Nintendo has been a staple in my life ever since I first held an NES controller in my chubby little kid hands. I've since grown into adulthood, and while I still have chubby fingers, I've used them on almost all of the handhelds and consoles that Nintendo has released since 1988. Like with many others out there, I snatched up the Nintendo Switch as soon as I could and have played dozens of the best Switch games over the last few years.
While I love the Japanese gaming company, it's hard not to notice that it has some of the worst naming conventions I've ever seen, right up there with Microsoft's confusing Xbox console titles. Unfortunately, Nintendo's bad naming doesn't stop at its gaming systems. It has also practiced horrible naming conventions for many of its AAA titles over the years. My only hope is that this practice doesn't continue into the Switch's remaining life cycle.
A quick look at Nintendo's recent gaming system names
Nintendo likes to make several iterations of its popular hardware, so we can expect the same with the Switch. However, based on previous devices, it's not looking good in terms of naming. There are several examples for me to verbally gesture at as I prove my point, but I'll just begin with the DS and 3DS handhelds and how they were released in North America.
Nintendo DS and 3DS handhelds
- DS (2004)
- DS Lite (2006)
- DSi (2008)
- DSi XL (2010)
- 3DS (2011)
- 3DS XL (2012)
- 2DS (2013)
- New 3DS (2014)
- New 3DS XL (2015)
- New 2DS XL (2017)
As you can see by looking at this list, the names for the various handhelds quickly became convoluted and lead to confusion. Many people especially felt that "New 3DS" was a terrible name, but that didn't stop Nintendo from dropping the "New 3DS XL" and the "New 2DS XL" a few years later. Suffice it to say, many consumers found it hard knowing which version they were after when purchasing for themselves or for their kids. One of my friends even bought the New 3DS thinking it was the New 3DS XL.
Unfortunately, it looks like Nintendo has started reusing these same naming conventions with its hybrid console. We got the original Switch then we got a Switch Lite similar to how we got the original DS and then the DS Lite. If rumors are true that a more-powerful Switch or Switch Pro is on the horizon and if Nintendo sticks to its naming conventions, then I wouldn't be surprised if the upgraded Switch model was given the official name of either the "Switch XL" or the "New Switch." Shudder.
Companies should never put "New" in the name of something unless there's a double meaning behind it or the choice was made for comedic effect. Technology grows old quickly and what is new today is old and forgotten tomorrow, like the iPods everyone carried around in the 2000s. So putting "New" in the title of a product is not only awkward but redundant, especially when it becomes the only version of its kind on the market. It's also a title that becomes outdated quickly.
Nintendo isn't the only gaming company that uses confusing titles. For instance, Microsoft likes to make life really confusing with its consoles: Xbox, Xbox 360, Xbox One, Xbox One X, Xbox Series X/Xbox Series S. Many other media outlets and consumers found the Xbox Series X name horrible. Jesus Diaz of Tom's Hardware even went so far as to make a list of better names for the latest Xbox console.
It's one thing for a dedicated fan to remember these names, but think of all of the confused parents who accidentally bought the Xbox One instead of the Xbox Series X for their kids this past holiday season. I even have a hard time when talking with friends trying to say the mouthful that is Xbox Series X, and even then the S and the X at the end are far too easy to mix up. It's just bad all around.
While Sony's console naming method is comparatively bland, it's a tried and true method. There's no doubt that PS5 comes after PS4. It's much easier to know if you're talking about or buying the right system.
The doomed Wii U
Often, a bad name for a device can lead to consumer confusion at worst. However, other times it might doom a product.
The tale of the Wii U is a sad one. When the doomed gaming system was announced, I and several other consumers thought it was an accessory for the incredibly popular Wii and not the console successor that it was. It took me far longer than I'd like to admit to realize it was a full-blown next-gen gaming system, but once the realization was made, I went out and bought it immediately. During its lifespan, when I had it hooked up on my media center visitors often thought it was simply a Wii accessory and I had to educate them.
I love the Wii U and enjoyed the games I was able to play on it. However, I think the horrible name played a part in the console's downfall. While everyone might not agree, even Dan Adelman, Nintendo of America's former head of digital content, thought the name was partially to blame.
The name "Wii U" sounds like an accessory for the first console and not like a new console, which possibly contributed to the gaming system's miserable launch. There were definitely more factors to the Wii U's failure, like the gimmicky gamepad, which sometimes felt forced or clumsily implemented into Wii U games (even though it's obvious in hindsight that it was a stepping stone to the Switch). Still, if the Wii U had been given a clearly more defined console name like something along the lines of Sony's simple yet established naming convention, it might have done a little better — at least at launch. Better advertising, third-party support, and more games also would've helped, but you know.
Nintendo's bad naming even affects game titles
Unfortunately, Nintendo's confusing titles don't just stop with gaming systems, it also extends to some of its AAA games. There are hundreds of Nintendo games, but I'll just mention a few to illustrate my point.
- Super Mario World
- Super Mario 3D World
- Super Mario 3D World + Bowser's Fury
- Super Mario All-Stars
- Super Mario 3D All-Stars
- Super Mario Bros.
- New Super Mario Bros. U
- New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe
Over time, Nintendo tends to reuse game titles for newer entries by slapping something new onto the original name — for instance, grabbing the "Super Mario All-Stars" name from a classic collection and then throwing "3D" into the mix for a new collection. This ends up making the titles wordy or just plain confusing to distinguish from other similarly named games. I'm more understanding when this is done to a port or a remake rather than a brand new title, but even then the marketing can get convoluted since it's tough for the customer to know what version they're buying.
This has been broken up by times when Nintendo went for a unique name or numeric sequels like with Super Mario Odyssey or Super Mario Maker and its sequel Super Mario Maker 2. But Nintendo's days of confusing name-giving isn't in the past yet.
Nintendo revealed that it has partnered with BANDAI NAMCO Studios Inc. to create New Pokémon Snap, over 20 years after the original N64 version. No, the name is not a placeholder. It's official. So, unless they change the title between now and the game's release (like Ubisoft did with Immortals: Fenyx Rising), it will have a name that's dated as soon as it comes out.
This makes me fearful for what Nintendo intends to call its next Switch version. I'll be more than happy if it's given something unique sounding, but once we get in redundant or "New" territory, things will get confusing. So, please Nintendo, I want a new Nintendo Switch, just don't name it the "New Switch."
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Gaming aficionado Rebecca Spear is iMore's dedicated gaming editor with a focus on Nintendo Switch and iOS gaming. You’ll never catch her without her Switch or her iPad Air handy. If you’ve got a question about Pokémon, The Legend of Zelda, or just about any other Nintendo series check out her guides to help you out. Rebecca has written thousands of articles in the last six years including hundreds of extensive gaming guides, previews, and reviews for both Switch and Apple Arcade. She also loves checking out new gaming accessories like iPhone controllers and has her ear to the ground when it comes to covering the next big trend.