The Nintendo Switch is poised to become one of the most successful consoles Nintendo has ever made, with it having sold over 79.87 million units worldwide in 2020. It’s coming close to reaching the heights of Nintendo’s most successful console of all time, the Wii, which sold 101.63 million units in its lifetime.
Both consoles seem to be born out of innovation on Nintendo’s part, a complete expression of that special Nintendo je nais se quoi. The Wii introduced the world to motion-based gaming, while the other was a perfect marriage of Nintendo’s handhelds and consoles.
Besides both consoles succeeding comparatively unsuccessful home consoles, namely the Gamecube and Wii U respectively, here some other similar aspects both the Nintendo Wii and Switch have in common.
All For One
Unlike their Sony and Microsoft counterparts, Nintendo consoles were typically marketed to kids and those who have been Nintendo fans their entire lives. What made the Wii and Nintendo Switch a success was how both products managed to market themselves as consoles for everyone, regardless of video game acumen, interest, or age.
The Wii’s introduction to the world with Wii Sports immediately showcased what the console was capable of, namely a one-to-one recreation of outdoor sports indoors. The Nintendo Switch’s initial reveal also showed off its main gimmick, allowing gamers from all walks of life to take their Switches wherever they went.
New Play Controls
With these consoles came new ways to play classic franchises, with the Wiimote’s motion controls providing a whole new form of immersion and precision in games. In many ways, the Joycons are an evolution of the Wiimote, featuring even more precise motion gameplay, gyroscopic controls, and the ever-important HD rumble.
While this opened the door to all-new ways to play games, the best way for Nintendo to showcase the possibilities was to rerelease older titles with new control methods. This approach also served to give a second chance to games that didn’t get the success they deserved on their original hardware.
During the Wii era, this came with the New Play Controls line of games, which were Gamecube games that were updated with motion controls, like Pikmin and Metroid Prime. The Nintendo Switch is still seeing a myriad of Wii U games getting rereleased, with the most successful game on the Switch being Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, which is just an updated port from the Wii U.
The Wii was the first Nintendo console to feature online capabilities, which included the Wii Shop Channel and its iconic theme song. From this online store, players could buy all kinds of games, both new and old. It saw older franchises get a new lease on life, like Mega Man going back to its ‘80s roots with the all-new Mega Man 9 and 10. The Wii Shop also saw an influx of indie games making its way into the Wii ecosystem.
The Nintendo Switch eShop is seeing the same wave of success as its Wii Shop Channel predecessor, with many indie games finding success on the platform. When it comes to retro games, the Switch is seeing more and more arcade games making its way into the eShop, with the Capcom Arcade Stadium and a handful of SNK Neo Geo games getting their time to shine once more.
Nintendo’s older library of games from the Nintendo Entertainment System and Super Nintendo Entertainment System was revived through the Wii’s Virtual Console offering, letting longtime gamers play their favorite 8-bit and 16-bit games on modern consoles. It was an immediate success and Nintendo even kept the concept alive during the Wii U.
The Nintendo Switch, on the other hand, doesn’t have the Virtual Console offerings, but instead features the Nintendo Switch Online NES and SNES libraries, where gamers can access a full library of games when they subscribe to the Switch Online service. It isn’t as robust as the Virtual Console releases, but at least it comes free with Nintendo Switch Online and features online play functionalities.
As much as the Wii and Nintendo Switch owe a lot to their success to their myriad of hardware features, it is the main Nintendo IPs that made or broke each Nintendo console’s success. While the Gamecube and Wii U also shined a spotlight on Nintendo’s best, none of them seemed to be ‘must-haves’ to the gaming community at the time.
Which is why with the Wii and Switch, Nintendo was sure to make these entries blow the competition out of the water and become instant classics. From Super Mario Galaxy to Super Mario Odyssey, to The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess and Breath of the Wild, these games elevated their home consoles on another level. Through this, other smaller IPs also got to enjoy the limelight, like Donkey Kong Country Returns or Animal Crossing: New Horizons.