Focusing on games alone last week during its latest Nintendo Direct, a streaming showcase for hardware and software that occurs several times a year, was a modest angle taken by Nintendo that underscores how much the company is killing it on the hardware front.
Despite Microsoft and Sony releasing new PlayStation and Xbox consoles in November, the Switch reigned supreme over the holidays, outselling both competitors.
It’s all because Nintendo has maximized convenience for the consumer — and itself.
Nintendo’s Exclusives Never Stray From Mass Appeal
From “Mario” to “Pokémon,” Nintendo’s exclusive games are family friendly in nature, appealing both to first-time buyers looking to keep children occupied and players who were those children years ago.
The success of this approach is backed up by the Switch’s bestselling titles, all 10 of which are exclusives. The same can’t be said for PlayStation 4 or Xbox One, as the top 10 bestsellers for each consisted of more multi-platform titles, most of them shooters.
The proliferation of all-ages fun available on the Switch has enabled Nintendo to keep hardware and software sales consistently up each quarter over the ongoing course of the COVID-19 pandemic, with March 2020’s “Animal Crossing: New Horizons” having sold more than 30 million units — almost as much as the Switch’s top game, “Mario Kart 8 Deluxe,” released in April 2017.
The Switch’s Hybrid Model Makes It Stand Out
Much of the Switch’s endurance comes from how successfully Nintendo has positioned itself against its competitors in terms of its tech and timing.
Released in March 2017, the Switch hit the market more than three years after PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, allowing enough time to pass for Nintendo to market its differences considerably.
After the November 2012 release of Wii U failed to live up to the sales of its Wii predecessor, selling less than 15 million units, Nintendo capitalized on the success of earlier handheld devices like the DS and Game Boy by making the Switch both a home and handheld console, making it playable wherever one desires in addition to hooking it up to a television.
A Lesser Focus on Tech Superiority Grants a Manufacturing Advantage
Focusing on high-end graphics has never been a priority for Nintendo, as opposed to PlayStation and Xbox, whose technical specs for their new systems generate lengthy comparisons. Such graphical fidelity and performance flaunting is necessary to lure in PC gamers, whose home systems generally run big games better than consoles do.
But the technical flourishes of the new consoles also require the purchase of things like 4K TVs and speaker systems to get the most out of their capabilities.
With less technical bravado needed to lure its customers, Nintendo has been able to sell the Switch at a lower price than its competitors.
This advantage came to a head over the 2020 holiday, as a shortage of semiconductor chips that support the performance of the newer consoles stalled their manufacturing pipelines.
On top of its own unaffected production of Switch consoles, this enabled Nintendo to become the last-resort option for desperate buyers who intended to purchase newer consoles as gifts, as those have been repeatedly sold out at retailers; as such, Nintendo was able to sell substantially more systems.
The Switch was initially seen as a companion system to PlayStation and Xbox consoles, with The NPD Group observing more than two-thirds of U.S. Switch owners also owned another console in 2019.
But upon the launch of the new console generation, it’s clear Nintendo is winning as a long-game player, and its competitors may want to reconsider the advantages of convenience and simplicity.