Can Nintendo Switch Topple Sony's Playstation 4?

Zelda: Breath of the Wild and Horizon: Zero Dawn - Split - Publicity - H 2018
Left, courtesy of Nintendo; Right, courtesy of Playstation
The Japanese gaming giant has had a monster first year for its latest console and is showing no signs of slowing down in 2018.

Nintendo, the Japanese gaming company that has been a staple of the industry for more than three decades, has had a monster 10 months. Its latest console, the Nintendo Switch, hit shelves in March 2017 and has sold 4.8 million units in the U.S. alone, shattering the previous record of 4 million set by the company in 2007 with the release of the Wii. Worldwide, Switch sales have topped the 10 million mark.

The strength of the console's appeal to consumers originates primarily from its strong early lineup of games. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild was a launch title and has sold more than 4.5 million copies worldwide as well as racking up numerous game of the year awards. Super Mario Odyssey, which has only been on shelves since October, has already sold more than 3.6 million copies. Notable for both games is that they are exclusive to the Switch, unlike most blockbuster video game titles, which are mutliplatform

On Thursday, Nintendo held a "Mini Direct" in which it announced a number of upcoming games that are once more bound to rack up major sales. Among them are a new Mario Tennis game (a sports game franchise featuring characters from the Mario universe that was initially released in North America in 2001) and a remastered version of the blockbuster action adventure game Dark Souls

Dark Souls — originally released in 2011 for the Playstation 3, Xbox 360 and PC — has sold more than 2 million copies worldwide and launched a successful franchise of sequels. While the remaster will also be available on the PS4, Xbox One and PC, its release on the Switch marks a trend for the latest Nintendo console to willingly release titles not under the Nintendo banner. Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, Bethesda's massive blockbuster originally from 2011, was released on the Switch last November and in its first week was just outside the top 10 best-selling games worldwide, despite being a nearly decade-old title. 

While Nintendo hasn't commented on its decisions as to which third-party games to port to its system, looking at its track record reveals high-profile titles. Call of Duty, one of the most profitable franchises in gaming, had titles ported to both the Nintendo Wii and Wii U earlier this decade, while Rockstar's L.A. Noire was also released for the Switch last November, six years after its initial release for the Xbox 360, PS3 and PC. 

While the PS4 is the current highest-selling console — 73.6 million units worldwide — Nintendo's Switch is offering it some healthy competition. Sony's latest console first launched in 2013, when it sold 13.7 million units worldwide. The Switch, meanwhile, is already the fastest selling console ever in both U.S. and Japan. It is set to not only reach Nintendo's projected goal of 14 million units sold in its first year but eclipse it.

What sets Nintendo apart is the familiarity of its IP, from Mario to Zelda to Donkey Kong, all of which have been icons of the video game zeitgeist for decades. While both Sony and Microsoft offer exclusive titles, they don't have quite the brand loyalty as Nintendo's familiar faces. With the introduction of well-known, proven multiplatform titles into the Nintendo catalog (such as Skyrim and Dark Souls) alongside proven franchises such as Zelda and Mario (both of which had performances that outshined even the most optimistic of Nintendo's projections) the old dog on the block clearly still has some bark.