Nintendo learned from two huge mistakes with the Wii U to make the Switch a runaway success – Business Insider
Nintendo’s last console, the Wii U, was a failure. Nintendo’s new
console, the Switch, is a runaway success.
That simple fact is a major part of the reason that it was
so, so hard to find the Nintendo Switch for much of
“When you’re coming off the launch of the Wii U system, and then
your next hardware system is Switch, it’s a challenge to know how
many we should be ordering,” Nintendo of America senior product
marketing manager Bill Trinen told me in a recent interview ahead
of the Nintendo World Championships in New York City. “What is
the demand gonna be?”
Some context: The Wii U, in its entire lifetime, sold around 13
million units; the Switch is expected to reach 10 million units
sold by March 2018 — one year after the launch of the console.
There’s a dramatic disparity in demand between the two
consoles, and Nintendo wasn’t able to adequately anticipate that
change — thus, supply shortages.
Indeed, the most important lessons Nintendo applied to the Switch
come directly from mistakes made during the Wii U era.
For instance: Ease of use.
“If you look at the Wii U hardware system, just the system menu
itself — the time that it took to boot that system up, to get
into gameplay — was something that was a frustration for a lot of
players early on, and actually became a hindrance,” Trinen
The Switch, on the contrary, is blessedly fast.
“It’s three button clicks and you’re into the fun, so it’s a
really accessible menu,” added Nintendo of America senior VP of
sales and marketing Doug Bowser.
As anyone who’s used the Switch can confirm, Bowser isn’t making
that up — it’s, by far, the fastest console available today. The
Switch wakes up and shuts down more like an iPad than a game
console, which makes it feel amazingly modern.
“With Switch being something that you can take with you, it made
it really important that you could play it instantly,” Trinen
said. “That to me is an example of a direct lesson from the Wii U
era, where Nintendo said, ‘That’s something we’re gonna zero
in on and make a dramatic improvement on.'”
Bowser pointed out another major lesson that Nintendo took from
its recent past — an issue that caused major problems for the Wii
U, that Nintendo planned ahead for with the Switch.
It may sound obvious in hindsight, but the major problem was an
inconsistent cadence of new games. There were great games on the
Wii U, of course, but there wasn’t a steady stream of new games
to keep people interested.
“We had a glut [of game releases] up front, and then kind of went
dry for quite some time,” Bowser said. “From a first-party
perspective at least, we were very intentional and deliberate
about Switch. We launched with “The Legend of Zelda: Breath of
the Wild,” which obviously was incredibly successful, drove
hardware, and brought a bunch of new people into the franchise.
And then followed that with ‘Mario Kart,’ straight through the
series of games we’ve released since then.”
Ever since the Switch launched back in March 2017 alongside a new
“Legend of Zelda” game, Nintendo has followed with near-monthly
major game launches: “Mario Kart 8 Deluxe,” “ARMS,” and “Splatoon
2” (among others).
“That’s been a really important lesson that we’ve applied that
seems to have worked,” Bowser said.
Perhaps most importantly of all, Nintendo’s demonstrating an
ability to adapt — to listen to its fans and respond. It may
sound small, but it’s a crucial change for a company that’s
notorious for being tight-lipped.
“Our goal is to delight our players,” Bowser said. “We want
people to have access to our hardware, to our content, and have
great experiences. So we actively read the market and try to
understand what those trends are, and make sure we’re adjusting
That philosophical change is evident in the recent news that
Nintendo is taking the NES Classic Edition console out of
retirement after discontinuing it earlier this year. And it’s
embodied by the Switch — a console that’s existence is
essentially a response to the failures of the Wii U.
As Bowser concisely put it: “We are responding. We’re listening.”