Once upon a time there were pundits who thought the Nintendo Switch was going to be a dud, because – after all – what would be the appeal of a portable home console in this age of smartphones and iPads?
Turns out, they were very, very wrong. Today Nintendo announced that the Switch is the fastest-selling home video game console in US history, soundly thrashing the previous record held by Nintendo’s own Wii console. Within 10 months, 4.8 million Switch units were sold compared to the 4 million moved by the Wii.
Much of the appeal lies in the way the device can easily “switch” from being a TV-connected console to an easily portable gaming device in a matter of seconds, but it certainly doesn’t hurt that Nintendo also released some strong games within the device’s first year.
In the US, over 60% of Switch owners have Super Mario Odyssey (which we called “one of Mario’s finest adventures”), while more than 55% own The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. Beyond that, more than 50% of Switch players have Mario Kart 8 Deluxe and around 20% have Splatoon 2.
Third-party adoption was initially slow, but it’s picking up now that developers and publishers are seeing the massive appeal of the Switch. Bethesda-published games like The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim and DOOM showed early on that it was possible to have graphically intensive games on the system (with some downsampling), and indie gems like Stardew Valley are finding a comfortable home on the Switch as well.
All for fun
It’s an impressive start for a console that still doesn’t have a dedicated online service or even a way to store game save files in the cloud.
Yet the Switch, in many ways, has reminded audiences (and developers) that game players seek fun above all else, which is an important lesson at a time when competing consoles like the Xbox One X and PlayStation 4 Pro are focusing heavily on graphics.
The Switch is almost laughably far from the impressive specs of those devices, but that graphical power doesn’t seem as necessary when you realize you’re playing Skyrim on the Switch while in the back seat on a road trip.