Study: Most nongamers don’t know what Nintendo Switch is

Allegra Frank

New Nielsen data finds the Switch has its work cut out for it

The Nintendo Switch hasn’t quite left an impression with those who don’t identify as gamers, according to a new report by Nielsen. The marketing research firm released the 2017 edition of its annual report on U.S. consumers’ gaming habits, awareness and behaviors, with data pointing to the Switch in particular failing to ring any bells for nongamers.

Just 7 percent of survey participants in the nongamer category said they’d heard of Nintendo Switch. (This self-identified group is composed of people over the age of 13, with results drawn from more than 2,000 online surveys.) More than half of nongamers interviewed had heard of PlayStation 4, by comparison; 41 percent were aware of Xbox One.

Considering when this survey was conducted, it’s easy to see how the mainstream consumer body could be unaware of the Switch. Nielsen collects data for its annual “Games 360” report during the first quarter of each year; that typically ends on March 31. The Switch didn’t hit retail until March 3. Even though marketing for the console began ahead of its release, it’s possible that ads and previews breezed by the average consumer until the console actually came to stores.

The Switch’s current lack of mainstream stickiness stands in contrast to the Wii. The Wii made waves as the video game console for the masses, finding a place in homes of nontraditional players. In 2016, for example, an AARP survey found that of those over 50 who owned a console, the majority had a Wii by a large margin. Its motion controls and casual-minded games helped lead it to wild, record sales that have yet to be replicated by any subsequent home console — including the Wii U, which borrowed the Wii’s name with little commercial success.

As the newest system on the block, there’s time for improvement

To Nintendo’s credit, the Switch perked up more nongamers’ ears than at least one competitor. Only 3 percent of survey participants were aware of Xbox Scorpio, the codename for Microsoft’s high-powered Xbox One revamp. Microsoft has said little about that system yet, although it’s expected to be a large part of the company’s E3 presence this year.

As for how many gamers know of the Switch, 29 percent said they’d heard of it. That’s a bit more than the PlayStation 4 Pro and way ahead of Xbox Scorpio. Nielsen’s results found that just 22 percent of the general population overall was aware of the Switch by the end of the first quarter of 2017, which isn’t stellar — but as the newest system on the block, there’s plenty of time for improvement.

Besides, a lack of nongamer awareness hasn’t had that much of an impact on demand or sales. The Switch set records as Nintendo’s fastest selling console ever, beating out the Wii’s launch with nearly a million systems sold in March.