What made the Switch such a massive success…And why the Nintendo can look forward to a bumper holiday season this year


The release

When Nintendo announced at its reveal event in 2016 that the Switch would release in March the following year, a fair few people were skeptical. Not launching within a couple of months of a holiday season was a bold move that had some commenters scratching their heads. There was also that relatively high price tag. $299 is a hefty chunk of cash to throw down on what would for most be a second console and a far from necessary purchase.

The gamble paid off and then some. The console sold better than even Nintendo was expecting. Even now, more than seven months since launch, the Switch is scarce in most territories, the considerable demand continuing to outstrip supply worldwide.

Now, with the console’s first holiday season fast approaching, those months of strong sales will really count for something. Millions of Switch games will be bought as presents for those who already own consoles, and once the season is over and the sales begin, millions more. And there’ll be more than a couple of games for them to go at, too. The Switch catalog has been expanding slowly and steadily, and there’ll be a couple more big hitters before the end of the year.

The season of goodwill is also the perfect time for the big companies to sell accessories in their millions too. Parents will buy extra controllers to accommodate social play as families come together — you remember the Wii, right? Yeah, like that. Many will also be looking to buy something for their loved ones that are perhaps a little cheaper than a full price game. What many still don’t realize is that accessory sales are often where most of the profit lies for companies — that’s even ahead of games and expensive new consoles.

Let’s not forget that there’ll be a lot of people looking to board the Switch train for the first time too, people buying the console now all the fuss has died down, and now there’s a respectable collection of games on the table too. Nintendo will clean up there too…that’s if they can finally make enough of the things to satisfy demand.

The concept

Many weren’t convinced that Nintendo was onto a winner with their latest daring concept, myself included. Sure, the idea was novel: create a powerful home console that could double as a take-anywhere handheld. But there were so many practical issues to think about. How would the games be sold? What would the online component look like? What about battery life?

And then there was the question of third party support. It’s been a recurring problem with successive generations of Nintendo consoles, and that trend looked set to continue with the Switch. That, coupled with the fact that the more we learned about the console's innards, the more it became apparent that the Switch would trail the big two home consoles by a significant margin. Our dreams of a no-compromise on-the-go gaming experience looked like they would remain exactly that: dreams.

But, as it turned out, people liked the idea. They liked it a lot.

People bought into the idea of the switch, and it certainly wasn’t because all those caveats and worries were proven false. The console hasn’t seen a surge of third party support; it really can’t compete with the PS4 and Xbox in the power stakes; The battery life really isn’t great, and the online side of things is paper thin, still needing some attention before it reaches anything like an acceptable level of functionality.

The simple fact is that the things the Switch does well, within its solitary niche, override any focus on its shortcomings. Battery life shortages can be overcome with external battery packs and mains power. Third party games are barely missed when the quality of Nintendo’s own releases is good enough. Speaking of which…

The games

The impact of one game on the Switch’s success cannot be overstated.

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild was always going to be a great game to launch with. The series is probably second only to Mario in the popularity stakes within Nintendo’s own stable. And there’s enough dedication and fervor within that fan base that millions will have bought the Switch just to get in on the ground floor of the next iteration of what is perhaps the most consistently great series of all time.

But Zelda didn’t just appeal to long time fans. Of course, those devotees will no doubt have been the ones who put down the first pre-orders and queued for hours to be the first to get their hands on a copy of the game. But to the surprise of absolutely no one in the industry or even the public, the game was phenomenally good. Suddenly curious gamers were reading 10/10 reviews, seeing ridiculously high aggregate scores, and hearing the gaming community talk about this new Zelda as a game of the year contender already, barely a quarter of the way through 2017.

Breath of the Wild isn’t just a game for fans of the series. It’s a fantastic open world adventure, a genuinely mainstream game that appeals to a vast audience. It’s a real gamer’s game, an experience that many who actually care about gaming as an art form feel they have to experience. And that fact made many take the plunge on the console.

Now, the Switch has weathered a few months of relatively few releases, and, lo and behold, look what’s that on the horizon…Only the most recognizable franchise in the whole of gaming. Yes, Mario will be making one of his rare appearances in a mainline game. Real talk: we already know Super Mario Odyssey will be incredible. The only question is, how many more of Nintendo’s consoles will this game sell?

Will the Switch dominate this year’s holiday sales? Are you planning on picking one up? How excited are you for Super Mario Odyssey? Let us know in the comments!

Andy is a freelance writer for Game With Your Brain. You can follow him on Twitter.