Just less than 2 weeks ago Nintendo dropped a bombshell on the entire gaming industry. They released a video that pretty much confirmed they are making the exact machine I have been begging them to make for over a decade, the exact machine I predicted they would make once I saw the Wii U. Okay they might have taken liberties with the concept but all I asked for was a powerful enough handheld console similar to DS that had TV output and could run semi-modern renditions of current games. Not only did they deliver on that they took it a step further.
The bottom line for those that don’t want to read a long article, is GAMES. This machine has the potential to have the strongest games line up for any Nintendo machine in years. Now read on for why I believe that if you dare.
But why am I so excited for a new Nintendo console if I have been so let down recently? For starters let me walk you back in time. I will keep this simple. In the early late 80’s there was no such thing as video games, there was only Nintendo. You invited friends over to play Nintendo, you went to the arcade to play next years Nintendo games, you watched Nintendo cartoons, ate Nintendo cereal, were duped into throwing away good money on the worst movie based on a video gamer simply because it had the name Nintendo on it. Then the world changed when Playstation came on the scene. Nintendo never faded away, contrary to popular belief they have actually increased market share and fan base every generation but they did it at a cost. The numbers don’t lie.
NES sold a whopping 90 million consoles world wide. Compare that to the less than stellar SNES, one of the most beloved and heralded as one of, of not THE greatest console of all time, barely sold over 55 million. You follow this up with the N64 selling a mere 33 million and the beloved, one of my favorites, the GameCube managed barely over 22 million and you get a picture Nintendo has been on the decline for years. Sure everyone points to the fluke that was the 100 million sales of the Wii as proof that wasn’t a case but then the mega flop that is Wii U died at a paltry 13 million and it took nearly 5 years to get there.
So what does that have to do with Switch?
Let’s wind the clock back one more time. The SNES barely sold 55 million units but in roughly that same time span the Game Boy sold an amazing 65 million units all on its own. Then while the N64 was barely pushing past 33 million the Game Boy color sold an impressive 45 million in the same time span. Along side the very small Game Cube user base was the very large GBA with a formidable 82 million units sold. Then there is the fluke years. Not only did Wii sell a phenomenal 100 million all on its own, it’s little brother the DS sold 155 million, besting even the world famous Playstation 2 for best selling dedicated gaming device, even if just barely. Why is that impressive? Because every hand held has had a 5 year lifespan, PS2 had a 13 year lifespan and PS1 had a 10 year lifespan. Oh and that failure that is Wii U and it’s pathetic, yes I said it pathetic, 13 million, well it’s counterpart has sold a respectable 62 million to date and it’s still going strong.
The point is if you look at just the console side it does appear as though Nintedo has been on the decline for nearly 25 years. But the reality is they have actually INCREASED user base every successive generation or at the very least maintained their minimum of roughly 90 million the NES launched.
So if you combine the handheld and the console the numbers are now much larger. Early 1990’s SNES/GB total is 120 units sold, or user base size. That is an increase of 40 million from the NES. The next phase was GBC/N64 (you could toss in the Virtual Boy’s less than a million but lets not) you get a number closer to 88 million, barey a 2 million decline from NES and a respectable number when you consider the POWERHOUSE that was Playstation 1 and the intense competition from Game Gear, Nomad, CDX, Neo Geo Pocket, Game.com, and you see a picture where that minor decline was really just a hiccup. Now the next phase, combined numbers put Nintendo at a very good 105 million for the GBA/GameCube, and yes many people owned Game Boy Players and relied on GBA connectivity with their Game Cubes so now even those numbers look good. Wii+DS is an incredible 265 million! So yeah for the 3DS/Wii U to be sitting at ONLY 80 million combined, all things considered, that’s still a feat worth noting.
Okay but I still haven’t explained how that will affect the Switch. Because true believers, it is BOTH a handheld and a home console. Why is that impressive? Let’s go back in time once again, the last time I promise.
SNES is the template for what a healthy Nintendo console library looks like, you had RPG games, fighting games, kids games, platformer and puzzle games, action games, quest games, maze games, cartoon games, ninja and martial arts games, if a game was made there was a very good chance it was on the SNES. But things took a dip with N64. SNES had a library over over 700 games released retail, and another 20-30 or so unlicensed games released via shady methods. N64 tops out at 297, and half of those are sports games. Not at all an impressive library. Sure it had some heavy hitters like Goldeneye, Mario 64, Smash Bros. etc, but come on no good Mega Man games, no 2D Castlevania, no Street Fighter, only 2 RPG games that barely qualify as RPG games the machine was a wasteland devoid of the kinds of games that gamers were flocking to the Playstation to get. But wait not so fast, Nintendo ‘gamers’ were still buying oh I don’t a little game called Pokemon that helped push the sales over the top. Okay you see the point? Now let me really make it clear. Even when 3rd party companies were dismissing Nintendo’s console they were still making great games for the handhelds, even Microsoft has made games for the Nintendo handheld even during the time Xbox was killing the console division.
Now imagine this scenario. You bought a GameCube, you took it home and oh crap you realize there are only 15 or so games to choose from, most are made by Nintendo and all the games you were wanted from Capcom, Sega, Konami, Rare, etc, were just gone. But those games were showing up in respectable SNES quality ports and sequels, where SNES was still the gold standard for game design, especially 2D, and suddenly if you have GBA and a GameCube you have access to a really robust library. The problem is buying a $200 + console AND a $100-$200+ dollar handheld well that is damn expensive. Many gamers are then forced to chose, which to buy first. The issue is gamers had to split their money up so they go for the best bang for their buck, which turns out to usually be the handheld. Now not every gamer is going to buy both machines, most people don’t have that kind of money. Oh they do but they get the Nintendo handheld and the Sony or Xbox console. Well here’s is the kicker, the Switch is both.
What does that mean again? Basically it means that if you are in the market for a new Nintendo machine but you can’t decide which to get, the console or the handheld you look at the games. In the case of Wii U and 3DS you see a very similar library between the two so you decide 3DS is the better choice. But some people hate tiny handheld screens and do prefer to play on the TV, well if 3DS had just had TV output there would be no need for Wii U to even exist. That is the amazing part of the Switch, it means that you just spend the, presumably, $250-$350 dollars ONCE on one machine and spend the rest of your money on games. Now instead of picking the handheld first and getting 3 games and then the console next year and getting 2 games, you just spend all that money on 7-8 games, an increase of easily 2-3 games based on cost alone. The issue with Nintendo and 3rd parties is on console the games don’t sell because most people buy a Nintendo console for the Nintendo games and the Sony or Xbox console for everything else, or they stick with PC and Nintendo handheld. So in this scenario Nintendo is creating that means gamers will have more money to spend on the Switch games, companies will sell more games and make more money, that translates to them supporting the system longer. That is why I am excited for it. Not just because yeah I will finally be able to play Pokemon on a TV instead of a tiny screen, or that I will be able to take Smash Bros. on the go but because I truly believe this thing will easily do combined Nintendo sales, which will garner combined Nintendo support which to me means easily 80 million happy Nintendo fans all united under one platform playing all the same games, something we haven’t experienced since the NES days, you know before there even was a Game Boy and a handheld division.
Yes I am excited for the Switch, and based on the Pokemon Go craze I imagine many people the world over will be too once they learn what it truly is.