The Challenges Nintendo Switches Faces
By Dave Hill
The longest running console maker, Nintendo, is poised to once again deliver a console that the world doesn’t quite know what to do with. The Switch, which is just under two weeks from being released, is the legendary video game company’s approach to a world where gaming and mobile tech are at all-time highs. Like the Wii and the Wii-U, a console is being delivered that has the world collectively looking at it with curiosity and trepidation.
While the Wii was a surprise hit, the Wii-U was a flop. What will the Switch be? The enigma around Nintendo consoles is that it has been hard to predict how they will be received by the gaming community. The Wii’s novelty surprised us all, while the Wii-U left us not understanding what this console wanted to be and craving more game offerings from Nintendo.
Given all this, the Switch has some challenges ahead. As a relatively underpowered home console and portable machine many are wondering how it will fair in today’s market with 4K gaming consoles, and mobile phones/tablets dominating the mobile gaming market.
How will it attract third party developers in ways it has not been able to in recent history?
Will Nintendo deliver a game line-up compelling enough to get gamers excited about the Switch?
If their earlier projected numbers are correct, Nintendo has already sold their 2 million units slated for the launch, which is not a bad start.
Both Sony and Microsoft have or will be releasing unprecedented mid-generation updates. While a refresh is not unheard of, these new “4K Ready” consoles are a boost to the hardware. This focus on higher performing specs is not a philosophy Nintendo has shared in 15 years; opting instead to innovate how gamers actually play their games. Some might argue that this can make Nintendo consoles less appealing, but the spike in indie games which usually have very low power requirements shows us that lower-powered games can still be very successful.
The trade-off for this lower-powered console is that its mobile; a big selling point for Nintendo. While mobile gaming is big, its big on mobile devices that have almost entirely saturated the market; smart phone and tablets. Also, the company has had a lot of success with its DS platforms which almost makes the decision to have a flagship console.
Why compete with yourself when you have an already successful product in the 3DS?
Nintendo says it doesn’t consider the two platforms to be similar enough to compete with one another. As for the rest of the mobile gaming market? Well it’s probably fair to say that it doesn’t compare to the offerings Nintendo will have on their new console. Phones and tablets are flooded with free-to-play/play-to-win fluff that ultimately can’t offer a robust gaming experience that you can expect from games like Zelda or a full Mario game.
While the Japanese-based company might not be focused on performance power, they are focused on making the Switch third party friendly. Previously, their systems were based on modified chipsets, requiring special attention when porting games to work on the system, making this less appealing to third party developers. This, coupled with the poor sales of the Wii-U were that console’s ultimate downfall. Nintendo has learned from this however, and is using a standard chip that will make it easier for third party developers to make their games work on the Switch. Further, in a recent interview, Nintendo’s Masaru Mitsuyoshi and Capcom’s Masaru Ijuin discussed how Capcom’s role in early testing helped influence the console Nintendo is about to release. This is pretty strong evidence that Nintendo is serious when they say they are eager to work with third party developers and create a platform that will appeal to them.
Despite this work, Nintendo has been criticized for the lack of launch titles they have, which to date stands at 10. Zelda: Breath of the Wild stands out as the largest by far, but “I Am Setsuna” is also coming as a launch title as is the cult hit, The Binding of Isaac: Afterbirth+. But the true challenge for Nintendo will be to continue to attract third party games as the system saturates into the market. Nintendo has also said that they want to pace their game release schedule rather than flood the market with tons of games all at once. This strategy could make sense for the company since they may be waiting to see what sort of reception the hybrid console will receive. A careful balancing act is required in this case – as a lack of games could hurt the console’s sales even if gamers love the hardware.
Time will tell how the Switch will do, but Nintendo looks ready to meet those challenges and offer us a unique gaming experience. Working with third party developers (and finally giving us another damn Zelda game) could be the boost Nintendo needs to return as a competitor in the home console market. We’ll do a review of the console as well, so come back and check us out to hear our thoughts on it.
Until next time,
The GamingU Team
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