Prior to the Switch’s launch last Friday, analysts at investment banks across the country forecasted weak sales numbers and an overall flop for the Japanese entertainment company, citing a high starting price and lack of strong launch titles. Nintendo, which is still reeling from the unsuccessful launch of the Wii U, was banking on the Switch not only to succeed, but also to revitalize a business model forged on innovation. If you look at the history of the gaming industry, you can see that upon the release of a highly successful Nintendo product, the rest of the industry subsequently attempts to tailor their products/technologies to match that of Nintendo. There is no better example of this than the release of the Wii in 2006, which prompted Sony and Microsoft (both of whom were on the verge of releasing their newest generation consoles) to attempt to incorporate similar accelerometer-based technology. As a result gamers received the Xbox Kinect and Playstation Move packages.
Fast forward to today and we see a drastically different story than that painted by analysts less than a week ago. Nintendo claims that the Switch is claimed has outsold the 2006 Wii launch, and company stock prices reflect that with a recent jump of 4.1%. The flagship title Zelda: Breath of the Wild has just barely came in at no. 2 in the UK games charts behind Playstation exclusive Horizon: Zero Dawn. But what does this mean for the future of the big three console companies? The Switch essentially capitalizes on consumers’ obsession with mobile gaming, allowing them to take games they play on the TV at home with them on the go (and done in a much more effective way than Sony’s mid-2000s PSP). Given the Switch’s relative success in comparison to the Wii, can we expect to see a restructuring of the approaches that Microsoft and Sony take to future platforms? Will the entire industry see a shift to provide consumers with a high-performance alternative to smartphone mobile gaming? We can only wait and see.