Last Thursday Nintendo released a trailer for its new console, the Switch. The biggest surprise about the Switch is that it doubles as a home console and portable unit. You can even play it with wireless remote and motion controls when it’s detached from your tv. The games shown in the trailer include Skyrim, Zelda: Breath of the Wild, and a forthcoming untitled Mario game. Judging from the trailer, the Switch has a ton of potential. Here are a few ideas on how it can live up to it and put Nintendo back in the console race.
- Since the Switch is portable, there is no reason for Nintendo to release another iteration of the DS. Once Nintendo begins making the biggest DS games available digitally (Pokemon X/Y, Link Between Worlds, Super Mario 3D Land, Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon), people who would have considered buying a 3DS will buy a Switch instead. This won’t happen immediately, because the Switch will be more expensive than the 3DS and the 3DS has a massive game library. It also has an install base that Nintendo can’t afford to abandon. Nintendo will support the 3DS for the foreseeable future, but if the Switch does well Nintendo will surely begin to phase it out. This will solve the problem of having to wait 8-to-12 months between big releases. If Nintendo’s development teams all work on one piece of hardware, then big releases won’t be as sparse.
- When the Wii U came out, it didn’t come packaged with a flagship game or a new IP like Luigi’s Mansion. It came packaged with the New Super Mario Bros, which is arguably not a flagship game (if it’s a flagship Nintendo game, it’s not one of Nintendo’s biggest flagship games). Nintendo’s biggest franchises are the Legend of Zelda, Metroid, Smash Bros, Donkey Kong Country, Pokemon, Mario Kart and Mario Galaxy. Even if you consider the New Super Mario Bros a flagship game, consider also that Wii U owners had to wait over a year until the next big Nintendo game was released. Zelda: Breath of the Wild was announced 2 years ago and still hasn’t come out; Metroid and Mario Galaxy haven’t been announced at all. Nintendo can’t afford to repeat the same mistake twice and release the Switch without any of its big games, or release 1 big game, then leave players hanging for over a year. That brings me to my next thought.
- Even if Nintendo releases Mario Galaxy or Metroid with the Switch, it only has so many titles it can release over its life cycle. To win the console race (or at least be a competitive player), Nintendo needs first-party exclusives plus third-party support. To do that, the system needs to give third-party developers confidence in the hardware. Ubisoft and Activision supported the Wii U for about a year and then stopped releasing games for the simple reason that the Wii U wasn’t selling. If the Switch generates sales for more than a few months, big-name developers will get behind it. How awesome would it be to play the Witcher 3 or COD on the go?
The biggest thing for me (and I speak for most players here) are the games. Hopefully Nintendo releases at least one of their big titles on launch day. My assumption is that Nintendo gave up on the Wii U a few years ago and decided to work on a new console. It will be interesting to learn how long the Switch has been in development.