I’ve been an avid Nintendo gamer since I can remember. Less so recently, but I have owned every home console since the GameCube (apart from the Wii U) and my Dad owned every one before that. To say I was brought up on video games, namely Nintendo games, would be accurate.
However, it’s been quite a rollercoaster over the last thirty years or so for Nintendo gamers. Something similar to a boom bust cycle developed, whereby the Japanese company would have a hit on their hands, followed by a flop. Each home console broadly alternated between the two, leaving aside the handhelds which performed consistently well. Although it must be said the Game Boy Micro was a step too far.
Anyhow, five years ago, in 2017 (after the disappointing Wii U) the Nintendo Switch launched pretty much simultaneously around the globe. It needed to be a hit, and rather cunningly Nintendo seemed to be drawing their home console and handheld strands together with a machine that was both.
Nintendo have always been innovators when it comes to their gaming systems, opting to offer the player a different experience rather than simply chase graphical supremacy. I still remember queuing in HMV for hours to play the Wii before it was released. The motion controls absolutely blew my mind. It was a very special moment in which my memory of the pure feeling of excitement has never quite left me.
This time it was the turn of the nifty Switch, which could sit in a dock enabling you to play your games on the big telly, or you could attach the controllers (known as Joy-Cons) to the side of it and take it on your travels. Transitioning from one to the other is almost instantaneous, and if the adverts were to be believed it meant you could share your living room space without having to fight over the telly.
There’s no arguing that the Switch is a clever bit of kit, but it would need games to make it a truly essential purchase. Much like what Wii Sports was to the motion sensing phenomenon from 2006, 1-2 Switch was launched to help players get to grips with the hardware. This showcased a series of mini games with the Joy-Cons that were also equipped with motion sensing capabilities and HD rumble, which was likened to being able to feel the ice cubes rattling around inside a glass.
Competing in cowboy style duels, relaxing with a bit of yoga or getting stuck in to many other mini-games which felt like a virtual edition of hit TV game show “The Cube”, was what 1-2 Switch was all about. Otherwise, launch day for the Nintendo Switch was pretty quiet bar one title which turned out to be simply groundbreaking. I am of course talking about The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. This marked the franchise’s leap in an open world adventure which didn’t just look stunning, but gave the player more control than ever before over the Hyrulian hero.
As well as plenty of brilliant games being released since launch, the Switch has also benefited from some peripherals, as seems to be the tradition for Nintendo. Ring Fit Adventure hit the spot, offering a workout dressed up as a fantasy adventure which felt like a spiritual successor to Wii Fit.
Then came the delightfully simple, but clever Nintendo Labo. This consisted of a series of physical add-ons for games made of cardboard, making use of the switch screen as the central component. You could then use the Joy-Con motion sensors to go fishing, drive a motorbike or even create your own robot.
Since launch the Nintendo Switch has surpassed the 100 million unit marker in terms of sales, and was reportedly the fastest console ever to get there. With a series of big hitters releasing this year alongside the recent OLED model, the lifespan of the console seems far from over.
Interestingly, it’s been nearly eleven years since the Nintendo 3DS was released. Potentially thanks to a combination of the Switch’s success and hybrid design, we still have no idea what (if anything) Nintendo is planning to launch as the handheld’s successor. They also seem to be slightly ahead of the curve in the home console market, launching before their competitors and largely avoiding the hardware shortages which are still affecting availability of both Xbox and Playstation consoles, brought on by the pandemic.
As a lifelong fan, it’s great to see Nintendo once again enjoying the boom times with the Switch. Let’s hope they can break the seemingly inevitable pattern and score another hit with whatever marvel they have up their sleeve for us in the future.