When the going got tough, Nintendo and Microsoft decided to go for broke on video-game strategy

Facing speculation that they would have to reboot or rethink their video game businesses to respond to rival Sony’s dominance, Nintendo and Microsoft instead doubled down on what makes their devices stand out.

LOS ANGELES — Nintendo was hemmed in on both sides and in deep trouble.

The company’s Wii U video-game console, an effort to add a small, semiportable screen to the hit motion-sensing Wii, was a flop. And Nintendo’s handheld consoles, descendants of the legendary Game Boy, were suffering as people opted to play games on smartphones instead.

This was in 2014, the year the Japanese gaming giant recorded its third consecutive annual loss, a setback that followed decades of profitability. Critics called for the company to reboot its hardware, or perhaps reduce the emphasis on its own devices by bringing beloved characters like “Super Mario” or “Zelda” to smartphones.

Nintendo Switch

Release: March 2017

Retail price: $299

Pitch: A tablet-sized console that can plug into your TV or play on the go.

Features: Motion-sensing “Joy Con” controllers work as a traditional controller, can snap to the side of the Switch for mobile play, or be held in the hand.

Microsoft Xbox One X

Scheduled release: November 7, 2017

Retail price: $499

Pitch: A more-compact Xbox that packs more power for hard-core gamers.

Features: Support high-definition games displayed on 4K televisions, powered by a graphics processing unit with 6 teraflops of performance.

Source: Microsoft, Nintendo

“You gotta either go back and do something that’s more (traditional) consolelike, or go forward and do something that’s all motion, like the Wii,” said Phil Spencer, the head of Microsoft’s Xbox gaming business, describing the prevailing industry opinion at the time.


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