It's been more than a decade since Nintendo released the Wii to the masses. It became a cultural phenomenon, finding its place in millions of homes through its unique, motion-based design concept and an all-inclusive game library that served as a change of pace from Sony and Microsoft's "hardcore" offerings.
Now comes the Nintendo Switch, which hits stores Friday and will be available for people to try at a public demo event in Los Angeles on Sunday. Whether it has the same impact as the Wii remains to be seen, as it faces a market and gaming community that's had years to change and grow up with other entertainment systems.
While the Wii's signature feature was its quirky, motion-sensing controller, Nintendo is trumpeting mobility and versatility with the Switch.
Using tech to bring people together is nothing new for Nintendo, but Michael Pachter, an analyst for Wedbush Securities who focuses on the video game industry, told KPCC there are other factors around the buzz for the Switch.
"It’s different. I think people love different, but I think, truthfully, more people are excited about it because the Wii U was a disaster," he said. "Nintendo is trying something different and they’re looking forward to the next chapter."
Nintendo's Wii U, released in 2012, was a follow-up to the Wii — and plagued by low sales. Production of it stopped at the start of this year.
The Nintendo Switch is also venturing into a different consumer universe than the one the Wii infiltrated in 2006, Pachter said. Back then, the Wii was able make some significant headway against Sony. Now, both Sony and Microsoft have about a collective 80-million-person lead on Nintendo, making it appear practically impossible for Nintendo to catch up.
"More likely than not, Nintendo’s positioning this as a second console in the household," Pachter said. "They’re going after the people who already own a PS4 or already own an Xbox One, and I think Nintendo is making the not-so-crazy assumption that a whole lot of those people love Nintendo products, love Nintendo hardware and software."
Aside from the console's stunning flexibility, covering both the mobile and home gaming arenas, other elements favoring the Switch are names that have stood the test of time — namely anything with the words "Zelda" or "Mario" in them. "The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild" is one of the most anticipated games of the year and is expected to be a Switch launch title.
Later in the year, fans can expect to see "Super Mario Odyssey," "Splatoon" and a few other homegrown Nintendo titles. However, the key to a console's success is what kind of third-party support it has — many of the industry's biggest sellers are created by companies like Electronic Arts ("Madden" franchise) and Activision ("Call of Duty" franchise), who aren't beholden to one system.
"The first-party lineup between now and year-end is great. The third-party lineup is unknown, and likely not very good," Pachter said. "One of the things you can count on if you’re Microsoft or Sony is that 'Call of Duty' or 'FIFA' will be on your console. I don’t know if Nintendo can count on that."
It's not yet known if the "Call of Duty" series will be available on the Switch — the same goes for "Red Dead Redemption" from Take-Two Interactive, another hotly anticipated game.
"If they're not [available], then it's hard to justify this as your only console," Pachter said. "If you already have a PlayStation or Xbox, then you can keep playing 'FIFA' or 'Madden' or 'Call of Duty' or 'Grand Theft Auto,' and you can also have a Switch and play Nintendo's content."
The Nintendo Switch retails at $299.99.