TOKYO: Nintendo’s Switch console went on sale Friday in a global launch seen as key to the Japanese videogame giant reversing flagging sales and moving past the failure of its last console, the Wii U.
The $299 unit, which works both at home and on the go, blends the Super Mario maker’s history in the console and handheld device business with its fledgling mobile gaming strategy, which got a big brand win after Pokemon Go’s success last summer.
Eager gamers queued up from early Friday morning at stores across Japan as Switch went on sale around 9:00 am local time.
Kyoto-based Nintendo is aiming to move about two million Switch consoles in its first month. Strong demand for the new unit would help Nintendo move on from poor sales of Wii U, released in 2012.
It marked a disappointing follow-up to the smash hit Wii, which sold over 100 million units worldwide after its launch a decade ago.
Switch has a removable screen that lets players dock it at home and also use it on the go like a tablet with detachable controllers — called Joy-Con — on both sides.
The idea is to give gamers a more immersive experience with realistic physical sensations matched to what is happening on-screen.
A remote control feature means players can take their eyes away from the screen to face off.
There are only eight games available for the system initially, including a Legend of Zelda offering. But there are scores more in the pipeline, Nintendo has said.
“I’ve been a Zelda fan for a long time so I really want to immerse myself in the universe as soon as possible,” office worker Yoko Kosuge told AFP.
“I’ve used my day off to come buy it and I’ll try it as soon as I’m home.”
Kosuge was among the 400-odd gamers queuing up at a major retailer in Tokyo’s Ikebukuro district from early Friday morning.
“This is the first time I’ve bought a Nintendo console,” said another eager gamer, 25-year-old Yuki Matsuzaki.
“I purchased the PlayStation 4, but the appeal of this Nintendo unit is the action and storyline in the games.”
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An outlet of major electronics retailer Yodobashi Camera in Kawasaki near Tokyo said it has no extra stock to sell to customers who had not pre-ordered their units.
In past years, Nintendo has scored hits with traditional home consoles, such as the Nintendo 64, and portable devices like GameBoy and the DS handheld.
“Switch is probably one of the most important consoles for Nintendo in the past decades,” said Serkan Toto, a Tokyo-based games industry consultant.
“It’s the first time where Nintendo basically combines portable games and home console games into one device.”
But trying to score a win in two different markets has risks, Toto added.
“Some people could say that Nintendo is trying to kill two birds with one stone and that it could actually land in the middle and not really catch any of the target groups,” he said.
Nintendo’s Tokyo-listed stock jumped 3.6 percent Friday.
The company has been under pressure to fix its weak finances — revenue has been falling for years — as it goes head to head with console maker rivals Microsoft and Sony, which has racked up huge sales of its PlayStation 4.
More than 53 million units of the PS4 have been sold globally since its debut in late 2013.
In a bid to revive its fortunes, Nintendo abandoned a long-held consoles-only policy and decided to enter the smartphone game market.
Last year, the Donkey Kong maker released “Miitomo” — a free-to-play and interactive game.
It scored another hit with the Pokemon Go app released in July, but the impact on profits will be limited as Nintendo did not actually develop the game.
In December, Nintendo released the Super Mario Run game for iPhones, which topped download charts and drew tens of millions of downloads.