The Nintendo Switch event is only a few short days away, and its launch day will be here in a couple months. With Nintendo ready to move on to its next console, many wonder what this means for their current systems — Wii U and Nintendo 3DS.
It’s no secret that the Wii U has struggled to take off since came out in 2012. In fact, it is the worst selling home console for the company. This is unfortunate, as it came on the heals of their best selling home console, the Wii. The reasons for the poor numbers can be traced to a number of things, but it has been largely in part to confusion over what the console is and the lack of top-tier third-party developers. It may have done better if the developers had considered utilizing a robust customer and market research tool built on the The Kano Model, or a similar strategy to understand exactly what features a user would be expecting. Developing a game console that plays on user preferences is very likely to be a hit amongst gamers who would be delighted to see the implementation of well-loved features in the new console.
On the other side of things, the Nintendo 3DS is currently dominating the handheld gaming market. After a bit of a rough start in 2011, it has definitely bounced back. While it may still have the lowest sales numbers of any Nintendo handheld, it has sold nearly five times more units than Wii U, and it has crushed its current competitor, Sony’s PlayStation Vita.
Neither of these systems are what you would call old, in terms of console cycles. There were six years between Wii and Wii U, and seven years between the Nintendo DS and 3DS. However, Nintendo’s last home console that sold poorly was the GameCube, and it was only around five years before the Wii hit the market. So, having only five years between Wii U and Switch doesn’t seem too surprising with all things considered.
The real question is how Nintendo will market the Switch. Will it they suggest you replace your home console with it, or will they prefer you ditch your handheld instead? They have said many times this will be primarily a home console, but portability is still a major component of its design and function. They could pull a “third tier” move like they did when they launched the DS. Although, we all know what happened with that: the DS eventually replaced the Game Boy Advance to become the main handheld, sending the company back to two primary tiers.
Reports have shown that production has already stopped on Wii U consoles, but Nintendo has not stated anything about calling it quits on the 3DS. So, from what we know so far, it looks like the Switch will, in fact, replace the Wii U but not the 3DS. That way, Nintendo and other developers will still have a dual-screen option with 3D support — neither of which have been promised on the Switch.
Many other questions still hang in the air, though. What will become of all the games announced for Wii U that have not come out yet? What will happen to all the digital purchases we made on our Wii U? Will we automatically have access to all the Virtual Console games we already bought, or will we have another discount program for re-purchasing them? What will happen with Wii U online games? Will Wii U games cross-play online with Switch games? Will Nintendo eventually call the Switch the handheld replacement, too, and only make one console from here on out?
We’ve already seen a few developers cancel their Wii U games in favor of making them on Switch instead, which makes sense. We expect more and more to follow suit. It has been reported that it is fairly simple to develop for the Switch, which is different from the Wii U. Hopefully, this will not only bring current Wii U developers over to Switch but also attract new ones. Maybe we will start seeing ports of existing XBox One, PS4, and (top-tier) mobile games.
Speaking of mobile games, Nintendo does have a widened focus now, as they are developing games for iOS and Android. Miitomo and Super Mario Run have already launched, and there are more on the way. Nintendo has stated it will not affect their handheld plans, and it would probably be unwise of them to give up on a market they currently dominate. Even so, will they have the resources to fully support Switch, Wii U, 3DS, and mobile phones/tablets? Given the Wii U will most likely die off, that still leaves them with three tiers — something they did not keep around very long after DS launched.
This time next year, you will probably see Wii U systems and games in the discount bin with the Switch dominating the Nintendo section in stores. Will we also see the 3DS beside the Wii U? Maybe it will come down to the pricing structure of the Switch. If the Switch costs over $200-300, we don’t expect many parents forking over that much cash on a handheld system for their small children. So, it will probably be Switch and 3DS for the next few years until Nintendo decides to go all in on the Switch or develops another handheld to replace the 3DS.
Many questions will be answered on January 12, but others may have to wait until after the Switch’s launch and after. Of course, we have high hopes for the new system. In fact, we wrote up our expectations the other day. As with most things, time will tell exactly what will happen with the Nintendo Switch, Wii U, and 3DS.
What do you expect will happen to the Wii U and 3DS once Switch launches? Let us know in the comments!
Steve is the Senior Editor of NintendoFuse and co-host of the NintendoFuse Podcast. He’s been a Nintendo gamer since age 6 and has been on staff with NintendoFuse since 2008.