It’s no secret that the Nintendo Switch has surpassed expectations. It has blown past sales projections to become the fastest-selling home console of all time in the United States. The Switch’s tremendous success seems to have Nintendo thinking its innovative platform can outlast a traditional console life cycle.
In a Q & A with investors, legendary game designer and current Nintendo representative director Shigeru Miyamoto said, “Up until now, the hardware life cycle has trended at around five or six years, but it would be very interesting if we could prolong that life cycle, and I think you should be looking forward to that.”
Indeed, hardware life cycles rarely extend beyond five to six years. In Nintendo’s case, five or six years has been the sweet spot. The Super Nintendo, Nintendo 64, and GameCube each had five year life cycles, while the NES and Wii — Nintendo’s two most successful home consoles — made it to six years before the next generation started. Only the Wii U, widely considered a failure, came short of the five-year mark before being replaced by the Switch.
On the handheld side of Nintendo’s business, the Nintendo DS — Nintendo’s overall best-selling piece of hardware — stayed in the forefront for more than seven years, albeit with numerous model iterations through the years.
Of course, the Switch combines both a console and handheld experience, which makes it an interesting candidate for an abnormally long lifecycle.
“When you think about what can be done with the Nintendo Switch as a device that can be taken on the go and that every person has in their hands to play, you realize it has many features not available on any other hardware to date,” he said.
Nintendo has always argued that it isn’t competing with Sony and Microsoft. And with the Switch, that point actually makes total sense. The Switch offers an experience you simply cannot find elsewhere. If Nintendo can continue to take advantage of the Switch’s unique advantages, there’s no reason to believe the console cannot outlive its predecessors.
“Nintendo also has a system in place whereby the software developers focus on these hardware features in their development efforts for the continuation of the Nintendo Switch business,” Miyamoto said.
We’ve seen innovation on the hardware front already with the ridiculously novel Nintendo Labo which launches on April 20.
We’ll have to wait and see how the Switch performs in the years to come, but if Miyamoto’s vision is realized, the Switch could be leading the Nintendo charge into 2023 and beyond.