How Nintendo Switch Won 2020

Nostalgic and family friendly

Key Takeaways

  • Nintendo’s most recent earnings report revealed a staggering 98.2% increase in operating profit for the nine-month period ending December 31, 2020.
  • The Nintendo Switch now has reached 79.87 million lifetime sales since its release in 2017.
  • Experts believe that Nintendo’s robust collection of family-friendly games, as well as a focus on digital wellness, helped play a large part in the console’s success during 2020.
 A gamer plays the video game 'Super Mario Odyssey' developed and published by Nintendo on a Nintendo Switch games console during the 'Paris Games Week' on October 31, 2017 in Paris, France.
Chesnot / Getty Images

The Nintendo Switch’s library of family-friendly games, iconic characters, and the ability for anyone to pick up and play continues to make it one of the best consoles available right now.

Nintendo recently released its financial earnings report for the nine-month period ending on December 31, 2020. In the report, the company revealed that it had seen record sales for the Nintendo Switch, as well as a 43% increase in software sales during the final nine months of 2020, compared to the same period the previous year.

Experts believe that these increased sales were caused by a number of factors, including familiarity with Nintendo’s first-party series and the easily portable experience that the Switch offers users looking to disconnect from their living rooms after being stuck inside for months.

"Nostalgia is a key hallmark of the pandemic, as people seek out comfort foods from childhood or analog activities like jigsaws to ease boredom and self-soothe in turbulent times," Laura Tarbox, a cultural and brand strategist with Oglivy, told us via email. 

"The modular design of the Nintendo Switch...feels much more in keeping with the ever-increasing need to be flexible, fluid, and mobile vs. other consoles."

"The Nintendo Switch plays into this element of nostalgia (particularly moreso vs. other futuristic-looking consoles on the market) through its own retro-feeling color palette and growing roster of nostalgic games," Tarbox said.

Escaping to an Island Paradise

Nintendo has built a long-standing history with iconic characters like Mario, Princess Peach, and Link, but it isn’t just nostalgia that helped fuel the success of the Nintendo Switch in 2020.

Released in March 2020, Animal Crossing: New Horizons arrived right around the start of the global lockdown, at a time when many were desperately seeking an escape. Despite most of us being locked in our homes and unable to leave except for essentials, games like New Horizons let us meet up with our friends and go on dates without having to leave the safety of our homes.

For a time, it was almost impossible to find a Switch in stock, as gamers flocked to the vibrant and cute graphics of New Horizons, making it the fastest-selling Switch game at the time. While it offered a fairly simple gameplay loop composed of menial tasks like digging up fossils, talking to villagers, and visiting with friends, New Horizons didn’t require any amount of skill or gaming knowledge for players to enjoy it and feel successful in it.

The craze surrounding New Horizons is still prevalent today, with users still sharing screenshots and videos from their islands on social media websites like Twitter. Based on the recent reports shared by Nintendo, it also still is the biggest-selling game on the Switch.

The Switch Up

Another standout trait about the Switch—and one that has helped make the console especially popular with families—is the catalog of family-friendly games that Nintendo offers. While titles like The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild does have a focus on using weapons like swords and bows, titles like Animal Crossing: New Horizons, Mario Kart, and Super Mario Odyssey cater to audiences of all ages.

“Parents can feel good about buying this console for younger kids,” Marissa DiBartolo, editor-in-chief at The Pop Insider, told Lifewire via email. She also noted how other consoles like the PS5 and the Xbox Series X tend to skew towards an older audience, with more violent and mature-rated games.

A child playing 'Fifa 19' on a Nintendo Switch.
Chesnot / Getty Images

Other important features like the Switch’s portability also have played a part in the console’s success, allowing users to disconnect from their TVs, offices, and usual gaming areas to help break up the monotony of the lockdown.

The launch of products like Ring Fit Adventure, which offers several motion-based exercise routines in the form of different games, are notable additions to the growth of the Switch, allowing users in lockdown a new way to burn calories without having to leave the house.

"We’ve long been talking about second-screen viewing," Tarbox said via email. "But thanks to the intense blurring of work and home lives during the pandemic, the modular design of the Nintendo Switch—and its implications for group or individual play—feels much more in-keeping with the ever-increasing need to be flexible, fluid, and mobile vs. other consoles."

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