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Nintendo is already looking past the Switch – and might dump consoles entirely

Published Jan 7th, 2019 8:08PM EST
Nintendo home consoles
Image: James Sheppard/Future/REX/Shutterstock

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With Nintendo set to continue bringing its intellectual property like a new Mario Kart game to smartphones at some point this year, it’s natural to wonder what the company is thinking at this point in terms of its long-range business model and plans. Its Switch console, by all accounts, has been a major success for the beloved gaming company since its release in 2017, but even that hasn’t been enough to quiet those voices that are constantly wondering and asking aloud when the supposedly inevitable shift away from consoles would finally take place.

In an interview with Nikkei, Nintendo’s new president Shuntaro Furukawa adds more fodder for people to chew on. The big takeaway from his interview: At Nintendo, “we aren’t really fixated on our consoles,” and depending on how much external circumstances change, the company would have no problem dumping home consoles entirely if it ever came to that.

Nintendo was approaching having sold 23 million units of the Switch worldwide as 2018 came to a close, which underscores that, for the moment at least, consoles remain a significant revenue driver for the company. For now, Furukawa explained according to a translation of his interview, “we’re offering the uniquely developed Nintendo Switch and its software — and that’s what we’re basing how we deliver the ‘Nintendo experience’ on.

“That being said, technology changes. We’ll continue to think flexibly about how to deliver that experience as time goes on … Nintendo’s history goes back even farther than that, and through all the struggles that they faced, the only thing that they thought about was what to make next.” The company’s focus, in other words, shouldn’t be primarily focused on making gorgeous hardware along with the games that run on it. Flexibility, in Furukaway’s words, “is just as important as ingenuity.”

Certainly, comments like these don’t come as a surprise. Even before taking over as president of the storied company, Nintendo’s then-president in waiting was already touting his ambition to build up the company’s smartphone gaming side into the equivalent of a $910 million business. A complete breakaway, in other words, from the past orthodoxy at the company that Nintendo games needed to run on Nintendo hardware.

Fortune notes in a piece today that Furukawa is already making a name for himself as a game-changer at Nintendo, no pun intended. His other goals include expanding the Switch’s sales territory to encompass a focus on the Middle East and Southeast Asia, and he also wants to shake up the company’s internal approval structure so it can make product decisions better and faster.

“Despite the talk,” Fortune adds, “it’s unlikely (the) Switch will be the company’s last console. Sony and Microsoft are both working on next generation products and Nintendo has quietly been looking hard at game streaming devices in Japan, a technology that many believe will be the future of the video game industry.”

Andy Meek Trending News Editor

Andy Meek is a reporter based in Memphis who has covered media, entertainment, and culture for over 20 years. His work has appeared in outlets including The Guardian, Forbes, and The Financial Times, and he’s written for BGR since 2015. Andy's coverage includes technology and entertainment, and he has a particular interest in all things streaming.

Over the years, he’s interviewed legendary figures in entertainment and tech that range from Stan Lee to John McAfee, Peter Thiel, and Reed Hastings.