The Nintendo Switch, eh? Inaugural years don’t come much better than this. Not since the debut year of PlayStation 4 has a modern console enjoyed such a meteoric rise on all fronts. Ever increasing sales; exclusives that are both critical and commercial successes; the new wave of ‘Nindies’; the list goes on and on.
The Switch has gone from strength to strength, and it’s made for quite the ride. So, to celebrate the one year anniversary for Switch, we’ve dialled back the clock as we follow the handheld wonder from launch to the end of its freshman tenure.
This is the year that was for Nintendo’s latest console sensation…
March 2017 - The big launch, a new Zelda and all the hype
Following the official reveal in November 2016 and a whole host of hands-on events in January 2017, the world was suitably hyped when Nintendo Switch launched worldwide on 3rd March. And it lived up to the hype, too. Countless glowing reviews filled the games media, the tech press and mainstream outlets. Having taken something of a backseat following the commercial failure of Wii U, Nintendo was back in vogue and handhelds were once again the talk of the town in the console sphere.
With the launch came the long-awaited release of The Legend Of Zelda: Breath Of The Wild and an instant 10/10 across the board - including here at Nintendo Life - and a game that rivalled Ocarina Of Time for the title of ‘Best Zelda Game Ever’. And that good press did wonders for its sales figures too. By the end of the month, Nintendo Switch had sold 2.74 million units worldwide. What. A. Start.
April 2017 - Mario Kart 8 goes Deluxe and Switch takes over the US
Having had a stellar launch month, all eyes were on Nintendo Switch as it entered its second month out in the wild. Could that momentum continue now that the launch hype was beginning to wane? Nintendo had a new Zelda to its name, but its other launch titles weren’t quite so outstanding. Enter Mario Kart 8 Deluxe. Wisely bringing one of Wii U’s greatest assets to Switch was a stroke of genius, offering up the console’s first proper online multiplayer hit.
April also saw Nintendo rack up quite the month for sales. Combined Switch and 3DS sales made up nearly half of all hardware sales on North American soil. MK8 Deluxe played a big role in that too, pulling in 550,000 sales (in both retail and digital) in just two days. Two days.
May 2017 - Minecraft arrives and shares soar for Ninty
Following two excellent months headlined by two first-party hits (one of which, technically, was a re-release), the Switch entered May with impressive sales figures and a growing library of software to its name. The month of May proved relatively quiet in terms of major releases (a cooling off period was always going to happen), but it did see Minecraft: Nintendo Switch Edition hit the eShop along Disgaea 5 Complete and Ultra Street Fighter II: The Final Challengers. They weren’t major hits, but along with a steady stream of Neo Geo ports from HAMSTER, Switch was far from drying up when it came to software.
Nintendo Switch’s sales figures and positive PR profile did the business in business too, with Nintendo’s share price rocketing by 108% by the month’s end. The console was becoming the firm’s biggest commercial hit since the Wii, with shares rising dramatically. That value even exceeded the short-lived boom elicited by Pokémon GO back, giving Ninty stock its highest value since 2010. However, stock shortages were starting to become an issue...
June 2017 - Switch keeps selling out, Switch Online gets a rethink and Rabbids return
Now entering its fourth month of life, Switch was ready to hit the ground running as it headed into a successful E3 showing. With Nintendo shares on a seven-year high and sales continuing to soar, reality came calling. Switch was selling out in retailers across the world. Nintendo fought to meet demand as everyone scrambled to grab a console, promising it would meet the need for handheld goodness with a wave of new units in July. News of it selling out simply made demand even higher. Switch also got another first-party IP in the form of unique brawler ARMS, which would go on to become something of a cult smash.
June also saw Nintendo clarifying the state of play when it came to Nintendo Switch Online, the much-talked about online infrastructure. It allayed fears that the free classic games included with each $20 subscription would be pulled at the end of the month (a la PlayStation Plus) by confirming all members would have access to a collection of titles. The service was delayed into 2018, but online play would continue to be free until that eventual launch. And let’s not forget the emotional reveal of Ubisoft Milan’s Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle, which became the talk and toast of E3 2017.
July 2017 - Splatoon 2 paints the town neon and Switch sales hit a new high
The end of Nintendo Switch’s first proper quarter saw some impressive numbers for the Big N, with reports ending 30th June rounding off at 64.73 billion yen ($578 million) in gross profit and 16.21 billion yen ($145 million) in operating profit. It was an astounding quarter for the company, especially when you consider it pulled in 30.5 billion yen ($272 million) in operating profile for the same period in 2016. Poor old Wii U. Still, with 4.7 million Switch sales by July, the next quarter promised to be even better.
July also saw the release of Nintendo’s next big first-party franchise: Splatoon 2. Another series that reviewed incredibly well back on Wii U but struggled under the weight of a deflated system, the cutesy shooter sequel rode a wave of hype (and paint) following a handful of successful test betas. Splatoon 2 was the highest-selling game in North America (as well proving a hit across Europe) and helped Nintendo become the best-selling publisher in July.
August 2017 - Kingdom Battle claims victory and Switch just keeps selling
Switch headed toward its six-month anniversary with a swagger in August, thanks in no small part to sales figures that continued to rise. No one quite expected a handheld device to perform so well, especially half a year into its lifecycle, but it became the highest selling console in the US (something it pulled off four out of six months from launch). The likes of Sonic Mania and Slime-San kept the eShop flowing with new titles, but it would be an unlikely union that would send critics and consumers ablaze with adoration…
Yes, August saw the release of Davide Soliani’s dream project, Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle, mashing turn-based strategy and overworld exploration into one of the most accessible and rewarding games to take turns. It reportedly sold over 215,000 units in its first week at retail - no mean feat when you consider it wasn’t due to arrive in Japan for a few more months. And a game with Rabbids in it no less. Switch sales did take something of a dip in Japan in August, but Splatoon 2 continued to perform well.
September 2017 - Nindies continue to rule and another cracking Nintendo Direct
Now into the second half of its first year, Nintendo Switch headed into September with one of those Nintendo Directs that did everything right and set the stage for a great end to 2017. Not only did we get a new trailer for a certain little indie game called Super Mario Odyssey, we finally got a release date for The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, and a surprise announcement that DOOM - yes, actual 2016 DOOM - was being ported to Switch.
The eShop also had some great new games in September, lead by some brilliant Nindies that shine on Nintendo’s new hardware. We had SteamWorld Dig 2, Golf Story and Thimbleweed Park among others, proving that games made by smaller studios had a proper new home. Kirby Battle Royale was also announced for 3DS, as was, bizarrely, a port of Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus.
October 2017 - More eShop hits, chart-topping hard and Super Mario flippin’ Odyssey
Much like March, April and July, October was set to be one of Switch’s biggest months, mainly because a certain Mario-fronted game was set to debut exclusively on the console at the end of the month. Before that, the eShop received some stone cold instant classics in the form Oxenfree, Axiom Verge and Stardew Valley (the latter proving to be a chart topper that continues to sell strong in 2018).
Nintendo Switch sold very well in September, but that shouldn’t surprise anyone considering Super Mario Odyssey launched on 27th October. It dominated the charts, rocketing to the top and keeping the other big release on that day - Assassin’s Creed Origins - at bay. Not bad for a single-platform exclusive. Switch was number one in hardware sales in the US, with 3DS coming in at number two. Not bad, Nintendo. Not bad at all.
November 2017 - Skyrim arrives, Rocket League scores a winner and physical sales rule
By November, and with most of its major releases for 2017 out of the way (bar one - see December’s entry for more), Nintendo Switch entered November with worldwide sales that were hurtling towards 10 million units. And with Black Friday sending the entire world into bargain madness, Switch rode the wave becoming the most sought often piece of hardware among online retailers over Thanksgiving - not bad considering it didn’t feature the same kind of discounts being thrown at PS4 and Xbox One. GAME also reported that three physical Switch games were being sold per console. Switch also hit 2 million sales in Japan by the beginning of November.
On the game front, Skyrim finally came out, proved to be a robust and perfectly managed port, but all hats go off to Panic Button and that DOOM port. Even with the graphical downgrades that were necessary, we still can’t get our head around the idea of 2016 FPS working on Switch. But Panic Button did it, and it rocks on so many levels. Rocket League also debuted on Switch, bringing its insane vehicular acrobatics to the portable market.
December 2017 - Xenoblade Chronicles 2 rounds off the year, Switch hits 10 million
When the month of December finally descended on the world, Nintendo Switch broke the milestone it had been chasing since launch. It was official: the console had sold 10 million units worldwide in under a year. Under a year. It’s still a mind-blowing statistic and enabled Ninty to sign off the year with all the confidence in the world (and, presumably, all the money as well). Over in Japan, Switch was also closing in on Wii U’s lifetime sales despite only being out for nine months.
On the game front, Xenoblade Chronicles 2 - and all those regional accents - launched on Switch, adding the console’s final major exclusive in 2017. It proved a real hit among critics - including our very own former editor Thomas Whitehead - opening up the long-running franchise to a new audience. We also got the surprisingly smooth (and long delayed) port of Yooka-Laylee, and the terrible port of WWE 2K18. The less said about that, the better.
January 2018 - Rabbids arrive in Japan and records are broken everywhere
With 2017 a distant memory and the fresh scent of 2018 in its nostrils, Nintendo Switch entered the new year with an incredible ten months of performance behind it. It remained the console on everyone’s tongue, as it smashed PlayStation 2’s year one sales in Japan, record sales in France and Italy and courted rumours that it had sold 14.6 million units following a stellar December where Switch topped multiple hardware charts.
Mario + Rabbids Battle Kingdom also had an amazing launch in Japan, the localised version reportedly selling through 78% of its initial shipment. Considering pre-orders and interest had been a little tepid, it soon took off and took over the Japanese charts. Indies also had a great start to the year, led by the news that Super Meat Boy’s day one sales on Switch were almost as high as those racked up during its Xbox 360 debut.
February 2018 - Bayonetta returns, Payday gets criminal and Switch rides high
On the eve of its one year anniversary, Nintendo Switch had no intention of slowing down. It kicked off with some high profile new releases in the form of Bayonetta and Bayonetta 2 (the latter previously being a Wii U exclusive). The duo of PlatinumGames hits shone on Switch and proved some ports worked if done with the right kind of care. Payday 2 also dropped in February, but its lack of parity with other platforms in terms of updates left a fun little shooter out in the cold.
By February, Switch had already surpassed the lifetime sales of Wii U in many a region with the UK soon following suit. The hybrid console had sold 700,000 units by the second month of 2018, but it did prove that the machine’s performance wasn’t quite so impressive when compared with North America or the rest of Europe. Right at the end of January, Nintendo also announced the Nintendo Switch Online service would launch in September, and we saw a number of regional price schemes revealed throughout Feb. Customer reviews on the Nintendo site were also a thing, for about a minute, before Nintendo changed its mind.
And just like that, Nintendo Switch was one...
So that was the year that was, 12 months in the life of Nintendo Switch. It was an incredible year for the console and one that will go down in history as one of the most successful. We’d love to hear your take on Switch Year One, so be sure to share your stories, thoughts and take of various temperatures below...