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Opinion: The Nintendo Switch isn't early - it's right on time

Nintendo continues to go like clockwork
Product: Nintendo Switch | Publisher: Nintendo | Format: Switch
You've probably heard the standard line being trotted out about Nintendo of late. The one about Nintendo ruthlessly cutting the throat of its Wii U console due to calamitously low sales, and about the company desperately scrambling to bring forward its replacement (the Switch) in the ultimate loss-cutting, face-saving exercise.

It's utter nonsense. Allow us to illustrate why by showing you a neat little graphic that someone shared with the PG team recently:

Yes, yes, look at the pretty colours. But more importantly, look at the dates. And no, I'm not talking about the startling fact that there were just five years between the launch of the SNES and the N64 - mind-blowing as that may be.

Indeed, it's the broader fact that each of Nintendo's seven home consoles has had a pretty consistent five or six year gap between them that's most remarkable. And guess what? The Nintendo Switch doesn't break that pattern at all.

Did you spot the Switch?

So why is there the perception that Nintendo has rushed things with its latest console? If I were to take a stab at an answer, it would be that the company operates according to its own schedule, and that this schedule is now completely at odds with its modern rivals.

What's strange, though, is that it's Sony and Microsoft that have become inconsistent with their console launch timings - not Nintendo.

There were six years between the PlayStation and PS2, and another six between the PS2 and PS3. But Sony then changed things up with the PS4, waiting seven years to launch its latest mainstream machine.

More recently, Sony has played with that gap again by launching the PS 4 Pro - a half-generational leap at best - three years into the PS4's life. Who knows when the PS5 will launch.

Meanwhile, Microsoft's launch dates are even more all over the place, despite having only launched three consoles over its time in the games business. There was a mere four year gap between the original Xbox and the Xbox 360, and then a massive eight year gap to the Xbox One.

Microsoft, too, is planning a half-generation launch (called Project Scorpio) for later this year.

Of the three big console makers, then, Nintendo is indisputably the most consistent. Not only does it have the longest run of consoles, but those consoles have hit the market at a remarkably even rate over the past 32 years.

Mind the gap

Another reason people think of Nintendo as having fallen out of step with a market it defined is that it pursues a completely different hardware philosophy to Sony and Microsoft.

When the PS4 and Xbox One launched, they were essentially mid-range gaming PCs-in-a-box. They even used many of the same off-the-shelf components as one another.

True, Microsoft tried to do something a little different in the Xbox One with its Kinect input and entertainment hub ambitions. But the company's hardcore gaming fanbase (and the PS4's offering of superior hardware for less money) soon prompted a drastic about-turn.

Contrast that with Nintendo, which arguably hasn't been in the straight-up console game since the GameCube. The Wii, the Wii U, and now the Switch have all been much less powerful than their contemporaries, leaning on innovative control inputs in place of raw polygon-pushing prowess.

Indeed, the Switch is closer in concept and architecture to a modern tablet than it is to a home console.

Nintendo may appear to have fallen out of sync with its big-budget rivals. But really it's just playing its own game - and that game has been going along like clockwork for decades.

Reviewer photo
Jon Mundy 2 March 2017
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