The Switch Was a Success: What Does Nintendo Do Next?

    The successor to the Switch is approaching quickly.

    Released in 2017, the Nintendo Switch has sold over 110 million units, overtaking the company’s previous most successful home console the Nintendo Wii which sold slightly over 100 million units. The Switch is a hybrid handheld and home console with the novel ability to ‘dock’ and be played on a television. This ‘hybrid’ feature has been crucial to its massive sales figures as its ability to be played in handheld mode gives it versatility and appeal to consumers as Nintendo’s mobile devices have traditionally sold much better than Nintendo’s home consoles. The dark days of the Wii U are behind the company but with the Switch in its sixth year are we close to seeing a successor, and where does Nintendo go from here?

    Wii Nintendo with Wiimote

    Nintendo’s Past Consoles

    After the Wii, Nintendo made a big misstep with the Wii U, which many people thought was an accessory for the original Wii. Dedicated handhelds have basically been killed off by gaming on smartphones so is Nintendo in a difficult position? Maybe the answer would be a legacy console that could sit under your TV and have the ability to download most of the games from Nintendo’s rich and praised back catalog? In this article, I discuss whether this would be a wise move, or what other options Nintendo has.

    Looking back at the history of Nintendo’s consoles and handhelds the company has a good record of both setting trends and bouncing back after failure. The original Nintendo Entertainment System basically saved the video game industry after the video game crash of 1983. The crash was due to the market being flooded with low-quality games. Nintendo introduced quality control with their ‘seal of quality’ which was branded on every NES game and instigated companies, mainly Nintendo themselves, to add a level of polish to video games that continue to this day. Because of this, it could be argued that without Nintendo, there would be no video game industry.

    A Company with a Long History

    The GameBoy, and then the Super Nintendo continued Nintendo’s domination of the industry, but then the Sony Playstation was released in the mid-’90s, and, for the first time, Nintendo’s home console wasn’t the number one seller in both the Japanese and global market. However, worse times were yet to come and Nintendo’s survival would rest on its ability to innovate and carve its own path. Something the company had done before even prior to it working in video games. Nintendo as a company is over 100 years old and began as a playing card manufacturer as many of you reading this will know.

    By the mid-’90s, a new era was dawning in videogame history. Both the emergence of 3D gaming had begun and hardware developers were also starting to experiment with potentially ground-breaking technology, virtual reality. The Virtual Boy was meant to be a third pillar for Nintendo to live side by side with the GameBoy and SNES but the machine was awkward, gave people who played it headaches, and wasn’t in full color. It used a red and black display that looked dim and ugly. It was Nintendo’s biggest flop up to that point and only sold less than a million units. However, when the next ‘third pillar’ was introduced, the Nintendo DS in 2004 it was a huge success and became Nintendo’s highest-selling handheld or console with 144 million units sold, showing that the third pillar strategy could work (even though the DS eventually replaced the GameBoy line).

    Blue Nintendo DS with stylus in front

    Three Pillars or One?

    The Switch has gone in the other direction compared to the ‘three pillar’ strategy, with it being the only ‘active’ device (device with new content being released) Nintendo is currently selling. In theory, this should have its advantages. Like how both internal and external developers should be focusing on one system rather than two or three, but has there really been an increase in the output of games compared to previous consoles? I haven’t seen any evidence of this and it’s a shame because the Switch should be a goldmine of both niche and universal games. The system seems to have few exclusives but many, many ports, remakes, and remasters. This is one of the reasons that I’m keen to see what Nintendo brings out next with the Switch successor.

    Along with the DS with its revolutionary control scheme of using a touch screen as an important input device in 2007 Nintendo released the Wii which used motion and pointer controls and made videogames accessible to many, many more types of people than had previously been the case. This ‘blue ocean’ strategy really worked and led to the Wii beating out the Sony Playstation 3 and Xbox 360 in terms of unit sales.

    The Wii: Best Retro Service

    For me though, the best thing about the Wii was its online features, in particular an app known as the virtual console. The virtual console let the user download legacy content from a huge variety of old Nintendo, Sega, and other consoles. Whilst the user paid to download the content they kept the games on their systems to be accessed whenever they wished (even now, years after the service has closed) which probably won’t be the case with Nintendo’s current online streaming service, NSO on Switch. The variety of games has also never been matched on the 3DS, Wii U, or even the Switch.

    Great Legacy Content

    Nintendo has some of the most iconic and well-loved games of the past from various systems. Zelda: Ocarina of Time, Super Mario World, Metroid Prime, and Pokemon Red and Blue just to name a few. They have a much more valuable past catalog than either Microsoft or Sony. Since the Wii and Nintendo DS, Nintendo hasn’t directly compete with the other hardware manufacturers in terms of power and I can’t see them going back to competing in these terms any time soon. Whilst they have released ‘mini’ consoles of the NES and SNES, these were released a few years ago now, and aside from NSO (Nintendo Switch Online), there’s no easy, legal, and official way to play retro Nintendo games. So how could this be addressed?

    Nintendo could release a Nintendo Switch successor that is a device acting just like the old Nintendo Wii’s virtual console. It could be a budget console with no new games releasing for it, but the ability to download Gamecube, N64, SNES, GBA games, and more. Nintendo could get old hardware publishers on board and add more systems. Key to this could be that you downloaded games onto your system (for a standalone fee rather than a subscription) as I think I’m not the only person that thinks that streaming services don’t suit the gaming industry, especially when discussing retro games. The box (console) could retail for 99$ and a controller and I’m sure it would sell like hotcakes.

    Pokemon Red/Blue screenshot.

    Retro Box?

    Whether Nintendo could get the backing of third-party developers such as Square Enix and Capcom would not be a certainty but they did in the Wii era so there’s no major reason why they couldn’t again. A big mistake Nintendo made with the Wii – Wii U transition was the branding and not marketing the Wii U as a Wii ‘pro’ or Wii ‘HD’. Because of this, maybe the best next step Nintendo could make is releasing a Switch ‘pro’ alongside a ‘retro box’ like I’ve been discussing, that didn’t have the ability to ‘Switch’ between modes but just sat under your TV.

    I’m sure a ‘retro box’ wouldn’t be the only new hardware Nintendo releases if they even choose to go with this idea. They could bring out a system with new branding, so lose the Switch name and bring in new innovation with the Switch successor. What this could be is anyone’s guess, but maybe they’ll experiment with virtual reality again. Alternatively, a handheld ‘mini’ console could be an option. Sega has done this with the Game Gear Micro, and a GameBoy ‘mini’ would be sure to sell well. Either way, expect to see new hardware in the Switch successor, which could release in 2023 or 2024.

    The future of Nintendo is unknown again and using their legacy content in a way that is attractive to the consumer and easy and accessible for long-term fans would be a win-win for everyone. I am incredibly excited to see the Switch successor, which is quickly approaching at this point.

    Latest articles

    Latest Articles