The WiiU was by all accounts, a failure for Nintendo -  it desperately needed a hit console and fast. Enter the Nintendo Switch.

In the mid-2010s Nintendo found itself in a familiar situation.

A console with a decent library of first-party titles was abandoned by third-party developers and the console itself simply wasn’t worthwhile for developers to make games for.

The Japanese firm had found itself in the same situation as the GameCube era; the console launched with such promise and had some great first-party titles, but it ultimately couldn’t gain enough momentum to keep up with Sony and Microsoft.

Nintendo needed to go back to basics; luckily, they had form in turning their fortunes around.

The Nintendo Switch ended up outselling the Wii in terms of overall lifetime sales, and firmly put Nintendo back on top.

As the console turns 5, we break down why the console appeals to the masses.

Switch It Up

As we wrote last December when the Nintendo Wii turned 15, Nintendo’s strength has always laid in attracting the casual audience.

In the PS4 and Xbox One era, gaming consoles had a bad habit; if you wanted to sit down with the latest titles, you had to set aside an evening and wait for the damn game to update.

As games become larger and more complex, it became more industry standard to release games in an unfinished state and add in fixes after the fact, or continuously add content in firmware updates.

With Irish internet speeds being what they are, this has lead to many frustrating evenings waiting for games to update.

Consoles were rapidly losing the advantage they had over the PCs; the pick up and play factor was vanishing.

With the Switch, if you want to play a game it is as simple as picking up your console and turning it on, and you’re playing ‘Mario Kart’, no questions asked.

'Mario Kart 8' is the exclusive title that helped the Switch shift over 100 million units

Nintendo, at its heart, was a developer that always attracted the casual audience, and they did it better than any major console manufacturer.

With the Wii U, the demand wasn’t really there for the Wii to have HD graphics to match with Sony and Microsoft, players just wanted good, original games.

The Wii U quickly became a lesson in the sunk cost fallacy for Nintendo, and they were forced to put on a brave face for their console even as damning sales reports trickled in.

When all was said and done, the Wii U sold less than 20 million units.

Nintendo did learn one valuable lesson with the Wii U however; there was a demand for a fully-fledged console in your hands.

The boffins went back to the drawing board and created what is perhaps Nintendo’s best-designed console in a generation.

There is a simple, yet elegant quality to the Switch.

Even 5 years later, the novelty factor of being able to play a ‘Zelda’ game on the bus or playing a few quick rounds of ‘Mario Kart’ while waiting for dinner to cook is still a strong selling point that no other console can offer.

Party Piece

Nintendo consoles can always be relied upon to deliver fantastic first-party titles, and the Switch boasts the best Nintendo line of exclusives in a generation.

Launch title ‘The Legend Of Zelda: Breath Of The Wild’ redefined what players have come to expect from an open-world sandbox, ‘Super Mario Odyssey' was the Italian plumber's greatest outing in a decade and ‘Metroid Dread’ proved that Samus Aran was still a force to be reckoned with.

In a console generation where the exclusive titles proved to be kingmakers, Nintendo’s efforts can easily be considered on a par with their rivals.

Exclusive titles are what sell consoles, and Nintendo had that in spades.

‘Mario Kart 8 Deluxe' is the hot app that shifts consoles, acts as an unofficial arm of marketing for the console, and serves as an instant association when someone thinks of the console.

'Breath Of The Wild' redefined what audiences expected from open-world titles

PlayStation has ‘Gran Turismo’, Xbox has ‘Forza’ and Nintendo consoles have ‘Mario Kart’.

By going back to basics and not actively chasing third-party titles, Nintendo got back to what they did best; provide the best experiences that can’t be found on any other console.

The story of Nintendo Switch has an unusual wrinkle to it; it’s the game console that perhaps benefited the most from the Covid-19 pandemic.

‘Animal Crossing: New Horizons’ came to represent the new Nintendo.

‘Animal Crossing’, along with sourdough bread, ‘Normal People’ and people pretending they really loved Zoom pub quizzes, instantly became woven into the lockdown culture.

Previous entries in the series were strong sellers for Nintendo, but the conditions of everyone being stuck at home and in need of routine and social interaction proved the perfect conditions for ‘New Horizons’ to rocket up the charts.

Tom Nook and friends have become mascots for the Switch

At the last count, the game has sold nearly 40 million copies, making it far and away the most successful game in the series, even outselling the likes of classic games such as ‘Skyrim’, ‘Modern Warfare 2’, and ‘The Witcher 3’.

The fact that so many people flocked to the Switch and their own personal commune at the height of the pandemic is a testament to Nintendo’s staying power across generations.

Parents who grew up with the NES or Gameboy were passing their love of Nintendo onto the next generation.

Brave New World

Rumours abound that the next Nintendo console will boast 4K support and will have the same processing power as a PlayStation 4.

However, putting such technology in a handheld device and keeping it at Nintendo’s traditional price level will be a tall order.

The Wii was such a smash hit success because of its low price point, and it didn’t need fancy cutting-edge graphics to become a hit.

The Switch proved that Nintendo are at their best when they focus on the basics, and did it better than any other console manufacturer.

With lifetime sales at over 100 million, there is now irrefutable proof that there is a demographic of gamers who don’t care about graphics being rendered in crystal clear 4K or an extensive online mode.

Players want simplicity, easy-going experiences, and quality first-party titles.

The Switch has proven that Nintendo can and will respond to any past failures and criticisms, and with the new console generation in full swing, the industry is now awaiting Nintendo’s next move.

The OLED model of the Switch has been a hit for Nintendo

Nintendo seems to show no signs of slowing down support for the Switch, which is a lesson they learned from the Wii era.

The Wii was left on life support in the last few months of its life while all of Nintendo’s resources were directed towards the Wii U.

Nintendo foolishly gave up their prized possession in the chase for glory, and they suffered the consequences.

The Switch will go down in gaming history as one of the biggest triumphs for any company.

The casual audience that Nintendo so desired came flooding back, and somehow attracted even more customers.

Sure, you can’t play the latest cutting edge titles like ‘Elden Ring’ or ‘Horizon: Forbidden West’ on a Switch, but on the Switch you can throw on a game and truly relax.

Speaking from a games journalist perspective and being privileged to own all three major consoles for work purposes, the Switch is the console I use the most to unwind.

There is a simplicity and relaxing factor the Switch has that other consoles simply don’t have.

When I boot up the PlayStation, I’m in the mood for a bit of ‘Death Stranding’ or ‘Hitman’ and I enjoy zipping around on ‘Forza’ and ‘Grand Theft Auto 4’ on my Xbox, but when it comes to pure unadulterated bliss and relaxation, the Switch is the undisputed champion.

You find your cartridge, boot up your ‘Animal Crossing’ island, and let the hours melt away.

For my money, there is no better gaming experience on the market.

In the 5 years since the Switch launched the world and gaming industry has been turned upside down, but my reliable console is there through thick and thin.