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Seven Years Ago, Nintendo’s Risky Gamble Paid Off Handsomely

Seven years ago, Nintendo took its biggest gamble yet and released the Nintendo Switch, a forward-thinking and bold home console that dared to be a handheld first and foremost. It’s hard to argue with the results of that bet all this time later, especially seeing as how the Switch has continued to receive hit installments in numerous flagship series and become one of the highest- selling consoles of all time, with 139 million units sold.

What You Should Know About Mario Strikers' Big Free Update

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Since 2017, it’s received two groundbreaking Legend of Zelda games, a port of Mario Kart 8 that sold more than 60 million copies and has remained parked atop sales charts for years, a whopping nine mainline entries (including some remakes) in the Pokémon series, the Super Smash Bros. title to end all crossovers, and the mainstream success of Animal Crossing: New Horizons. If it weren’t already a legendary run for a console, it’s also the system that forced Nintendo to acknowledge the Metroid-shaped hole in its catalog, and give us the banger that is Metroid Dread. 

It’s remarkable to think back on how skeptical everyone was about the Switch at first— and how dead wrong so many of us were about its likelihood to succeed. I remember being one of the lucky few to grab a preorder, only to give it to a friend because I just didn’t “get” the premise. There was just no way that a console I could play on the go could provide a satisfying experience on a TV, too. I showed up for the GameBoy Advance and Nintendo DS at the height of that fad. While I still relish the days of lunchtime Pictochats, even those hit systems lost their luster eventually. I played my PSP longer than anyone else I knew, but I was the only person in my immediate circle who had a Vita. Being the handheld guy went from a boon to a curse in a few short years, and after the colossal failure of the Wii U, the Switch felt like the proverbial nail in Nintendo’s coffin, especially with all the hype surrounding mobile gaming.

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Nintendo Switch Hardware Overview

As handhelds were being shown out the door, the phone’s place in the gaming world was only rocketing. In markets like Asia, gaming on your phone had already risen to become one of the most popular national pastimes, and until fairly recently, seemingly all the money in the world was caught up in mobile and gacha games. Fortnite on iOS actually beat the Switch port to market by about two months. As recently as 2019, outgoing PlayStation head Jim Ryan effectively told Game Informer that handhelds were dead: “PlayStation Vita was brilliant in many ways, and the actual gaming experience was great, but clearly it’s a business that we’re no longer in now.” (The Steam Deck and the PlayStation Portal would like a word.)

The Switch has not only survived the ascendancy of mobile games, but thrived alongside them. And having overcome all the odds, Nintendo’s the way for the Switch 2, or whatever it ends up being called, next year. Excitement for the Switch 2 is at a fever pitch, and anything that deviates too heavily from the once-controversial design of the Switch is considered heretical in some corners of the internet. There’s a lot of excitement about the prospect of a new 3D Mario, a new Smash Bros., and—after a decade!—Mario Kart 9. But those 140 million Switch owners probably want to hold on to their existing games, too.

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