Well, here we are. It’s been a full year since the Switch’s initial release, and Nintendo’s mini-tablet-sized hybrid console is doing just as well now as it was then. One could even argue that it’s doing even better. Aside from the Wii, it’s been a very long time since one of Nintendo’s home consoles has seen this kind of outrageous success. It might even be worth throwing out the Wii here, but its was a success of a different type. The type of success we’re seeing here of the sort not seen since the days of the Nintendo 64, or possibly even the Super Nintendo. This isn’t a system being picked up as a curiosity by non-gamers. No, the Switch a proper system made for video game enthusiasts and is being received by them wholeheartedly. There’s a lot that could be pointed to as the source of the system’s success, but I think it boils down to three main factors: identifying a niche, third-party support, and games most of all.
All of Nintendo’s recent consoles brought the games…eventually. The GameCube, Wii, and even the Wii U all sport a modest number of excellent first party Nintendo games for their users to enjoy. The Switch is shaping up to be the same for the most part, but there’s one key difference: Timing. All three of the consoles I just mentioned saw their most valuable games released intermittently. They’d be released in batches six or months apart and leave players with nothing to care about in the meantime. They’d melt away to their “main” systems and only return once Nintendo decided to release something. The Switch’s games on the other hand, have been carefully timed. Just about every month last year saw the release of at least one interesting title for the Switch, and this year is already shaping up to be similar. Switch users aren’t being given the chance to drift into apathy, and thus the buzz around the system has remained more or less constant. A lot of these aren’t even Nintendo’s games, they’re third-party titles! A Nintendo console hasn’t seen halfway decent third-party support since the GameCube!
Doom, Wolfentstein, Dark Souls, Skyrim, LA Noire… I could go on, but the list of major third party games ported to the Switch is downright staggering. There’s more on the way too (Dark Souls being one of them). The Switch’s portability is huge for these sorts of titles, making Switch ports potentially very lucrative. These major third party publishers, for the first time in a long time, have a good reason to want their game on a Nintendo console.That list, however large it is, pales in comparison to the incredible number of indie title being brought to the system.
The Switch has proven itself very friendly to independent developers, both for its friendly publishing system and for the more…open attitude it creates in its users. By merit of the Switch still not exactly being seen as “main” console, but rather as something aimed more towards simple fun, it’s easier to be receptive towards trying out something like Stardew Valley or Celeste (or Knight Terrors) on it. If it wasn’t portable, if it wasn’t marketed as fun device that can just be picked up, taken on the go and instantly booted back up anywhere, it’s doubtful that indie games would be enjoying the same level of success on it that they are now.
The system’s portability really is an incredibly huge factor to its success too. We all underestimated its appeal before the system launched, and many of us (myself included) are still discovering just how cool and convenient it is to have a console level experience that can be taken anywhere and everywhere. Put simply, the Nintendo Switch is the dream of every business trying to sell a product: it’s something many people didn’t know they wanted until they saw it, and it solves a problem many of us didn’t even know we had. First-party releases and third-party releases are both incredibly important, but without this crucial feature, it’s highly likely that the Switch would have followed the Wii U into relative obscurity. Thankfully though, that’s not what happened and we can look forward to plenty of fun times on Nintendo’s unexpected hit of a console.
Alright, so I wound up gushing about the Switch more than I meant to, but what can I say? It’s hard to insert criticism into a piece about success. Anyway, what do you think of the Switch? Do you see it continuing to go strong, or do you see potential problems for it on the horizon?