So here we are again – excited about Nintendo consoles. First, we’ve got the new Classic Mini NES arriving on 11th November, with 30 brilliant games in a tiny and affordable package.
And let’s not forget the Nintendo Switch announcement from 20th October.
The Nintendo Switch is the home-handheld hybrid that many people guessed it would be, and it looks smart. Rumours are of a 720p multi-touch screen, with 1080p graphics on the TV when you slot Switch into its dock.
So while it’s no PS4 Pro/Xbox One Scorpio beater, that new 3D Mario clip from the trailer certainly looked good.
But wait – we’ve been here before. Plenty of people were excited for Wii U, but only around 13 million people worldwide decided to buy one. That meant game shortages for players and an early grave for the console.
With that in mind, how cautious should we be about Classic Mini NES and Switch?
When we look back on the history of Nintendo consoles, will they continue the company’s trend of declining system sales? Or will they pull off some Wii/DS-era magic, and suddenly be everywhere?
A short history of Nintendo home consoles
1983: NES (62 million consoles sold)
The original Nintendo Entertainment System was the console to own in the late 80s. It comfortably beat the Sega Master System in terms of popularity and games, despite having (IMO) worse graphics. NES was the start of Nintendo’s worldwide gaming dominance.
1990: Super NES (49 million consoles sold)
SNES was another massively popular Nintendo system, with incredible games like Super Metroid, Donkey Kong Country, and the original Super Mario Kart. It sold fewer than NES but again it beat Sega’s effort, the MegaDrive, by some margin.
1996: Nintendo 64 (33 million consoles sold)
The trend of declining sales continued with N64, which was thrashed by the original PlayStation. Many attribute this to Nintendo’s decision to use expensive cartridges, instead of CDs that could hold way bigger games. N64 is still a beloved console, but Nintendo was no longer king.
2001: GameCube (22 million consoles sold)
GameCube was a powerful system, but it looked toy-like and its dinky DVDs weren’t big enough for games like Grand Theft Auto: Vice City. It debuted a few Nintendo classics, but most gamers preferred PS3 or Xbox.
2006: Wii (102 million consoles sold)
Then Wii happened. It was much less powerful than PS3 or Xbox 360, but it captured the casual and family markets – just as, perhaps, Nintendo will attempt to with Switch. Suddenly Nintendo was back on top, even though plenty of fans weren’t happy.
2012: Wii U (13 million consoles sold)
After the success of Wii’s motion controls, Nintendo followed up with another unique concept: the touchscreen GamePad. Sadly, despite some great games, third-parties and most gamers just weren’t interested.
So as you can see, Wii’s 100-million-selling spike aside, Nintendo home consoles have been in decline for years.