I think its safe to say the Switch has been a resounding success so far. Nintendo needed the Switch to get off to a fast start. Many gamers turned away from Nintendo during the Wii and Wii U era. For the Switch, Nintendo needed a way to win back support. It was a long road back to success. Let’s revisit the past to give more context to the Switch’s release.
The year is 2006. Nintendo has released the Wii and it was near impossible to find as people were buying up every console in sight. The motion control seemed revolutionary at the time. People couldn’t get enough of it. A few years go by and the intrigue of the motion control gimmick has worn off. There were only a few games worth playing, almost all of them 1st party games. The Wiimote was a cumbersome controller to use. Piles upon piles of shovelware were heaped upon the platform. Any standards Nintendo once held had gone out the window. Nintendo should have been embarrassed by some of these barely functional games showing up on their console. Nintendo was no longer making games for me, so I drifted away from them for several years (not counting Pokemon, Smash Bros., and Fire Emblem).
Fast forward to 2012 and the Wii U was released. Riding high on the success of the Wii, Nintendo expected that momentum to continue. Problems with the Wii U were immediately apparent. Between the confusing name, unwieldly brick controller, and drip feed of releases, the Wii U went on to become Nintendo’s worst performing console. It bled money over the course of its 4-year life span. Nintendo’s poor marketing strategy sure didn’t help things. I didn’t even know the thing existed at launch. I didn’t buy one until right before Super Smash Bros. came out. Perhaps the Wii U’s greatest failure was Star Fox Zero. Think of what made Star Fox 64 great, tight controls and addictive arcade shooting action. Now take all of that away and replace it with forced motion controls and requiring the gamepad. Players must constantly look back and forth between the TV and gamepad, creating undue stress.
It felt like Nintendo dumbed down their games and took away what made them special. New Super Mario Bros. saw several re-releases. Paper Mario Sticker Star and Color Splash completely removed the memorable characters that gave the series so much charm. Now everyone is a generic Toad. Metroid hasn’t had a main series release since Other M, which proved divisive among fans for its portrayal of Samus. Not to mention several of its franchises were neglected all together. Nintendo seemed out of touch with the modern games industry (a good thing in some ways).
Its now late 2016. Nintendo finally announces the mysterious NX. The Nintendo Switch was announced with an accompanying trailer, which made me want it immediately. The portable console hybrid was pure genius. It strikes a balance between innovation and practicality. The portability goes beyond a silly gimmick like the Wii’s motion controls and the Wii U’s tablet controller. In the past, Nintendo struggled to release enough games to justify a purchase of the Wii U. Nintendo proved that would no longer be a problem. Not long after the Switch’s announcement, Nintendo told us about future projects in the works, like Metroid Prime 4. Numerous ports have come to the Switch. You can now play Skyrim or Doom on the go! The indie scene is strong on the Switch. Nintendo looks to have studied up on the best indie titles and brought them to their console.
Nintendo’s two largest franchise, Mario and Zelda, were released during the Switch’s first year. Zelda Breath of the Wild as a launch title was a brilliant move. The game had been anticipated for years and a lot of people were ready to buy the Switch at launch. With it came much needed innovation to the franchise. A true open world experience, Breath of the Wild gave players many choices of how to play and to explore the world. Super Mario Odyssey is a true successor to Super Mario 64. There’s far more emphasis on exploration and dicking around. The player will regularly be rewarded for experimenting and exploring. Using the cap abilities is one of the most fun game mechanics in recent history. I’ll never forget the child-like wonder I felt when taking over an enemy and using its ability. Brings a smile to my face every time.
One of the reasons I believe for this turn around is Nintendo allowing the younger developers take control. As great as Miyamoto is, it was time for him to step aside and let the new generation take over. People with a fresh take on an old franchise. The of death Satoru Iwata was tragic, but with a change in leadership came a change in approach. I’m sure he would be very proud of where Nintendo is today. After all, the Switch was a project that began under his leadership. A nice send off to his legacy.
Nintendo had an incredible 2017 and look to be headed in the right direction. We got a steady stream of quality releases and provided Switch owners with many choices. Several high-profile releases are on the horizon and I can’t wait for what Nintendo has in store in 2018. As a lifelong Nintendo fan, I couldn’t be happier. Here’s hoping Nintendo keeps the momentum rolling.