Since the days of the Wii and DS, the message that Nintendo has been projecting out into the entertainment world has been pretty clear: “Wii would like to play!” Remember that ad? Anywho, the point is that Nintendo is — quite deliberately — very different from that of the other console makers out there. And, this is a trademark that it absolutely relishes in. There have been comments made on the matter time and again, and in a recent interview with Nikkei, current president Shuntaro Furukawa reiterated that sentiment by saying that Nintendo’s focus is on “[creating] a new experience.”
Mr. Furukawa was referring to the thought process that goes behind creating new hardware; in this situation, he was being probed on Nintendo’s plans for a Switch successor. He mentioned how Nintendo’s hardware and software development teams work in the same building and thus are “communicating closely and thinking about how we can propose new forms of entertainment.”
He then explained that what makes or breaks the decision for Nintendo to launch a new product is the aforementioned statement about it being something that can “create a new experience.”
One creative family
The evidence for this is clear with the last five Nintendo systems. Each tried to introduce some new way to play. The DS had dual-screens, the Wii leaned heavily into motion controls, the Wii U introduced asymmetric gameplay by means of a tablet controller, the 3DS capitalized on glasses-less 3D-tech. This quest to be different has culminated into the creation of the Switch, which borrows a little bit of from almost all of these past systems, resulting in the first true hybrid systems—blurring the lines of handheld and home console.
It’s clearly worked out well for Nintendo, as the Switch is now the third-best-selling Nintendo system of all time, inching ever closer to breaking the Wii’s milestone of 100m units.
Unsurprisingly, Mr. Furukawa didn’t go into any sort of real details about what Nintendo’s next system is going to be. He simply talked about how the company does “a lot of preparation several years in advance, so we are working without stopping.” In other words, Nintendo is working on its next system already. It’s just yet to be seen publically if that next system will be another hybrid like the Switch or something entirely different.
The thing is, as successful as the Switch is, Mr. Furukawa brought up a good point in this same interview. He mentioned that “No matter what kind of hit product you have, in the entertainment business, there will always be a point where people get tired of it.” He then continued that Nintendo needs to make their future projects “fresh and surprising” in order to keep attracting customers.
Trying new things
We saw the perfect (yet unfortunate) example of this between Nintendo’s last two generations. After striking gold with the Wii and DS, Nintendo created direct successors in the form of the Wii U and 3DS; neither of which were nearly as successful as their predecessors. Meanwhile, it was the Switch—an entirely “fresh and surprising” concept—which has now taken the world by storm. That said, this could indicate that maybe a hybrid system might be a one-and-done operation for Nintendo. But, it’s ultimately far too unclear to say for sure.
All we know for sure at this point is, as Mr. Furukawa also stated in this interview, Nintendo is playing the long game with the Switch. The company is focusing on “ensuring it has a long life cycle”. This is a statement that has been made a few times in recent years, so it’s clear that Nintendo’s plans have not changed.
Considering that Switch sales haven’t really slowed down at all in the roughly five years it’s been on the market, there’s no wonder why Nintendo has opted to run with it for such a long time.
Regardless, the growing cries from some in the gaming community surrounding the elusive alleged upgrade colloquially referred to as the “Switch Pro” do at least seem to indicate that if the Switch is to survive a few more years, some would prefer it to do so with better specs. Of course, Mr. Furukawa had nothing direct to say on that matter, simply stating that “there’s much more that can still be done in the coming years.”
Whatever may be in store for the Switch and its budding successor, one thing remains true: this has been a very strong generation for Nintendo. When just about the whole industry was doubting its future, a feeling that was , Nintendo was able to deliver a smash-hit.
Not only has the Switch been successful, but incredibly influential. Its hybrid concept is now being tried out by several other notable tech companies, indicating that Nintendo has basically kicked off a whole new category of device. Meanwhile, as a console, it’s become one of the most successful ever and may very well end its life in the coveted class of triple-digit sellers.