Nintendo reveals what the Switch learned from the Wii U's failures

Nintendo fancies itself as being in the "entertainment business."

Gordon Gottsegen CNET contributor
Gordon Gottsegen is a tech writer who has experience working at publications like Wired. He loves testing out new gadgets and complaining about them. He is the ghost of all failed Kickstarters.
Gordon Gottsegen
2 min read
Nintendo Switch Preview Event

Nintendo of America President Reggie Fils-Aime holds up a Switch.

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Nintendo hype is at a high right now, thanks to a recent Nintendo Direct event and upcoming games like Pokemon Let's Go and Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. But Nintendo had to go through some rough patches to get here.

Reggie Fils-Aime, president of Nintendo of America, spoke at the GeekWire Summit 2018 on Wednesday. On stage, Fils-Aime discussed the success of the Nintendo Switch and how the company had to learn from the shortcomings of the Wii U, as reported by GeekWire.

"We had launched the Wii U, following on the heels of the Wii, which had sold 100 million units globally. The Wii U did not have that same level of success. But what we heard from consumers is that the proposition of a tablet that they could experience gameplay [with], coupled with the ability to play games on the big screen TV, was really compelling."

As of June 30, Nintendo had sold only 13.56 million Wii U consoles, which is dismal compared to the 101 million units that sold during the Wii's lifetime.

What stood out about the Wii U was its ability to play on your TV or as a handheld tablet. Fils-Aime says that was essential for what ultimately became the Switch.

"Without our experiences on the Wii U, we would not have the Nintendo Switch in terms of what we learned and importantly what we heard from our consumers. They were telling us, 'I want to play with this tablet, this gamepad for the Wii U, but as soon as I get more than 30 feet away it disconnects.' So the core concept, something that you could take with you anywhere anytime."

With almost 20 million units sold, the Nintendo Switch has already passed the Wii U, and it hasn't been on shelves nearly as long.

"We reinvent ourselves every five, 10 years. We have to, in this fast-moving entertainment business."

Although Nintendo is usually thought of as a video game company rather than an entertainment company, it has dabbled in theme parks, movies and more. And in case you forgot, Nintendo originally started in 1889 as a playing card company.

Reinvention, Fils-Aime says, is "in our DNA."

Nintendo didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

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