What Nintendo’s latest gaming success says about Switch’s enduring appeal

Nintendo Thursday announced that sales of new games in Pokemon’s newest mainline entries, Pokemon Scarlet and Pokemon Violet, for the Switch console had surpassed 10 million in three days since their global launch on November 18. That’s the highest figure for a game’s debut in Nintendo’s history, setting a new record for the Kyoto-based Japanese gaming giant.

At a time when fears of recession and a slowing global economy have cautioned consumers to tighten their purse strings, Nintendo’s smash success with Pokémon games for the Switch has shocked Wall Street and analysts. We explain how Nintendo’s focus on nostalgia and original IPs brought back families to gaming and helped cement Switch’s position as the number-one game console in the world.

Pokemon has a cult fan following

No one cashes in on nostalgia better than Nintendo, tapping into both older users and younger demographics at the same time. The decision to launch two new Pokemon games for the Switch ahead of the busy holiday season is not only well-timed but also a demonstration of Nintendo’s confidence in the Pokemon franchise, which has grown into a $100 billion media empire.

Pokemon is Nintendo’s longest-running game franchise, first introduced with Pokemon Red and Pokemon Blue in 1996. Since its debut, Pokemon has been a mainstay in pop culture through video games, movies, TV series, clothing and other merchandise. Pokemon games are available exclusively on Nintendo systems, making its consoles the only place to enjoy these titles. Pokémon Scarlet and Pokémon Violet are once again Switch exclusives, which is the reason why Nintendo typically charges more for a game than Microsoft and Sony.

The strong sales of new Pokemon games for the Switch show that consumers are willing to pay $60 (or approx Rs 4,900) for each game or $120 (or approx Rs 9,800) for the double pack. Nintendo’s unique strategy of developing innovative hardware and then leveraging it to create memorable experiences through first-party games has made the company seemingly recession-proof.

Massive install base of Switch

The launch of Switch five years ago was a turning point for Nintendo, which had seen a historic low due to the failure of Wii U. Nobody had an idea what Nintendo was up to, with some anticipating the company might even stop making the hardware, but the Switch changed everything. Instead of taking on the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One directly, Nintendo turned the market upside down with a hybrid console that looked like a tablet but had detachable controllers.

Five years on, competitors are still thinking about how to make a gaming device as brilliant as the Switch. All this indicates that Switch has set a benchmark when it comes to turning a traditional home console into a hand-held machine. There is no muscle flexing processor under the hood, but that hasn’t diminished the market potential of the Switch, with Nintendo shipping millions of units each quarter despite global chip shortage and cooling down of the gaming market as the pandemic wanes.

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