In just a couple of months Nintendo’s new console, the Nintendo Switch, will hit the market. The hype of the reveal and the way which it has been marketed have given the console some big shoes to fill. There’s no question that these devices will fly off the shelves at its release, but will it outsell its predecessor, the Wii U? Perhaps more importantly, will it survive among the other big players currently filling the console scene? It’s clear that Nintendo has taken steps to ensure that the Switch is not as big of a bust as the Wii U, and I’m fairly confident that it will do better over the long term. That being said though, the Switch has some major flaws which I think will make the console fail.
I don’t think I was the only one who was excited after seeing the Nintendo Switch preview. Seeing the likes of Bethesda’s Skyrim running on mobile hardware is insanely exciting and it’s hugely impressive. Yet after some further reflection, the shine comes off that initial wow factor somewhat when you look at the reality. Skyrim is one of the bigger third-party games announced for the console up to now As impressive as it is to see Bethesda’s latest Elder Scrolls title running on Switch, that title is six years old.
Yes the Remastered Edition was just released this past year, but Switch users will have to wait until the end of 2017 to play it on their handheld – and even then there’s speculation that this version of the game won’t be the same as the one that appeared on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. Likewise EA has announced that a special edition of FIFA will be arriving on the console at some stage, not the version on other consoles. If this sounds familiar, that’s because this kind of AAA-game splicing is what characterized the Nintendo Wii and Nintendo Wii U – with ever diminishing returns. It doesn’t bode well for the future of AAA-games on Switch, and it’s not even hit stores yet.
But it’s not just in the selection of third-party titles that the company is failing. With a new paid online subscription service, they are taking a page right out of Microsoft and Sony’s playbook. Yet the information delivered about this service does nothing but baffle – who exactly is it intended to bring on board? Beyond Splatoon 2, what kind of multiplayer games are Nintendo going to produce in order to make a subscription worth paying for? Outside of Mario Kart 8 Deluxe and possibly Street Fighter, little has been divulged about the value of this service. We know Miiverse won’t be making an appearance, so what exactly are we paying for?
It also has to be said that Nintendo’s marketing of the device leaves me feeling slightly baffled. The company seems intent on pushing its consoles hybrid experience, even though its true strength comes from the handheld aspect. Directly comparing the Switch to the already inflated roster of consoles that can buy into won’t do it any favors. Gamers have the choice between PlayStation 4, PlayStation 4 Slim, and the PlayStation 4 Pro, Xbox One and Xbox One S (Which I personally think is an excellent product for its price). That’s a lot of choice for money, and when most of those consoles cost less than the Switch, it’s important that Nintendo makes clear WHY people should buy their device. Because if consumers end up seeing Switch as a home console, why would they want to buy it over those other devices when the value isn’t great?
Sure Nintendo has Breath of the Wild and Mario but as shown with the Nintendo Wii U, many gamers are quite content to pass over Nintendo’s offering if the overall package doesn’t add up. Price is a huge concern for gamers, and when Sony and Microsoft are killing it on such a grand scale – Nintendo can’t rely on brand loyalty to bring in the crowds. Those crowds are already getting a great deal elsewhere.
The Wii U was a failure because Nintendo in essence failed to move with the times It was a decently powered system that had one big gimmick – a gimmick that Nintendo never firmly explained to its audience. The Switch I fear is going to wind up doing the exact same thing unless Nintendo actually makes the central gimmick of Switch the most important feature. People need to see the Switch as a portable king, the kind of device that offers gaming not comparable to mobile gaming devices (Which in my opinion is the real competition for Switch). They won’t see this if that marketing message is mixed with the awkwardness of Nintendo’s PR efforts – which unfortunately has taken hold already.
All of this is coupled with the fact that there is going to be a very limited quantity at launch (didn’t learn their lesson there either it seems). As described earlier, there’s plenty of third-party developers throwing their names into the Switch’s ring – but so many of their games are set to arrive well after launch. It’s the same issue that came to blight the Nintendo Wii U, which had no momentum when the games began to dry up. No offence to Activision, but Skylanders is not a system seller. The failure to get some of its big hitters upfront undermines the Nintendo Switch’s appeal – which is only going to hurt the device in the long-term. Why not throw some retro games in there, dig into that huge vault of classic titles that people are desperate to see?
It’s obvious that Nintendo is going to have their work cut out for them if they want to make sure the Switch has a successful life as a console. I worry that they might not be able to live up to the massive expectations which they’ve created for the system. So much potential exists, but I can’t help but feel Nintendo is blindly wandering towards failure right now with its new console. History is repeating itself, and unfortunately for Nintendo, it’s not the right kind of history.