Let’s talk about the Nintendo Switch. It’s been breaking all manner of records, and it continues to sell at a ridiculous pace- such a ridiculous one, in fact, that it is trending at matching or even exceeding the Wii U’s lifetime sales within just a year on the market. Excitement for the system appears to have no end, as Nintendo has clearly struck a chord with its system made for a mobile generation. A system that accommodates its players, and a system that has launched with some killer games, with many more on the horizon.
It’s no wonder the Switch is selling as well as it is- but here’s the amazing thing, it could be selling even better. Much better. The Switch has managed to sell almost 5 million units in 4 months (at an average of over a million units sold a month), but that number was ultimately throttled by ridiculous supply constraints. A Nintendo Switch is still a hard thing to see in the wild, at a retail store- the system is in a perennial state of being sold out, because Nintendo can’t seem to make enough of them.
On one level, this is a good problem to have- it clearly indicates you have a popular product, which the Switch is. But on the other hand, you don’t want it to be exhausting and tiring to just be able to buy the damn thing, which is what the Switch has become at this point. A more disengaged buyer, who might want to buy a Switch to play Zelda and Mario Kart, as well as the upcoming cool looking Super Mario Odyseey game (plus the prospect of FIFA and Skyrim on the move) will find that they can’t- it’s not available in any store, there seems to be no rhyme or reason to when it is restocked, and unless they want to spend hundreds of dollars online to pay scalpers, they might as well just give up.
Here’s the thing, though- this person who is currently interested in a Switch, because of the great word of mouth, and the killer reviews for Zelda, will not always be interested in it. If they can’t find it after a certain amount of effort, they’re going to give up, and the $300 they could have spent on the Switch will go elsewhere. They might go to an iPad or a Kindle, or they might go to a PS4 or an Xbox One- either way, it is a lost sale for Nintendo, at least in the near term.
"Here’s the thing, though- this person who is currently interested in a Switch, because of the great word of mouth, and the killer reviews for Zelda, will not always be interested in it. If they can’t find it after a certain amount of effort, they’re going to give up, and the $300 they could have spent on the Switch will go elsewhere."
This is ultimately down to Nintendo’s total inability to produce enough Switch units. If they had produced more, more than 5 million would be sold at present- simply judging by how the demand is at the moment. They did not, and thus, they left money on the table.
Now, I do understand that the present supply shortages are not actually Nintendo’s fault. As it stands right now, Nintendo had an initial forecast of 10 million units for the first full financial year the Switch would be on the market, and they planned for that. When the Switch started trending above the forecast, they revised their production numbers upwards- and here, they ran into a wall, because as it turns out, the NAND chip, a crucial component for the Nintendo Switch, is in severely short supply worldwide. Why? Because Apple is currently hogging most NAND production facilities to fuel production of its upcoming iPhone 8, presumably. But whatever the reason is, Nintendo now finds itself unable to increase production for the Switch, even if it wants to, and it sees money slipping away that rightfully could have been its.
To Nintendo’s credit, it has done the best it can at countering this issue- it air freighted units to meet supply (meaning it took a loss on individual units just to meet demand) in March and April, and it has very clearly ramped up its production, promising that supply problems should be alleviated somewhat starting July- something that, as of right now, we have been seeing (there have been more Switch units available at retail worldwide in July than there were in May or June, at least anecdotally speaking).
But the problem is, it should never have come to this- Nintendo should have had a proper contingency in place. I can understand being conservative coming off of the Wii U, and taking things slowly- but I can’t understand having absolutely no contingency in place once trends were clear.
"It could end up becoming Nintendo’s signature gaming device, and it could end up outselling all other contemporary gaming machines, including the PS4, because the PS4 will eventually end up hitting a wall in its appeal as a home console. But it won’t. It won’t, because Nintendo won’t get out of its own way."
Which brings me to the larger point I am trying to make- the Switch could be doing fantastically well. In the long run, it could end up being the highest selling game device of its era. Its unique larger appeal owing to its intrinsic value to a fast moving millennial generation, as well as its positioning as a gaming tablet, make it a lifestyle device that ultimately many could own- just like they own a Kindle or an iPad, they could have a Switch. It could end up becoming Nintendo’s signature gaming device, and it could end up outselling all other contemporary gaming machines, including the PS4, because the PS4 will eventually end up hitting a wall in its appeal as a home console.
But it won’t. It won’t, because Nintendo won’t get out of its own way. Nintendo is being too conservative, which is good business, but it also stifles any potential for growth. The Switch could be Nintendo’s new breakout moment- heck, it already is, but it could be even more so- were Nintendo not so conservative. This isn’t just about production and supply for it- this is about their approach to the system in its entirety. Nintendo needs to commit to the Switch and go all in- not send mixed messaging regarding whether or not the 3DS will co-exist alongside the Switch, or if it will have a successor. Just commit to the Switch, because the Switch as earned that commitment.
In the long run, could the Switch actually sell over 100 million units like Nintendo wants? It could. It really could. But the core issue here is not going to be a lack of third party games, or perceived competition from PS4 or Xbox One, or even iPad and Android devices- in the long run, the biggest problem the Switch will have in its road to eventual success, will be Nintendo itself.
Note: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to GamingBolt as an organization.