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A Brief History of the Nintendo Switch

By: Will Torrance

On March 3, 2017, Nintendo released the Nintendo Switch, their latest entertainment electronic that combined handheld gaming and multiplayer-console gaming to create a new hybrid that has proven to be a success. Its sales continue to skyrocket, recently doubling the previous year’s sales as of March 2020, according to Venturebeat.com. Its numbers likely increased since the release of their latest best-selling title, Animal Crossing: New Horizons and the stay-at-home orders due to COVID-19.

Not only has the Switch out-sold many of Nintendo’s previous consoles (especially the Wii U, but we’ll get to that later), but it boasts an extensive library of games that continues to grow, with the recent announcement of a new installment to the Paper Mario franchise: Paper Mario: The Origami King, which is slated to release on July 17, 2020. On top of that, Nintendo has seen many third party indie developers work with Nintendo. Everything from the Borderlands and Bioshock series both being announced as Switch ports, to indie hit Untitled Goose Game topping eShop sales for a whole week, to beloved non-Nintendo icon Banjo-Kazooie joining the roster of fighters in Super Smash Brothers Ultimate. Truly anything is possible for this system, and even in the face of the pandemic, they’re going strong.

“Hold on there, you sophisticated and well-dressed individual!” I hear you saying to yourself, but also out loud, “We already know all of this! We know how good Nintendo is at games! Get to the point!” Well, my esteemed reader, I will, but please calm down, and maybe don’t talk to your computer. It is not me. It can’t hear you. I can’t hear you.

In honor of the Switch’s anniversary, I wanted to take a quick look back at how far the system has come, and where it stands in the video game market as of now. If we want to recount the life of a system, we need to start at its predecessor, the Nintendo Wii U.

The Wii U was Nintnedo’s previous home console. It was a gamepad with controls on the side, and it could be remotely controlled while connected to the system. Long story short, despite being the next step after the Wii, having an innovative design and idea, and being compatible with Wii controllers, the Wii U didn’t sell as well as Nintendo had hoped. It also had some technical issues, mostly with the atrocious wireless connectivity between the gamepad and the system. On top of that, it didn’t boast as many big-IP games like the Wii did, only seeing ports of Zelda games. However, not all was lost for Nintendo, because although the Wii U wasn’t performing well, the Nintendo 3DS had done well in sales, and had featured games that many fans were excited about. On top of that, it boasted endless portability that the Wii U had attempted to achieve to some degree. The people at Nintendo looked at their Wii U, and they looked at the 3DS, and suddenly, it clicked. By combining the gamepad and motion controls of the Wii U with the portability and simplicity of the 3DS, they could create a hybrid system with the best of both worlds. One that could be played on and off the television, that could be brought around remotely and contain the whole system in itself. They Frankestein’d their ideas together, even mixing in a few more, and created their new system: The Nintendo Switch.

Since then, the Switch has done well for itself. It’s best sales, however, didn’t come from the system’s mechanics, but from the games they featured. It’s launch titles boasted the new, critically-acclaimed Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. Following suit, Nintendo added a new installment into their other big names, such as Super Mario Odyssey, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, and the latest one, Animal Crossing: New Horizons, all of which boosted the sales even further. Sure, they’ve hit a few snags on their journey, such as the Nintendo Labo, (which sees you use cardboard to build contraptions), but it only adds to the innovation that Nintendo has always put into their systems. They were known for trying something new, even if it didn’t always work. They’ve even started dipping their toes into virtual reality, as a way to compete with other developers.

And now we reach the present. The Nintendo Switch still boasts major titles, with even more coming on the way. So what have we learned from Nintendo’s success? Even after decades of being in this industry, they’re still keeping things interesting. Now before I return to check the turnip prices on my island in Animal Crossing, I’d like to recommend a game on the Switch that was a pleasant little find for me: it’s called Ape Out. It’s best if experienced blindly, but I seriously loved it.

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