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Why Nintendo Switch is the most innovative game console in years

 Ask any parent, 20-something, or long time video gamefan what the most coveted gadget of the holiday season is and the Nintendo Switchwill be high on that list. Probably at the top. - Nintendo! - It's been almosta year since the hybrid handheld launched andit's still pretty hard to get your hands on one. And for good reason. The switch is the most innovative console in nearly a decade. Basically since the original Wii. Besides being immensely popular the Switch also saved Nintendo. It's easy to forget how dire the company's console business was in the wake of the Wii U's failure. Nintendo found success withthe 3DS and its sequel, but the handheld was not enough to keep the company's biggest franchises afloat and sales of the Wii Upainted a bleak picture of the company's futurein the living room. Critics were telling Nintendo to exit the console hardware market, move everything tomobile, and call it a day. So when the Switch was first unveiled, fans were skeptical. Some thought Nintendo hadmade another gimmicky device with funky detachable controllers and unorthodox docking system and a mobile processorthat can never match Playstation or Xbox. Despite these initial concerns, the Switch proved to be a massive hit.


This month, after onlynine months on the market, Nintendo said it sold ten million units, and many times that in software sales. It stole the show thisyear as the fastest selling home console in Nintendo's history, setting the course forthe company's resurgence back to the forefrontof the gaming market. So how did Nintendo pull this off? It's important to think of the Switch as the evolution of thecompany's previous hardware. It's always made wacky devicesusing nascent technologies like 3D and motion control. While an eye for innovationhasn't always paid off, anyone remember their Virtual Boy? The company has a historyof success in handheld. Starting with theGameBoy and more recently with the Nintendo DS and the 3DS. For the Switch, Nintendo putportability above all else and the company struck gold. You can play it on an airplane or in bed, or even on a subway. The device truly is a hybrid solution that transforms to enjoy games in a number of different ways. Whether docked, handheld,or kickstand out using the detachable Joy-Con. There's versatility tochoose how you want to play and where.


It takes the concept of console gaming and turns it into anon-the-go social experience that gets you off your couch. Yes, you can play at home alone, but there are plenty ofoptions for multi-player using both split-screenplay or local co-op. This has always been apart of Nintendo's DNA. Who doesn't love to play a friend in Super Smash Brothers or Mario Cart? And that's where theSwitch's success story becomes so heavily tied to its games. Nintendo made sure thefirst year of the Switch included The Legend ofZelda: Breath of the Wild and Super Mario Odyssey. Two incredible entries in two of its most prolific franchises.


It's unheard of for a console to launch with a Game of the Year contender and it's even less likely fora console to get two of them in its first year. But Nintendo was smartand it had a new Mario and a new Zelda game inthe works for the Wii U it moved development to its new console and it shuffled itsrelease schedule to make them must-own Switchtitles out of the gate. Those two games havegone on to sell millions and win multiple awards. They also reestablishedNintendo as the influential and innovative developerwe've always known them to be. You could easily arguethat the Switch would never have taken off withoutNintendo's pre-built cache. The company's behind someof the longest-running most-beloved series sincethe beginning of gaming.


 Characters like, Kirby,Yoshi, Donkey Kong. They've become culturalicons that go way beyond the core gaming demographic. But when Nintendo's hardware fails, fans have nowhere to play its games and the company's reputation suffers if people aren't buying its software. It's entire business model depends on its cultural significance. So fans were desperatelylooking for a reason to cheer Nintendo on, hopingit wouldn't just fade away and peddle nostalgia. They found that in the Switch. The Switch is a Frankensteinof all the best ideas Nintendo's ever had. The 3DS showed Nintendo howa well-made handheld gaming machine with great games could thrive in a mobile-dominated landscape. Much like the Switch, theWii shied away from top-tier graphics and realism infavor of motion controls, local multi-player, and Nintendo'swell-tested game design.


 The Wii U was definitelyflawed, but it was an important stepping stone because itfirst introduced the idea of merging mobile with a home console. Where the Wii U was atablet powered by a console that sat plugged into your T.V. The Switch was the inverse: A console powered by a tablet. So while the Wii U'stablet screen was clunky and poorly designed andthe device was a huge flop, it did pave the way for Nintendoto incorporate these ideas, alongside the benefits of the Wii and the 3DS all into the Switch. The Switch is a proper portable console in all the ways the Wii U failed to be. It's still too early tojudge the overall impact of the Switch. Consumers have been morethan happy to excuse its bigger flaws because thefirst few games have been so amazing. But there's the onlineservice that won't launch until next year, there's theperpetual supply problems that make just getting thething an obnoxious struggle. Nintendo fans will beless forgiving next year when Zelda and Mario are old news and it has to rely on other developers to help its platform succeed.


 But that's where thesecret to the Switch's long-term success might be. Since launch, we'veseen a bunch of interest from indie game makers andeven big name developers. Some really great gameslike, Stardew Valley, Axiom Verge, The Elderscrolls: Skyrim, even the new Doom reboothave all made their way to the Switch. There's only gonna be more to come. As it stands right now, Nintendo is the only playerin the portable gaming market. And consumers have shownthat they're really willing to buy into its vision. Sony already tried withits PSP and Vita handhelds. And the company says it hasno plans to make another one any time soon. Microsoft has also toyed with the idea of portable gaming withhandheld Xbox prototypes in the past, but it'snever taken the plunge. Apple and other makers ofSet-top boxes running Android, they've all tried tobridge the smart phone game market with a TV ecosystem, but mobile games on bigscreens have never really taken off. But without a constant streamof hot new games to play, amazing hardware becomespretty much useless. So it's up to developers tocement the Switch's future. Sure, Nintendo's planninga bunch of new games in its own franchises.


 Like, a new Kirby, a newPokemon, a much anticipated reboot of Metroid Prime, but those take years to make. In the meantime, the companyneeds to quench the thirst of players by working withdevs to bring premium titles that are fun, innovative,but also complex enough to keep the Switch inthe hands of consumers. At least until the nextZelda game comes out. Luckily, with all the consumer success of the Switch, Nintendo should have plentyof cash to do just that. 

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