Nintendo’s new console, the Switch, released on March 3, was an immediate success for the video games company. Since the release of the Switch, Nintendo’s stock has gone up almost 20 per cent, and with almost two million units sold, it is difficult to find a store with a Switch on their shelves.
The success of the Switch has been a surprise for the industry, given the precedent set by Nintendo’s last console, the Wii U. Less than four weeks after the Wii U launched in November 2012, Nintendo saw the value of their shares fall by close to 30 per cent.
Typically, a console will launch alongside a game that is only available on that console. This helps to create exclusivity and boosts console sales. When the Xbox One launched, Microsoft released Killer Instinct. When the PlayStation 4 launched, Sony released Killzone Shadow Fall.
Nintendo’s consoles, however, seem to defy this trend. When the Wii U launched, there were more than 10 games on the platform that were not on others. By contrast, none of the Switch’s games, including their flagship title The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, are exclusive to the console.
Jeremy Bethel, a Toronto-based industry observer, says the success of the Switch could be attributed at least in part to innovations made to the design of the console’s controller.
“The Switch’s controller is hard to compare to anything else out there right now,” says Bethel.
The Switch’s controller features an attached screen similar to that of the Wii U, but the grips with the joysticks and buttons can be separated from the screen for use with a television. The individual grips are called “Joy-Cons,” and the one that goes in the right hand has a “motion IR camera.” The camera is able to read hand gestures, giving users the ability to make inputs to the controller without touching it.
“HD rumble” is another new feature of the Joy-Con. According to Bethel, “the rumble is precise enough to simulate the sensation of shaking one or several ice cubes around in a glass, and you can tell the difference depending on the number. It can also simulate the feeling that someone is filling that glass with water.”
The Switch’s success may be also be a product of the hybrid design of the console. Unlike other home consoles, the screen that attaches to the Joy-Cons allows users to take their console games mobile.
“The portability of the Switch makes it appealing to children, who are already a huge chunk of Nintendo’s audience,” says Bethel. “They can play it on the bus, while they are running errands with their parents, or they can easily take it to a friend’s house.”
Nintendo also put forward a robust advertising campaign for the Switch. The advertisement for the Switch that played during this year’s Super Bowl was the first that Nintendo has ever purchased for the event. Nintendo has also been advertising their console during other sports events.
“Only a few of them are available now but there are games, like Steep, for the Switch that are about sports,” says Bethel. “There are also games that require you to use the motion controls and be physically active. Not only is the sport demographic a huge one, but it is one that could enjoy the console.”
While sports games typically are not exclusive to any one console and the Switch has no exclusive titles yet, Nintendo has garnered a sense of exclusivity around the device itself.
“The demand for preorders alone was more than Nintendo could handle,” says Bethel. “There was a line of people waiting to buy the console before it even came out, which made everyone talk about it.”
The Switch is hard to find, but it is not impossible. Armaan Randev, a Humber Sports Management student, says his friend was one of the lucky few to find a Switch in store. Randev says his friend bought his console “only a few weeks ago.”
Nikita Plakhotim, a student of Humber’s Information Technology program, also says his friend “ordered one on Amazon without any trouble.”
Nintendo has said that they are trying to minimize the wait for more consoles. According to industry reports, production of the Switch is doubling to meet a goal of at least 16 million Switches before next March.