In a preview video just over three minutes in length, Nintendo managed to effectively communicate what its new console is, what it does and why you’re going to want one when it releases in March next year.
It’s a message that was lost on its previous home console, the Wii U – a console that was a commercial flop and has only managed to achieve one-tenth of the sales of the Nintendo Wii, making it Nintendo’s slowest-selling console of all time.
Yet, the phenomenal failures of the Wii U seem to have served as a learning curve for Nintendo. The console managed to achieve its fair share of criticism in its four-year lifespan; criticism that would rightfully raise concern about how Nintendo will handle the release of their next home console.
Thankfully, from everything we’ve seen of the Nintendo Switch so far, it’s a sign that Nintendo has learned valuable lessons from the mistakes it made with the Wii U. Nintendo’s hybrid console is the realization of its strength in the handheld market, and this new console will shape the future of mobile gaming.
Nintendo Is Dipping Its Toes Into the Mobile Market
Despite the success of its portable consoles, it’s only recently that Nintendo has been dipping its toes into the mobile market. Nintendo is well-known for being extremely protective of its intellectual property and has frequently turned down requests for its characters to appear on other platforms – that is, until recently.
In 2015, it announced it would partner with Japanese mobile gaming firm, DeNA, to release five free-to-play games onto smartphones. Shortly afterwards, it announced a new partnership with Activision to bring characters such as Donkey Kong and Bowser to the world of Skylanders. Nintendo's most recent partnership with Apple will see Super Mario Run landing on iOS in December this year.
We now know that the Nintendo Switch will be powered by a custom version of Nvidia’s Tegra processor. The same technology can be found in many smartphones and tablets, which begs the question: will we be able to play titles such as the upcoming Super Mario Run on the Nintendo Switch?
Nintendo would be wise to allow players to share its digital titles across multiple platforms. Failing that, it would be great to see Nintendo offer discount incentives if they already own a digital license for certain titles.
The new Mario Kart footage shown during the reveal looked strikingly similar to Mario Kart 8, with the exception of some new features (King Boo and multiple item slots).
Nintendo Switch won’t feature backwards compatibility, but if we can expect to see titles such as Mario Kart 8 and Splatoon on the Switch – albeit with new features – it would be a shame if people who already owned them had to purchase them again at full price.
The Switch Needs Better Third-Party Support
This new console can’t afford the same slow start as the Wii U and Nintendo 3DS – it must launch with a strong selection of both first-party and third-party titles. The Wii U was lacking in third-party support, despite the best efforts of Ubisoft, which would try its hardest to make titles such as Assassin’s Creed and Watch Dogs appealing to Nintendo fans.
Ultimately, a small handful of AAA games wasn’t enough to garner the interest of players who would want much more than the first party titles that Nintendo has to offer – especially when these third party titles look lackluster in comparison to their Xbox One and PlayStation 4 counterparts. Many companies abandoned the Wii U as quickly as two years after its release.
And then we catch a glimpse of Bethesda’s masterpiece, Skyrim, being played on the Nintendo Switch. Not only Skyrim on a Nintendo console – an idea that would have been laughed at years ago – but a new, now portable Skyrim; one that looks as visually impressive as it does on the PlayStation 4 or Xbox One.
As more and more developers realize the growing potential of the mobile market, we’re going to see a lot of great third-party titles available on Nintendo Switch. Nintendo revealed a list of confirmed partners for the Switch – comprising nearly 50 companies in total – including Bethesda, From Software, Square Enix and Bandai Namco.
Nintendo Is Targeting More Mature Gamers
While the marketing for Nintendo's handheld consoles, the Nintendo 2DS in particular, has focused on hitting a demographic of younger players, the Switch trailer featured more mature gamers with not a child in sight.
Nintendo is always going to be associated with a family-friendly image, and rightfully so – their focus has always been on "playing together"; shared experiences are powerful experiences in the world of video games. As a marketing tool, they’re fantastic and Nintendo has drawn from the success of the Wii in hoping to appeal to a large demographic of twentysomethings.
The tone of the video showed signs of a more mature Nintendo. The opening footage of that guy playing Zelda: Breath of The Wild in the dark, late at night, is an image that will hit home with many gamers. Anyone who has found themselves truly immersed in a Legend of Zelda title will surely be able to recount the number of sleepless nights where they’ve simply been too absorbed to put down the controller.
This trailer is a love letter to the Nintendo fans who have been there from the start; one that recognizes the pace of an adult lifestyle but insists that the Nintendo Switch is a necessity on your journey through adulthood, yours to take with you wherever you please.
Nintendo Is Finally Embracing the Competitive Side of Gaming
One of the most interesting parts of the video was the e-sports footage focusing on Nintendo’s Wii U shooter, Splatoon. In an age where e-sports is exploding at an unprecedented pace – where prize pools for games such as Halo, Dota 2 and Call of Duty can reach up to $20 million – Nintendo has slowly demonstrated that it’s embracing the competitive side of gaming.
The Nintendo World Championships at E3 2015 showcased the intense competition that could be found in Super Mario Maker. The growing success of the competitive side of titles such as Pokémon and Super Smash Bros. shows that Nintendo is well aware of this market’s potential and will continue to embrace it into the future.
Ultimately, one of the main factors that will determine the success of the Switch will be its price. It’s likely that there could be two options available from launch – similar to the basic and pro models of the Wii U. While features such as the Pro Controller were shown in the NX reveal, It’s unlikely that this will launch with the basic model of the consoles due to the cost of the controller.
Current rumors (many of them a result of an apparent placeholder by retailer, Tesco) are leading many to believe that the console will start retailing at $299. Whatever the price, Nintendo will need to price it so it's appealing to the mass market. The company should be wary of the price tags its respective competition is carrying and do their best to make Switch’s price seem competitive.
The Switch Is a Step in the Right Direction
Nintendo’s new console is a step in the right direction. By embracing its strength in the handheld market, Nintendo’s unification of mobile and console gaming is set to shake up the gaming landscape as we know it.
What remains to be seen is if Nintendo will make the right decisions when it comes to cross-play, third-party support and pricing, as these will ultimately decide the fate of the console.
Whatever your stance on Nintendo, this is a great time to be excited for the future of gaming.
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