The Nintendo Switch has now set records in the United States and Japan as the fastest-selling console in those two respective markets, beating even the PlayStation 2 and Nintendo Wii in terms of early adoption.
So what went so right? How did a system with such an unconventional idea behind it get so big, so fast? Here are just a few of the reasons, with some obvious and others a bit more obscure. Nintendo did just about everything right, even if those tricks may not have worked for anyone else.
Let’s dig in!
It has no competition
The Nintendo Switch is neither just a handheld nor just a home console. It’s both — and it’s the flagship system for Nintendo’s biggest games. There isn’t another piece of hardware on the market like it, which means it has no substantial competition. And Nintendo itself has data that shows players are enjoying the Switch in both configurations.
If you’re in the market for something that you can hook up to your television to play on the big screen before taking the same hardware and games on a flight across the country, you don’t have a lot of other options out there.
Not only does the Switch not have much competition, it’s not likely to get any in the near future. Neither Sony nor Microsoft has much appetite for portable gaming devices, and the Switch is already selling better in its first year than the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One did in theirs. Nintendo is likely to keep this very lucrative market completely to itself.
It had the best games of 2017
The term “best” is, of course, going to be subjective, but Nintendo was basically in competition with itself for game of the year in 2017. Not only are The Legend of Zelda and Super Mario two of the biggest names in gaming, but Nintendo also released a new game in each series during the Switch’s first year. Each one set a new standard for Nintendo games’ already high bar for success.
If you want to play two of the best games of 2017 (and likely even 2018, for those who still don’t have a Switch), you need to buy Nintendo’s new system. Games sell hardware, and no one knows that better than Nintendo. It might be hard for any other company to sell hardware based on the strength of two games, but Nintendo isn’t any other company, and those aren’t just any two games.
The price is right
The Nintendo Switch sold for $299.99 at launch, lower then the PlayStation 4’s $399.99 launch price and certainly lower than the $499.99 launch price of the Xbox One. It can be played at home or on the go, adding value to the already appealing price point.
It’s not exactly an impulse buy at that price, but the Switch is priced well enough that people feel comfortable picking it up as a second system, or even as their first new console in a long time. I have many friends who are PC fans that picked up the Switch after taking long breaks away from consoles.
Price isn’t everything, but a lower price is better. And the Switch seems to be priced just about perfectly for many buyers.
Nintendo managed scarcity like a champ
Nintendo knows how to release enough hardware to set sales records, while also keeping systems rare enough that seeing them in the wild seems like enough of a reason to go ahead and pick one up. It wasn’t to find a Switch in 2017, but it was tricky enough that finding and buying one felt like a special event. Nintendo released a lot of hardware in 2017 which was just hard enough to buy that it felt good when you finally did so.
Each shipment was an event, with news stories preceding big sales deals when hardware came into stores. This may be annoying to anyone who just wants to go out and buy something, but it seems to help Nintendo keep its buzz. Nintendo is better than just about everyone else when it comes to walking the very fine line between scarcity and supply.
It’s easy to justify if you have kids
Systems that come with their own screens are life savers if you have a large family or often fight over the television. The Switch is also yet another Nintendo system that looks and feels like a toy … and I mean that in a positive sense.
Parents feel safe letting even younger kids play with the Switch, and the system’s biggest games appeal to just about every demographic that exists. Nintendo doesn’t just make games that are universally enjoyable, but it also builds in easier modes so that kids and parents can play together and have fun, from the co-op mode of SuperMario Odyssey to the racing assists available in .
The Switch has games parents want to play and feel comfortable letting kids play, and those that kids want to play and double as a fun distraction on long car rides. Plenty of parents use these as excuses to get a toy they want to play with, and I don’t blame them. Nintendo has mastered the art of making hardware and games that work with your family.
It’s a social system
Name another gaming console that’s both a portable and a console and also comes with two controllers out of the box. You can play your favorite multiplayer games just about anywhere you’d like with the Switch, and breaking off a Joy-Con to hand to a friend or family member during a gathering still feels like a magic trick.
From Mario Kart to Overcooked and Crawl, Nintendo Switch is home to some of the best local multiplayer games on the market, and you can set up your system wherever you’d like to play with friends and family. The Switch doesn’t need a television, nor do you need to worry about packing an extra controller for many of these games. It’s a design that was easy to doubt at launch … until we all tried those use cases Nintendo advertised and found them to be fun and workable.
Karen was right all along.