It’s been almost four days since Nintendo threw back the veil on it’s Nintendo Switch console. Those who’ve had hands on time with the console gush about how seamless the experience is, saying the device is a real game changer. It’s the kind of news fans want to hear and its wonderful to see gamers getting excited about a console that seemingly had momentum.
Yet it didn’t take long for such positive headlines to give way to some home truths about the device. The Nintendo Switch should have been basking in the after-glow of its presentation on Friday. Yet in the past 72 hours, the console has come under increasing fire. As information has trickled out, the device has become a magnet for discontent. Terribly thought out ideas, misinformation and a general feeling that Nintendo has, yet again, failed to stick the landing with a device that has all the potential in the world and squandered the early momentum it had going for it.
Because the Nintendo Switch is, in theory, a brilliant device. Who doesn’t want to take their AAA-games on the go with them? Who doesn’t want to play a full-fat Legend of Zelda title on their travels or play a console quality Mario Kart game among friends without being tethered to the living room? This is every gamers dream device and marketed right, could shift the dynamic of the console industry away from increasing futile race for 4K/8K/Special K. While those advancements only benefit the few, Nintendo’s attempt to bridge the handheld and console markets should be applauded. How many older gamers don’t have time to sit in front of their TV and play extended periods of Legend of Zelda or Mario because of commitments?
So why then is Nintendo muddying the waters with pointless fluff and features that distract from this core message? Why include features such as motion controls (Which few gamers still have the appetite for), 3D Rumble (Which will likely be relegated to afterthought by third-party developers) and mention a new premium online service that only confused the message? The latter in particular has come under for some incredibly hostile fire from gamers, who have been given next to no reason to believe a premium online network could be possibly worth it. This hasn’t been helped by Nintendo’s every sentence on the service sounding like an awkward parody. Voice chat on a mobile phone app? Monthly games only being rented? These aren’t the ways to sell your new console – they sound out-of-place in the modern gaming industry.
This sadly isn’t new for Nintendo, despite being a long-term flaw within the company. It’s poor ability to convey the Wii U’s unique features tripped that console up at launch, and there’s a feeling the same might be about to happen again. Rather than market the device as a portable console first, it seems Nintendo would rather gamers see the Switch as a home console first, portable second. It’s mind-boggling and only invites the kind of unflattering comparisons that the company seems eager to avoid – on fronts where they should be playing to their strengths.
The part that frustrates me more about Nintendo is that it shouldn’t be a hard sell. I’ve always rushed out to buy Nintendo’s hardware because Nintendo always offers something different. While my friends gushed about the original PlayStation, I was happy playing Goldeneye and Mario Kart on the Nintendo 64. While my brother couldn’t wait to get a PlayStation 2, I was only asking for a Gamecube. Heck, I still remember queuing up for the launch of the Nintendo DS and taking that console into high school the next – wowing people with what they saw. Most of them hadn’t heard of a DS – but they wanted one after seeing it. That’s the kind of momentum Nintendo has always thrived on.
Yet despite this Nintendo’s never understood when to let a good thing die. The company seems so arrogant when it comes to its direction – so fixated on the desire to be unique – that it doesn’t realize the detriment this causes. It’s why the Nintendo Wii U was such a cluttered mess of parts, a console that didn’t know if it wanted to be a more powerful Wii or a new platform entirely. It just makes me question why Nintendo just couldn’t keep it simple with Switch. Have one big gimmick that makes sense, not multiple ones tucked away that probably add nothing to the experience. Did this new console really need motion controls as well as a portable gimmick? Did Nintendo’s fans ask for titles like 1-2-Switch, because in many people’s eyes that’s the kind of overpriced garbage that could quickly sink Switch’s momentum.
The Nintendo Switch has the potential to change the way we experience games, but Nintendo’s initial showcase has done more to distract from the potential than deliver it. Time will tell if Nintendo can clear this mess up, but with less than two months to go before the console hits gamers hands – they need to sort their house out now. They need to focus on the devices strengths, push out a clear marketing message and stop trying to shove innovation where it’s not needed. Focus on the core game experience.
The last thing we want is another Nintendo Wii U situation to unfold – but right now it’s hard to escape the feeling that the momentum isn’t all in Nintendo’s favor. Can they get the consoles message back on track?