With the launch of PS5 and Xbox Series X, everything indicates that Christmas will be monopolized by the new generation of consoles: will the growth of Nintendo Switch be slowed this year?
This Christmas, all eyes are on Sony and Microsoft. The two companies will put an end to a long generation of consoles that began in 2013 with the PS4 and Xbox One, launching their successors: PS5 and Xbox Series X / S.
Both have confirmed their launch in November, at a price that ranges between 299 euros for Xbox Series S, 399 for PS5 digital version, and 499 for PS5 and Xbox Series X. Unlike other generational leaps, they don’t come with too many exclusive games under their arm, but with a great technical leap that will make its predecessors obsolete and will approach the quality of high-end PCs, in a much more affordable way.
It is important to consider what kind of machines are PS5 and Xbox Series X and what segment of the audience they are aimed at when thinking about what will happen to the third player in the “console race”: Nintendo.
It is well known that, for a long time, Nintendo has separated itself from the competition with other types of proposals. Unlike Sony and Microsoft, Nintendo stopped betting on maximizing graphics power, and instead based its strategy on two pillars: innovation in terms of gaming experiences, and the appeal and popularity of their exclusive IPs and games.
It happened with the double screen of DS, with the controls by movement of Wii, the 3D without glasses of 3DS, the Gamepad of Wii U, and the portable-desktop hybridization of Switch. In a sense, nothing has changed since then, and one would expect similar performance to those consoles.
Nintendo has a very loyal following. And that audience has multiplied with Nintendo Switch, one of its greatest historical successes: It has sold more than 60 million units in three and a half years. It is a huge user base, and also very young, in the sense that they have only been with the console for a short time (in general, sales have increased in 2020 compared to previous years). This audience that will continue to demand games and content even when PS5 and Xbox Series X are already on sale.
It should be remembered that, although PS4 and Xbox One came out in 2013, their reviews, PS4 Pro and Xbox One X, they came out in late 2016, shortly before the release of Switch. It was not a very different situation than the one we live now. In fact, we could say that the winds are now more conducive to Nintendo than in March 2017. PS4 and Xbox One were already settled, with prices lower than launch, with a wide catalog behind them and with the best games to come. : Forza Motorsport 7, Horizon Zero Dawn, God of War, Gears 5…
PS5 and Xbox Series X, however, come out without great exclusives under their arms (and they will take a while to arrive). His proposals are very attractive, but not as revolutionary as other generational leaps. Their prices are adequate, despite coming out in the middle of an economic recession (which however does not seem to have affected the sales of consoles and video games, which have flourished during the health crisis).
It is a difficult situation for everyone, but Nintendo is in a privileged situation. Even the glaring absence of new Switch games this year hasn’t slowed down the economic boom of the company. The Switch has become a coveted item that grabs even the least interested in traditional video game audiences. Its popularity and ubiquity, which already rivals the best years of the Wii, does nothing but increase an inertia that will be difficult to stop.
As we said, Nintendo has always been characterized by betting on innovation before power. And in the case of Switch, that innovation resulted in a type of console that broadens the spectrum of users, hardly stepping on the ground covered by Sony and Microsoft. Like Wii and DS at the time, Switch has attracted an audience that may not have as much time for long sessions in front of television.
The convenience of portability, along with a catalog full of exclusive games sufficiently differentiated from mobile games, has attracted a more casual audience, or has even helped former consumers reconnect with the world of video games.
For many gamers, Switch is more than enough. But there is also another segment of gamers who already use Sony, Microsoft or PC consoles to play games, who have found in Switch a very attractive secondary console, again, for its comfort and its catalog of exclusives (and indies). This complementary nature, and not substitute, that has allowed it to prosper, breaking speed records (it exceeded the sales of four years of Wii U in 10 months), without affecting the sales of the other platforms.
There is therefore no reason to think that this could change with next-gen consoles. At least, if Nintendo doesn’t swerve in its strategy, which seems unlikely. In fact, many Nintendo investors believe that Switch could become a “perpetual” platform, which is maintained over time with successive revisions. Like Apple and iPhones.
Several media have already reported that Nintendo will launch a Switch review early next year, More powerful. Although we do not know any details, this will come to expand the offer of Nintendo Switch with a more powerful version (it is said that it would offer 4K). It may be an answer that helps alleviate the short-term damage that PS5 and Xbox Series X can do to you, but in reality the strategy would not change: A new Switch option is added, more attractive to users of the most powerful consoles, but keeping the portable alternative, Switch Lite, which cover all segments.
The only doubt is when and how Nintendo intends to communicate the existence of this “Switch Pro”. If they announce it before the Christmas season, it could hurt the sales of its current model itself. Announcing it later, it could enrage Switch buyers this Christmas by releasing a review so early and almost without warning.
Either way, it seems that the biggest danger for Nintendo right now is Nintendo itself. Making hasty changes to your strategy in response to the new consoles would only jeopardize your current business model, which is working like a charm right now.
Of course, it is difficult to predict the future, especially with a generation of consoles that is so evenly matched. But Nintendo has been 15 years (since the Wii) acting independently of what Sony and Microsoft do. When you fail, you fail big time. When you get it right, you hit it big. And Nintendo is the first and only responsible.