At the beginning of 2020, I wrote an article discussing reasons why the Nintendo Switch had nothing to fear from next-gen consoles. Now that we've drawn to the end of this crazy year and both the PS5 and Xbox Series X have released, my prediction has come true — Nintendo is absolutely flourishing despite not being the latest and greatest in console tech.
According to reports, the Nintendo Switch is not only the best-selling console in November, but also the best-selling video game console in 2020 thanks no doubt, in part to the popularity of Animal Crossing: New Horizons. But there's so much more to Nintendo's success. So, what exactly is it that's makes the Nintendo Switch such a popular item this Christmas season? Let's dive in, shall we?
Animal Crossing: A phenomenon during the pandemic
Part of why the Switch is so popular in 2020 must be contributed to the success of Animal Crossing: New Horizons. At the beginning of the pandemic hitting the U.S., it wasn't just toilet paper and Clorox wipes that disappeared from store shelves, but also Nintendo Switch, Xbox and PlayStation consoles as well. You might have experienced first hand how hard it was to find a Switch in stock and selling at its normal price this year. People knew they were going to be stuck inside and immediately tried to find ways to entertain themselves or tried to give their cooped up kids something to do. This expanded the video game consumer base from its dedicated audience as many more people sought an escape.
Just as fears and tensions were reaching their height in March, Animal Crossing released. To many people's surprise, it turned out to be the perfect tropical getaway that everyone needed. Now Animal Crossing has always had its following, but it had been one of Nintendo's relatively niche franchises in the past. Those beautiful island waves and picturesque summertime activities, attracted the attention of a lot of people and even allowed them to live the lives they wanted in a virtual world where the pandemic didn't exist.
Family members were able to celebrate various holidays together in-game like Easter, Independence Day, and Halloween. Friends who were unable to be near each other in-person threw virtual birthday parties or just hung out together. There was even a touching story of friends who created a suprise digital wedding within Animal Crossing for a couple that had to cancel their real-life nuptuals due to the pandemic — I'm not crying, you're crying!
Animal Crossing's appeal spans age groups and video gaming preferences. The simple gameplay appeals to those who aren't video game savvy while offering a calm experience for anyone who already loves video games. And since Animal Crossing: New Horizons is only available on the Nintendo Switch, the console's sales grew along with the life simulator's popularity.
But there's only so much of one game that can keep you entertained. After holding the slot of best-selling game for several months straight, people started looking for other titles to play. Fortunately, for anyone new to the Switch this year there were already dozens of the best Nintendo Switch games for them to turn to. Now with the holiday season approaching, many of the biggest hits are on new Switch owner's Christmas lists.
The lower price
Of course, video game consoles are still expensive for the average consumer. So, many people have waited to purchase one for a special occasion like the upcoming holidays. When comparing the Nintendo Switch to the PS5 or the Switch to the Xbox Series X, you immediately start to see some serious differences. The Switch doesn't offer the latest graphics, the fastest processors, or any of those other buzzwords you'll see connected to Sony or Microsoft's consoles. However, it is super cheap in comparison, which is something any budget-conscious shopper will immediately focus on.
Given the choice between getting the $300 Switch, the $500 PS5, or the $500 Xbox Series X for their kids this Christmas, many parents will opt for the least expensive option. This saves them $200 in the process, which they can put towards purchasing Switch accessories or games for everyone to enjoy.
On top of that, it has been incredibly difficult for many people to get their hands on the new PS5 and Xbox Series X since the consoles constantly seem to run out of stock the minute a supplier has any available. The Switch has been easier to acquire in the latter half of the year making it far easier to obtain than the other consoles.
Obviously, we're not doing a lot of traveling this year, but there are times when playing a handheld gaming system is far more convenient than hooking up to a TV. For instance, the ability to play your favorite games while another family member is using the TV or being able to entertain yourself with the Switch in hand while waiting in the car while your mother runs errands.
Back when I was willing to go on roadtrips or travel by airplane, I always brought my Nintendo Switch with me. It made the long travel hours fly by especially since I could play multiplayers with whoever I was traveling with simply by passing them a Joy-Con. Once things finally go back to normal, I'll continue to bring my favorite gaming system with me whenever I go on a trip. Hell, the fact that kids can entertain themselves for hours playing Switch during roadtrips is yet another reason why the Switch is so popular in 2020.
Several family-friendly games
Now, I'm not saying the Sony and Microsoft don't offer their own share of entertainment that both kids and adults can enjoy. However, I will say there are far more family-friendly games on the Switch that appeal to people of all ages. Not to mention, there's just something special about Nintendo's offerings. In some ways, you might consider Nintendo and its characters as an entryway into gaming.
Many people, myself included, think fondly back on the Nintendo games that helped them take their first steps into the world of gaming when they were kids. And I dare say that Nintendo's cartoony characters somehow connect to us in a far more special way than many of Sony or Microsoft's characters ever have. If nothing else, Mario, Peach, Bowser, Luigi, Link, Donkey Kong, and all those other characters are just so iconic and nostalgic.
Unlike some other kid-focused media, once you grow up, you don't outgrow these Nintendo titles. They're still fun to play and they appeal to the next generation. You can introduce your younger siblings, kids, nieces, nephews, and so on. It really makes the Nintendo Switch the perfect family console and a great option for anyone trying to decide which gaming system to purchase during the holidays.
More multiplayer options
This ties in very closely to the fact that the Switch offers family-friendly games but on a slightly different focus. Sony and Microsoft obviously both have popular multiplayers. However, more and more of these titles require everyone to own their own consoles and their own copies of the game instead of allowing folks to play together on one system. The Switch's focus is very different.
Most Switch games have a multiplayer component, even if the game is targeted more towards a single-player experience. For instance, of Nintendo Switch's ten best-selling titles of all time only one of them doesn't offer a multiplayer aspect. In comparison, only 3 of the PS4's 10 best-selling games and only four of the Xbox Ones' best-selling games offer local multiplayer. The Switch's multiplayer focus is even demonstrated in the hybrid consoles design itself. Those removable Joy-Cons can be used as individual controllers so you can immediately play with a friend whenever you want, wherever you are.
Plus, while many PlayStation and Xbox local multiplayers can only host two people, many of Nintendo's multiplayer games allow anywhere from two to eight people in local co-op. For instance, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe allows four-player split screen, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate can host up to eight players on one screen, and Luigi's Mansion 3 not only allows you to complete the main storyline with a buddy, but also lets up to eight people play the included minigames together from one Switch.
Put simply, the Switch makes for a great family present this holidays as everyone in the home can enjoy it and play games together more so than any other console.
Why Nintendo Switch is still a hit in Holiday 2020
Despite not being the latest and greatest tech, the Nintendo Switch is still one of the hottest items this holiday season. It's really no surprise given that it's helped many people get through this crazy year by entertaining them and even allowing them to interact with family and friends from a distance. Since there are so many highly anticipated titles still on the way, the Nintendo Switch will continue to entertain for years to come.
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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.