Of all the big technology stories of 2017, Nintendo’s return to centre stage in the gaming world has been one of the biggest triumphs.
Before the Japanese firm launched the Nintendo Switch in March, serious questions were being asked by some of the company’s place in the world – could it still be competitive at the top of the gaming hardware market?
That question, and any other doubts over Nintendo’s future are no longer being asked.
Though it only went on sale in the spring, the Nintendo Switch has already sold more than 10 million units, on course to match the Wii, the company’s most successful console.
A quirky idea in theory, the Switch and its home/mobile hybrid gaming setup has grabbed the public imagination, and crucially is now also thriving thanks to success for Nintendo on the software side of things too.
That’s because this year has also seen the launch of two of the most well-reviewed games in the company’s recent history.
The Legend Of Zelda: Breath Of The Wild and Super Mario Odyssey are flagship titles for the Switch, and both won lavish praise for what they offered as games, but also what they brought to the Switch.
Playing the vast open world of Zelda at home, then taking it with you on your commute to work is a obvious yet deep thrill that never really wears off.
While Mario’s new companion Cappy and his ability to take control of enemies and other characters added a new dimension to Odyssey, and a series that is still brilliant more than 30 years after it first launched.
Both games are now featuring heavily in ‘games of the year’ lists, while the Switch itself is also regularly featuring in conversations on the best gadget of 2017.
Add to this five-star top line a growing list of third-party ports that look fresh again on the new console format and the result is a system that looks incredibly healthy going into the new year.
Context is also crucial to this success story – Nintendo has achieved this stellar year in the midst of strong competition from the big two – PlayStation and Xbox.
PlayStation has been busy adding to what is the best gaming line-up in the industry, most notably this year through exclusive title Horizon: Zero Dawn, while Microsoft rolled out the much anticipated Xbox One X, a hardware so powerful that it rightly comes with the tag the “world’s most powerful console”.
To have stood out amid such competition is admirable.
But it’s not just through its flagship console that Nintendo has seen success in the last year. Nostalgia remains a powerful emotion connected to the brand, and nowhere is that more apparent that with the release of the SNES Classic Mini, the second generation of miniature devices based on the company’s old consoles.
Such was the public demand for the SNES Mini that supplies quickly ran out everywhere, driving some to despair and others to different sources with higher prices.
The lack of supply was a blemish in a great 12 months for the company – it’s becoming something of a theme after a similar incident with the NES Classic Mini last year and in some quarters with the Switch.
Despite this hiccup, it has been a stand-out year for the gaming firm, to such an extent that it will be difficult to replicate in 2018 – a major console release and returns for two of its biggest franchises, all of which have wowed consumers, is quite a 12 months for anyone.
For now however, Nintendo can savour a return to the top of the gaming world, alongside its heavyweight rivals – a place many long-standing gaming fans will say it deserves to be.