If 2021 was the year of the Game Boy Advance renaissance, then 2022 is the year of the Wii. At this point, the Nintendo Switch has outsold the Wii, but it still doesn’t feel like the Switch is as ubiquitous with casual gamers as the Wii was. Meanwhile, the Wii is getting just old enough that it’s starting to feel nostalgic and retro.
If Nintendo wants to continue to grow the Switch’s userbase, these yearnful Wii fans need to be its next target. Perhaps that’s why the latest Nintendo Direct felt like a love letter to the Wii era by featuring games like Nintendo Switch Sports, Mario Strikers: Battle League, and Star Wars: The Force Unleashed.
Let’s go bowling
At this point, most hardcore gaming fans who want a Nintendo Switch likely already own one. While those 100+ million players will continue to buy new video games, Nintendo still wants to sell 23 million more units this year alone. If it’s going to accomplish that, it needs to entice people who might not usually play video games or spend hundreds of dollars on a new system.
Nintendo was the most successful at doing this during the Wii era but moved away from this casual focus after the Wii U flopped. Focusing on its hardcore fans is what made the Nintendo Switch a runaway success right at launch, but we’re now almost five years in, and Nintendo is looking to maintain a growing audience.
Making the Nintendo Switch even more appealing to casuals and non-gamers seems to be the company’s next goal. Nintendo Switch Sports recapturing some of that Wii magic is the spearhead of this strategy.
Its predecessor Wii Sports is one of the most successful games of all time. Even people who’ve never played a video game might remember the game from the Wii’s heyday. Nintendo wants a Switch in every nursing home, school, or daycare if it isn’t all ready, and first-party titles like Nintendo Switch Sports make that a possibility.
If the game catches on with casual gamers and Nintendo makes it a bundled Switch game, there’s a chance that this could be the Switch’s next Mario Kart 8 Deluxe or Animal Crossing: New Horizons from a sales perspective.
Believe it or not, the Wii is over 15 years old. Young kids who played games on the Wii with their parents are now adults and likely have nostalgia for those experiences. Some may even consider it to be a retro console at this point. As such, it’s not surprising that Nintendo and other companies would dip back into the well of Wii-era IPs. It started with the Skyward Sword remaster last year, but several Wii-related announcements were in this Nintendo Direct too, which made it a real trip for those of us that grew up with these games on Wii.
Mario Strikers’ last great outing was on the Wii, and the sports spin-off series has been dormant for just long enough to where Nintendo fans are delighted that it’s making a grand return. Even Nintendo Switch Sports will trigger nostalgia for the millions of people who enjoyed it over 15 years ago.
Third parties are even taking notice. Aspyr decided to specifically remaster the Wii version of Star Wars: The Force Unleashed, which is an odd choice considering that a more polished version of the game existed for Xbox 360 and PS3. Still, the Switch is the only console capable of preserving that Wii experience, and Aspyr ensures that the Wii port doesn’t get lost to time. For players who enjoyed the Wii but don’t want to dig out their system, sensor bar, and some Wii Remotes, releases like this will allow them to satiate their nostalgia.
While games like Xenoblade Chronicles 3 indicate that Nintendo isn’t abandoning its hardcore audience, it’s clear that the casual market is the Switch’s next great frontier. Many of the games featured in the February 9 Direct capitalize on a new wave of nostalgia for the Wii. Embracing that market and those causal players with these games might be the key to the Nintendo Switch’s continued success.
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