How Nintendo is correcting the mistakes of the Wii U with the Switch

In an interview with CNN in November, Nintendo of America president Reggie Fils-Aimé admitted that the company’s current success has a lot to do with lessons learned from the failure of the Wii U.

Nintendo’s newest console is on pace to sell more hardware than its predecessor within the first year of its release. The company recently revised its estimates to 14 million Switches sold during the fiscal year, up from the previous estimate of 10 million. By comparison, the Wii U sold slightly more than 13 million consoles over its five year lifetime. The company is betting big on the Switch, and plans are in place to have 25 to 30 million consoles available to consumers in 2018 according to a report by the Wall Street Journal.

A different kind of portability

Now that we've spent nine months with Nintendo's newest console, it’s becoming clear how Nintendo is correcting the mistakes of the Wii U.

Firstly, and arguably most importantly, the Switch can function as a handheld device or connect to a TV for a more traditional console experience. This is an evolution of the idea behind the Wii U, which allowed owners to play games through their televisions or on the system’s tablet-like GamePad. Unlike the Switch, the Wii U GamePad would only function if it was within about twenty-five feet of the console, severely limiting the system’s portability.

This made a little more sense in Japan, where space is at a premium and families have to compete for TV time. But in the US and other territories, it was difficult for consumers to understand the point of the GamePad. If you need to be so close to the TV to use it, why not just play on the TV? The system’s utility was hard to understand, and that’s something Fils-Aimé said Nintendo wants to correct with the Switch.

"We worked hard for the Nintendo Switch to make it crystal clear what the proposition is," said Fils-Aimé to CNN. "It's a home system that you can take on the go, play anywhere with anyone, and that's resonating."

It's all about the games

The Wii U was Nintendo’s first High Definition console, and the company experienced the culture shock that came from transitioning from standard definition to HD a few years later than most other game developers. The increased development time needed to develop high-resolution assets slowed Nintendo’s first-party offerings down. As a result, big titles like Pikmin 3 and Super Mario 3D World were delayed, cooling enthusiasm for the system’s launch. Third-party developers became hesitant to create games for the platform since the install base was so low, and the Wii U sank into a spiral of sparse releases, almost all of them from Nintendo itself.

By comparison, the Switch has already released two game-of-the-year contenders in The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and Super Mario Odyssey. There’s been at least one major release from Nintendo every month since the Switch’s launch, including sequels like Mario Kart 8 Deluxe and Splatoon 2, as well as new properties like ARMS and Snipperclips. Third party developers have noticed the Switch’s success, and games like Mario and Rabbids: Kingdom Battle from Ubisoft and Doom and Skyrim from Bethesda have been selling well on the platform.

“Having a steady pace of new launches is critical," said Fils-Aimé. "Whether it's the big companies like Electronic Arts, or whether it's the smaller independent developer, we need those companies to create content to support us. We have that now with Nintendo Switch."

It seems like Nintendo is on the right track for a record breaking 2018.