I’ll be honest, when Nintendo first announced the Switch I was a sceptic. Sure, it was a clever concept but isn’t it a bit… weird? Wouldn’t it suffer from the same problems as the disastrous Wii U, one of the biggest being the relatively meagre library of games to choose from?
It turns out that I’m dramatically wrong. According to our exclusive data analysis, Switch currently has more than three times as many games at this point than the Wii U did, and more than double those of the original Wii. Even more impressive is that the games the Switch has are, on average, better than those on its predecessors.
How We Figured It Out
We downloaded data on over 18,000 games and 250,000 reviews listed on the aggregator Metacritic. For as many games that had listed release dates (the overwhelming majority), we then calculated how many titles were available for the system on a given number of days from launch.
We downloaded this data at the end of December – on the Switch’s 279th day on the market, so the it’s accurate until that point.
There are important caveats. This dataset relies on Metacritic’s own data being correct – which we believe it is. In any dataset this large there are bound to be some errors, but we think the sample is large enough for them not to matter.
Here’s a chart showing the number of games available for Switch, Wii U and the original Wii plotted against the number of days since launch – ending on the 279th day.
What’s incredibly striking is just how much the Switch has taken off versus the Wii and Wii U.
Despite a strong launch lineup with New Super Mario Bros and a bunch of high-profile third party ports, the Wii U piled on games at a fairly glacial pace. Interestingly, the original Wii wasn’t actually that much better – though presumably we remember it differently due to the phenomenal success of Wii Sports as a cultural moment.
By day 279, the Switch had 191 games available, a number the Wii U didn’t match until it’s 857th day – as many games in nine months as as its predecessor had in two years and four months.
How to explain this is up for debate. Could it be better support for developers from Nintendo? Could it be smaller games in the e-shop making the barriers to entry lower so games can be pumped out more quickly?
The longer term picture also looks healthy for the Switch — though we wonder whether the phenomenal rate of releases can be sustained. Perhaps it will be the opposite of the original Wii? As you can see above, after about 300 days the original Wii started to rapidly see more software as developers reacted to the console’s success. Poor old Wii U on the other hand remained sluggish throughout its life – and died much sooner than the Wii.
We’ve also plotted the Switch release schedule against the PS4 and Xbox One and, surprisingly, the data shows that Switch has even more games at this point than those consoles did.
What this means for Switch is hard to project. The games market (and shift from physical to digital releases) is obviously very different now to how it was when the Wii was released in 2006. So perhaps given the relative ease of download releases, the rate will continue to increase? Conversely, though the Switch is popular and successful amongst gamers, there’s no indication of a Wii-level of crossover appeal to people who wouldn’t normally identify as gamers, meaning that the system’s incredible momentum might not last.
But Are The Games Any Good?
Switch is seeing an awful lot more games than its predecessors, which raises an obvious question. Are the games actually any good? What’s the point in having more to play if everything is crap?
To find out, we looked at review scores. Metacritic standardises scores to a scale of 1-100 so that reviews from different outlets can be compared and ranked. This means that if an outlet gave a game four stars out of five, that becomes a score of 80, and a score of 7 out of 10 becomes 70, and so on.
We filtered our data to only include games scored 80 or more, to see how the three generations compare with each other.
This graph is kinda crazy. The data appears to suggest that, in a much shorter amount of time, the Switch has many multiples of actually good games compared to the Wii U and Wii. The amazing thing is the timescale, because this shows Switch on course to have as many good games as Wii ever had after roughly a year of release.
After this we also filtered the list based on the number of reviews, limiting it to only include games with 40 or more reviews (multiplatform games includes reviews on other formats when measuring the quantity of reviews, though we only took scores listed for the specific Switch/Wii/Wii U versions into account). The reasoning here is that it should filter out any games that are basically insignificant releases, or those with so few reviews that they could risk skewing the data. But even in this case, the Switch is still on top by this point in the life-cycle.
If we were to wildly speculate, we’d perhaps suggest one factor here is how digital downloads make it easier for already successful, high-scoring indie games to be ported over more easily. Not only is the smaller developer ecosystem more mature than during Wii and Wii U’s time, but there’s also a rich catalogue of indie darlings just waiting for the perfect portable console to play ‘em on – with no need for the expensive hassle of physical release.
In any case, the data is clear: Compared to the Wii U, and even the wildly successful Wii, all indicators are that the Switch is massively outperforming its predecessors both in terms of quality and quantity of games. And that can only be a very good thing for Nintendo and gamers alike.
If you enjoyed this article, check out our comparison of the big three video games platform holders' software production.