Nintendo boss Bowser on Switch Lite sales, 3DS support, and tiny retro consoles

Photo by Michael Kovac/Getty Images for Nintendo

As Nintendo approaches this holiday season, the company seems to be in a good position. The streamlined Switch Lite launched in September and has already seen impressive sales, moving 1.85 million units in its first month, while new Pokémon games are on the horizon, joining other recent releases like Luigi’s Mansion 3 and Ring Fit Adventure. All told, the Switch has sold more than 40 million units, which puts it on pace to surpass the iconic SNES some time in the coming months.

While December 25th is still a ways away, the holidays begin now for Nintendo; today, the company announced its Black Friday plans, which include steep discounts on games and a Switch bundle that includes a free copy of Mario Kart 8 Deluxe. Ahead of the announcement, I had the chance to talk to Nintendo of America president Doug Bowser about the Switch Lite’s early success, the future of the 3DS, and much more. Here are the most interesting tidbits.

On the Switch Lite expanding the audience for the platform

“It’s not only raised the sell-through for the overall family, but importantly it did so without any negative impact on our flagship system,” Bowser says of Switch Lite sales. “Said another way, Nintendo Switch Lite sales have been additive to the overall Switch business.”

Meanwhile, during Nintendo’s most recent earnings report, the company revealed that 43 percent of Switch Lite owners were buying the device as a second system. That’s an important part of Nintendo’s stated goal of having multiple Switches in family homes, but Bowser also looks at it from a different perspective.

“I’ll talk to the inverse, which is 57 percent of the consumers are new to the Nintendo Switch family, and that’s equally important to us as we continue to expand the audience,” he says. “One of the important trends we’re also seeing with Nintendo Switch Lite is a higher percent of female consumers are buying a Nintendo Switch Lite, which is a strong indicator of the appeal to a broader audience.”

On the future of the Nintendo 3DS

“We continue to look at the 3DS family, both hardware and games, as a strong entry point for some consumers. And we’re seeing that. As long as consumer demand is there, we’ll continue to provide both hardware and software on that front.” When asked when it will be appropriate to say the 3DS is dead as a platform, Bowser says “We’re certainly not going to say it today. I think time will tell. We will continue to support 3DS this holiday and into 2020.”

Photo by Amelia Holowaty Krales / The Verge

On the difficulties of sharing Nintendo accounts across multiple Switch units

“There’s nothing to talk about at this point,” Bowser says of plans to make the process easier. “There is the ability to transfer data and to designate which is your primary device and which is a secondary device, and those instructions are available on nintendo.com. But we’re also looking at the experiences our consumers are having, and we’re always looking for opportunities to improve and enhance those experiences.”

On how the company dealt with the plague of “Joy-Con drift

“Our goal is always, always to create quality products, and products that ensure gamers are having a great experience,” Bowser says. “We are continuously looking at ways to improve our products as we go forward, but in the end we want consumers to have a great experience. And if in any case they’re not having that experience, we encourage them to contact our customer support groups and we’ll do our best to help them through that. That has been how we’ve been handling our consumers over the last few months as issues like this have arisen, and we believe that consumers are finding their way back to great gameplay experiences.”

On whether we’ll ever see another tiny plug-and-play retro console

“Our focus right now is absolutely on our dedicated platforms such as Nintendo Switch Lite and our flagship Nintendo Switch,” Bowser explains. “I think with the gameplay experiences you saw with some of our classic consoles that we launched a few years ago, they’re now available on Nintendo Switch Online, and this is where our focus will be.”

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Comments

"Nintendo boss Bowser…" hehehehe

This is never going to be let go, is it?

If I was applying for President of NoA and saw the other leading candidate’s name was Bowser… I’d be pissed.

If I am working at Nintendo and my name is Mario I’d be cautious.

God, I love Nintendo, but why do they have to be so… Nintendo about everything. The account sharing between Switches just doesn’t work. And bringing out the N64 games (either as part of Switch online or as a N64 mini) would make them millions. I guess it’s a strategy of delayed gratification, but it can be so frustrating as a consumer.

If account sharing was simple I would immediately buy a Switch Lite.

Put Retroarch on your Switch and enjoy N64 emulation.

Because they actually care about protecting kids even more than they care about making more money or making convenient UI for adult fans.

Protect kids from…? Playing Donkey Kong 64? Just kidding. If you are talking about account sharing, there’s a variety of ways they could do family sharing while implementing robust parental controls. Saying "it’s for the kids!" is lazy, and ignores a huge part of their market – which they aggressively target with games such as Astral Chain or Bayonetta.

I don’t find account sharing particularly that difficult. And it’s not unlike accounts on PS4. You have to assign a primary machine, and secondary machines can only play digital games when connected. So make the Lite your primary Switch so you can play games when not connected, and let your original Switch be your home unit, where it will always be connected.

And bringing out the N64 games (either as part of Switch online or as a N64 mini) would make them millions

I honestly don’t know if a mini console with four decent games would really move that many units. The N64 era is an awkward time for games. Look at the PlayStation Classic. Sure, Sony messed up on multiple fronts, but the games of that era really don’t drive sales. There’s a sharp decline in the timelessness of games in the immediate post 16-bit era.

I don’t honestly know what’s difficult. I bought a Switch Lite and had it on my Nintendo account in about five minutes. I think there was a question in the signup about which Switch I wanted to be my primary one, but that was the only thing different about linking it to my account than if it was my first and only Switch.

What problem are people actually having?

I’m the first to call out Nintendo about stuff like this (if you feel like digging through my comment history, have at it), but I’m just not sure what could be any simpler about sharing an account between Switches.

The difficulty is my wife and kids can’t play games I purchase digitally on my account on our household switch if my Lite is my primary, so I end up having to buy the same games twice. The Lite has to remain the primary in order to play digital games on it offline, in other words, for it to be truly a portable on-the-go system. Additionally, the fact that they lock all my digital content on my secondary switch when playing a digital game on the primary, regardless of which game it is, makes no sense. For example, I can’t play Mario Kart on one Switch while my kid plays Zelda on another. On our XBox One consoles, we can play several of my digital games on multiple consoles simultaneously with no issue.

Lots of "nothing to say at this moment".

"Our focus right now is absolutely on our dedicated platforms such as Nintendo Switch Lite and our flagship Nintendo Switch," Bowser explains. "I think with the gameplay experiences you saw with some of our classic consoles that we launched a few years ago, they’re now available on Nintendo Switch Online, and this is where our focus will be."

I have a Nintendo Switch, but I’d absolutely buy a Gameboy Classic, provided it has great battery life and comes with a fair amount of preloaded gameboy pocket/color/advance games.

I miss Reggie…

If Nintendo wants to keep people interested in the 3/2DS, then they ought to release more games for it or, failing that have sales for their digital titles beyond those cheap direct to sales titles. Games people would actually like to play, like their emulated game titles (NES/SNES/GB titles), or some of their regular 3/2DS titles.

But despite what Bowser says, it seems obvious to me that Nintendo hopes people will just transition to the Switch Lite. And I’m not interested in doing that yet, not when I have a 2DSXL I got on launch not more than a couple of years ago.

This all sounds like stuff Bowser would say.

our consumers

Sorry Bowser, I think you mean customers. I counted 5 incorrect uses of that word in this article.

Once they pay for a service or product you make, they’re a customer. Consumers are potential customers.

Worthless article. Might as well be interviewing a corporate-speak Magic 8-Ball.

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