Hype around the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X is at fever pitch, with gamers around the world waiting patiently for news from Microsoft and Sony on their next-gen consoles.
But where does that leave Nintendo? With no new Switch on the way, how will the House of Mario be able to keep up with the powerhouse offerings we’re expecting to release in late 2020? Simply put: it doesn’t have to.
Despite not having its own new console lined up, Nintendo isn’t worried about a bit of competition – in fact, it doesn’t think there will be much direct competition to its consoles at all. And it’s right to think so. Nintendo is playing a different game and, no matter who wins the next-gen console war, Nintendo will continue to succeed. Here’s why.
A different target audience
Nintendo publicly shrugged off the threat of the PS5 and Xbox Series X earlier this year, with Nintendo president Shuntaro Furukawa telling investors during a Japanese Q&A (via VGC) that, while the gaming landscape will certainly change, the company doesn’t think the release of these next-gen consoles will have a big impact on its fortunes.
“We do not believe that the business trends of other companies will have a significant impact on our business,” Furukawa told investors, explaining that the reason Nintendo is so confident that the PS5 and Xbox Series X won’t pose huge competition is because the Nintendo Switch targets a different audience.
The Switch doesn’t just target ‘hardcore’ gamers, instead aiming to be a family-friendly hybrid console. Family-friendly doesn’t just mean ‘for kids’ – it means that the target demographic is a wider range of ages. It’s a console you can have in your home and everyone should be able to enjoy it. Switch games like Luigi’s Mansion 3 and Pokémon Sword and Shield appeal to players of all ages without being patronizing or overly mature. And that’s the beauty of Nintendo.
Meanwhile, Microsoft and Sony seem to have an older audience in mind. With the specs of its next-gen consoles likely comparable with a gaming PC, in the first instance they’re likely to target older players who want to see what modern games tech can do and are happy to spend big to get it.
There arguably hasn’t always been this disparity in target audience, though – and it’s why we’ve seen the big three players in gaming as Nintendo, PlayStation and Xbox since 2001. When it came to the likes of the Nintendo 64 and the GameCube, those consoles did go head to head with Xbox and PlayStation consoles.
But, following the GameCube’s disappointing sales of 22 million (down from the N64’s 33 million), Nintendo began to develop home consoles around a unique idea that meant they didn’t directly compete. The Wiimote made the Wii console stand apart from Microsoft and Sony’s offerings, and this principle carried on to the Nintendo Switch. The Switch’s main innovation is that it is a hybrid console, allowing players to use it either docked or as a handheld device. And this will still make the console stand apart from the Series X and PS5.
Still a hit with developers
Nintendo is right to be confident. Not only does the Nintendo Switch remain a success story with players, but developers are also intrigued by the Switch’s prospects – with interest in the platform growing.
According to a GDC survey, 12% of game developers released their last project for Switch, compared to the 17% that are developing their current project for the Switch and the 19% developing their next project for the platform. That means that more game developers surveyed here are currently creating their next project for the Switch than for Xbox Series X.
That could be because we don’t know exactly what this next-gen hardware will offer – or how successful each platform will be. But the Switch also ranked as one of the most enticing platforms to developers, almost on par with the PS5 – with just a 1% difference between the two. It’s fair to assume the Switch games library isn’t going to run dry anytime soon.
Nintendo may not be releasing a Switch Pro this year, and we may not know much about what games it has lined up beyond Animal Crossing, but it has nothing to worry about when it comes to the PS5 and Xbox Series X.
Let Sony and Microsoft fight it out, while Nintendo keeps doing Nintendo.