Despite being one of the most recognizable brands on Earth, the Nintendo name alone has not always guaranteed the success of its products. Nintendo’s history of home consoles is split fairly evenly between hits and misses, with the Switch being its biggest sensation to date. But with the impending launch of the Switch 2, Nintendo has a chance to do something it hasn’t done since 1990 — launch two successful home consoles in a row.
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After the NES and SNES took the world by storm throughout the 1980s and the ’90s, the original PlayStation outsold the Nintendo 64 3-to-1 during the 64-bit era. In 2001, the GameCube was an even bigger step backward — 21 million sales vs. 24 million for Microsoft’s Xbox and 155 million for Sony’s PlayStation 2. Nintendo reversed its fortunes with the Wii in 2006 (101 million sales), but fell on its face with the disastrous Wii U in 2012 (13.5 million sales).
In 2017, Nintendo took its biggest swing yet with a hybrid device that would not only succeed the Wii U but also effectively replace the record-breaking Nintendo DS line of portable consoles. The risk immediately paid off. At last count, Nintendo had sold just under 130 million Switch consoles, making it the third best-selling console of all time.
With that in mind, we’re now left wondering whether or not Nintendo can break its decades-long cycle of alternating successes and failures with the Switch 2. But based on what we know (or at least think we know) about the unconfirmed Switch 2, I believe that Nintendo is better equipped to have two hit consoles in a row than ever before.
First and foremost, the Switch is unique, even with retro handhelds and portable PCs becoming increasingly mainstream. The Switch is the only major home console that you can take with you anywhere you go. Microsoft partnered with Logitech for the G Cloud, but as the name suggests, it only plays games from the cloud. You can’t store your games on an internal hard drive to play them offline. Sony is also about to release the PlayStation Portal, but it’s even more restrictive, offering remote access to your PS5 solely on your home WiFi.
Just as importantly, Nintendo picked up the pace of its first-party releases. Aside from being an utterly ridiculous piece of hardware, the Wii U also lacked a big library of games. Nintendo often went months without launching a single first-party title, made all the more frustrating by the lack of third-party support on the ill-fated console.
Nintendo flipped the script with the Switch, ensuring that a new game of note was always on the schedule and opening up the eShop to countless indie publishers to fill in the gaps. According to Nintendo’s website, there are over 5,000 Switch games on the eShop.
Specs aside, if the design of the Switch 2 is similar to that of the Switch, it will find an audience. The same can be said about the encouraging pace of Nintendo’s first-party releases. In fact, the only way I could see the Switch 2 failing to live up to the expectations set by its predecessor is if Nintendo shoots itself in the foot… which it is occasionally prone to doing.
For example: What if the Switch 2 isn’t backward compatible with Switch games? Many Switch owners have invested a small fortune into their digital libraries, so if they can’t bring those huge libraries with them to the Switch 2, they might refuse to upgrade.
Thankfully, Nintendo seems to know that this would be a mistake. Nintendo President Shuntaro Furukawa said during a recent shareholder meeting that the company “would like to make sure that customers can smoothly transition while still utilising their Nintendo Accounts.” At the very least, we know that the next console will use Nintendo Accounts.
Nintendo fans also wouldn’t mind higher specs. Recent reports claim Nintendo showcased the Switch 2 to developers at Gamescom with an updated version of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and Epic Games’ The Matrix Awakens tech demo, which runs on Unreal Engine 5.
Nintendo doesn’t need to reinvent the wheel here. A few minor design improvements (joysticks without stick drift, a less flimsy kickstand, etc.), better internal hardware, backward compatibility with every Switch game, and some software improvements are all the Switch 2 really needs to succeed. That and a solid lineup of first-party titles on par with Breath of the Wild, Super Mario Odyssey, and Animal Crossing: New Horizons, and the cycle will surely be broken.