spending time to develop our approach of having our characters appear mainly in our carefully selected games has created our current fortunate circumstances. However, we are going to change our policy going forward.” - Satoru Iwata, Corporate Management Policy Briefing, 2014
Amiibo would be the first obvious example of this. Nintendo would be jumping into the “Toys to Life” category of video games which involved buying character figures that would in some way enhance a player’s gaming experience. Amiibo would have the potential to interact with all of the company’s first-party content from this point onward. By doing this, Nintendo would ultimately produce a separate stream of income that could be improved by the success of their current gaming platforms but would not necessarily depend on them.
Their intellectual property would continue to be licensed out in a variety of ways within the upcoming years including movie contracts, character merchandise, and a theme park deal. This relaxation of their policies was just one step in the overall goal of diversifying their portfolio, but the intention was clear. Nintendo was looking to expand beyond simply producing dedicated video game devices. Doing so would keep the lights on during unforeseen setbacks from their console business.
Only 10 years removed from the launch of the original DS and it seemed that Nintendo was on the verge of completely redefining the company once again. A decade of learning about how to expand the gaming population had taught Nintendo the importance of attractive hardware paired with a regular stream of ass-kicking software. The dye had been cast, but it would take some time to fully set. The year was still 2014 after all, and although the sales results for both Wii U and 3DS were nowhere near their original expectations, Iwata was determined to turn a negative into a positive while the gears turned in the background in preparation for what was yet to come. The thought of posting another operating loss was something he deemed “unacceptable”.
Nintendo would focus the majority of their 2014 efforts on highlighting key evergreen content for their platforms which gave consumers more reasons to purchase a Nintendo system. In fact, Mario Kart: 8 and Super Smash Bros for Wii U would act as “the pillars of [their] entire marketing strategy” for the Wii U. To go along with these heavy hitters, the company’s efforts to expand their developer population with the inclusion of indie content on their platforms was starting to pay off. Nintendo placed heavy emphasis on titles like Shovel Knight within their marketing campaign in an attempt to prove that software droughts on the Wii U and 3DS were a thing of the past.
Flipping the Switch
By the end of their fiscal year in March of 2015, Nintendo was happily reporting an operating profit for the first time in four years. The Wii U had finally found an audience and the complaints surrounding the lack of content for the console were shrinking. The company was hoping to carry this positive momentum throughout the rest of the year, but before the next fiscal year would officially begin, Iwata surprised investors by announcing a massive revision for the company’s stance on mobile devices.
Last year, Iwata had finally admitted that the popularization of smartphones did in fact have a significant impact on the current state of the video game industry. In 2015, the company was finally ready to accept this reality and use it to their advantage. Nintendo forged an alliance with Japanese mobile giant DeNA, and the initial plan was to release 5 first-party titles for smart devices by the end of 2016.
Nintendo's new smartphone strategy acted as an evolution for their “expanding the gaming population” initiative which began with the DS and Wii. As much they had hoped that the Wii U and 3DS would continue to attract a wider audience of gamers, those days were behind them. The mobile marketplace had generated an entirely new environment for consumers to play games and by developing first-party apps for this emerging market, Nintendo would have the opportunity to win back the attention of the casual audience.
But all of this talk about developing for the mobile platform was bound to spur a hefty load of gossip concerning Nintendo’s viability as a video game hardware manufacturer. So as the investor meeting came to a close, Iwata said this:
“Nintendo is currently developing a dedicated game platform with a brand-new concept under the development codename ‘NX’.” - Satoru Iwata, Corporate Management Policy Briefing, 2014
The announcement was a bit premature considering that we wouldn’t learn more about what the NX even was until over a year later, but it was important for Nintendo to reaffirm that the company was still heavily invested in both hardware and software.
Unfortunately, Iwata would never get the chance to tell us about the NX in person as he would pass away later that year. As the head of the company since 2002, Iwata had led Nintendo through three generations of gaming. It was thanks to him that Nintendo was able to successfully pivot out from the troubled GameCube era and into one of the most prosperous time periods in the company’s history. Iwata’s time as CEO was not entirely smooth sailing as the Wii U and 3DS represented a financial low point for Nintendo, but at the very least, Iwata got to see his company bounce back from what seemed to be its darkest hour. In doing so, his legacy has a lasting impression on the current direction of the company and his influence remains at the heart of Nintendo’s next generation of consoles.
Iwata was replaced by Tatsumi Kimishima who had the challenging task of executing on the plans that Iwata had laid out before his passive. In Kimishima’s own words, 2016 represented a “period of preparation to launch a number of new endeavors”. Endeavors which included the increasingly mysterious NX platform, the company’s first foray into the mobile economy, and the continued expansion of licensing their character IP.
As stable and relatively healthy as the Wii U had now become, its time was finally coming to a close with hardware production decreasing by 2.4 million consoles when compared to the previous fiscal year. Even the Wii U’s most highly anticipated game of 2016, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild had been delayed to make way for Nintendo’s next generation.
By October of 2016, the NX was less than 6 months away from launch, and nothing could be said about it with absolute certainty thanks to a tightly lipped marketing campaign that drove Nintendo enthusiasts wild with speculation, but everything changed with a single tweet. On October 19th, Nintendo’s official twitter account had prompted fans to keep their eyes open for a preview trailer that would be releasing the following day. When the trailer dropped, the NX was finally revealed as the Nintendo Switch. The Switch was a hybrid device that could act as both a home console and a handheld system depending on your personal preference. Looking back at the discussions Iwata was having about the integration of their hardware architectures years earlier, it was easy to see how Nintendo had come up with the idea.
It wouldn't be until January of 2017, less than two months before the console’s release date, that the public would get the chance to learn more about the Switch via a live presentation orchestrated by Nintendo of Japan. Important tidbits of information were revealed throughout the presentation, including the console’s $299.99 dollar price point and March 3rd release date. As more and more was revealed about Nintendo’s new home console, critics rightly began to wonder how the Switch planned to avoid the similar pitfalls experienced by its predecessors.
As mentioned earlier, the initial stumbles of the Wii U and 3DS could easily be attributed to two things: lack of consistent first-party software and the inability to clearly market the consoles to consumers. Nintendo’s preview trailer had proven that the company had at least learned from their marketing mistakes. By calling it the Switch, Nintendo would ensure that everyone was well aware that the system was a new piece of hardware meant to succeed the Wii U. Switch, as a name, also bluntly explains the core feature of the console - the fact that you can switch between different playing experiences to enjoy it “anywhere, at anytime, and with anyone.”
Their branding this time around seemed precise and expertly calculated, but none of this would truly matter if Nintendo couldn't back the system up with a wealth of first-party titles throughout its lifetime. As Nintendo had learned previously, a new console needs a steady stream of high-quality games in order to avoid the dreaded chicken-and-egg problem. Thanks to the efforts put into place after the failed launches for both of their current platforms, Nintendo was prepared for the Switch. The core design of the Switch’s hardware was the result of the company’s initiative to integrate the architectures of their home and handheld consoles. This meant that games were easier than ever to port and/or enhance between Nintendo platforms. Titles like Breath of the Wild, Mario Kart 8: Deluxe, and Fire Emblem Warriors were all planning on releasing within the Switch’s launch window thanks to this integration.
An improved architecture also meant that Nintendo would have an easier time spacing out first-party titles in order to avoid a software drought. Looking at the current lineup, it was evident that Nintendo was planning to pump out game after game in order to maintain momentum throughout the Switch’s first year on the market. It started with Breath of the Wild in March, Mario Kart 8: Deluxe in April, Arms in Spring, Splatoon 2 in the Summer, and finally Super Mario Odyssey within the Holiday season. The lineup was full of potential evergreen titles that were perfectly spaced out so that there would always be something to look forward to in a relatively timely manner with regards to first-party content.
The Next Revolution
The worldwide launch of the Nintendo Switch signaled the official end to the Wii era that began over a decade prior, in 2006. At the time, Nintendo was in need of a revolution and bet heavily on a new audience of gamers currently being ignored by the industry. The risk paid off, and their success would elevate the gaming medium beyond anything they could have possibly imagined. When it was time for Nintendo’s next console to arrive, the landscape had completely changed. The Wii U was quite literally an extension of the philosophies and strategies popularized by the original Wii and resulted in one of the worst financial time periods that Nintendo had ever experienced in their 127-year history. Yet, whatever monetary losses they endured during that generation would eventually have been offset by the improved and modernized vision currently at the forefront of the company.