Nintendo is synonymous with video games
Despite having a strong brand and successful history, Nintendo is in a very strange position right now. Nintendo hopes to right the ship with their new console, the Switch. However, their best efforts have the looks of giant disappointment.
In the late 1980’s and early 1990’s, Nintendo dominated the gaming industry. Zelda, Donkey Kong and Mario became household names. Almost every kid growing up played them at some point. Despite these successes, the Sony PlayStation pushed Nintendo to second place in the mid ’90s They remained in second place for years before this eventually would change.
Withstanding years of struggling console sales Nintendo released the Wii in 2006 to a roaring success.The system and its inclusion of the game Wii Sports attracted entirely new audiences to video games.
Everybody owned a Nintendo Wii it seemed. Families who never played a game together now played tennis together in their living rooms, Seniors whose only interactions with technology included their telephones and microwaves were playing bowing with their grandchildren. All these new players pushed over 100 million sales of the system.
Nintendo sought to duplicate the Wii’s success with the Wii U console. They tried with the Wii U to attract hard core gamers. These gamers felt left out by Nintendo’s family-focused, underpowered Wii.
Unfortunately for Nintendo, the mixture of poor marketing, underpowered hardware, and lack of popular third-party games forced the Kyoto-based giant to abandon the system. All focus of its efforts went towards work on a new console.
In January of 2017, Nintendo presented their new console to the world. Nintendo fans hoped that the Switch was the beginning of a new direction. Hardcore gamers wanting a console they could play the new Legend of Zelda and the latest Call of Duty pinned their hopes on that the Switch would be the answer. As more details came out, the sense of dread among gaming enthusiasts began. Many began to fear that Nintendo still does not understand what the current gaming market wants.
While we do not know the future of Nintendo’s newest console, below are just samplings of the issues currently facing Nintendo’s newest console.
Nintendo has always been a company that tries to innovate wherever they can. One area that Nintendo has proudly touted as an aspect of innovation in the Switch is the HD Rumble feature.
Extra rumble motors placed throughout the controller give added feeling and immersion. While seen by many fans as something unique and interesting, most question why. HD nimble adds a hefty price onto the cost of controllers. The small Joy-Con controllers are priced at $80 US dollars, higher than the standard Xbox One or PlayStation 4 counterparts.
Motion controls are what made the original Wii a rousing success. Motion controlled gaming is largely seen as a once popular fad that has come and gone.
Their ease of use introduced millions of people to video games. Major third-party game developers grew tired of shoehorning motion controls into their games. Eventually, they decided against releasing games on the underpowered console.
When Nintendo announced that the Switch system and controllers would contain motion control components in them, you could just vision millions of people rolling their eyes Forced added gimmicks are what drove many garners away from the Wii and Wii U. The inclusion of motion gaming is not necessarily a bad thing, but the continued focus on it during the reveal made gaming fans wonder; wonder if Nintendo is focused on motion controls and recapturing the Wii’s audience.
Nintendo always tries to support a home console and handheld system at the same time.
They have dozens of internal studios to keep the supply of Mario, Zelda, and Pokemon games released at a steady pace. Since the Switch console is also a handheld system, Nintendo can refocus all their studio’s efforts on just one system. The Wii U had a thin supply of games the last few years. This made many believe that they were saving all their games for a launch year blowout.
It did not work out like that.
Eight games will launch with the Switch. Nintendo makes only two of them. One of them will also be releasing on the Wii U.
Nintendo also showed Splatoon 2 and Super Mario Odyssey. However, these games will not be releasing until summer and winter of 2017. Nintendo consoles have had long droughts of games. Every system since the GameCube had been plagued with droughts. The sparse launch lineup led many to wonder if the same drought will return to the Switch.
Third-party support on the Wii and Wii U was rare. If someone wanted to play Grand Theft Auto, Call of Duty, Madden NFL, FIFA, or any other major AAA game, they would have to look to the Xbox One and PlayStation 4. One reason for the lack of popular titles was the underpowered hardware in comparison to Nintendo’s competition at Sony and Microsoft.
With an already more powerful PlayStation released in the PS4 Pro and Microsoft set to release Project Scorpio, an enhanced and more powerful Xbox One, many hoped Nintendo would keep up.
As the system’s spec began to leak, the feeling of “same old Nintendo” was back. The Switch barely pushes enough power as an Xbox One, a 4 year-old console about to be given upgrade by Microsoft. Looking at the lack of major third-party games on the horizon can only hint that the weak hardware is holding the system back.
Xbox and PlayStation both offer robust online services. Both systems offer online gaming, matchmaking, party chat, digital purchases, free games, and sales as part of their subscription services Online gaming has been one of the largest areas Nintendo consoles have lingered behind its competitors.
Xbox and PlayStation both lock online gaming behind a $60 a year subscription fee. One major negative to hit the Switch was the reveal that their online network would require a subscription. As more details emerged, it appeared that the system would still be missing major features, major features that their competitor, Xbox, has had since 2002.
A large reason that people pay for the privilege of playing online is the free games given in exchange for subscribing.
Xbox Live Gold and PlayStation Network Plus offer 2-4 games every month. These free games range from smaller indie games to large AAA blockbusters. As long as you subscribe, you get to keep playing these free games
On the Switch, it is a bit different and a lot worse.
When subscribing, Nintendo will lend you one free Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) or Super Nintendo (SNES) game a month. After that month is up, they take away the game and offer another. For a company with such a massive catalog of older games, the offer was soundly ridiculed across the internet.
Today, the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 can be had for as low as $250. Nintendo announced the Switch would have a $299 price tag at launch.
While this is fine for a robust, powerful game console, it feels like another missed opportunity for Nintendo. With a system that is already half as powerful as an Xbox One, it is hard to justify paying the $299 for a less powerful system that will most likely not have the biggest games released.
The Wii and the Wii U came with pack-in games. The Switch will not be bundled with one. This adds another cost to purchasing a Switch. Throw in a Nintendo online subscription and another controller you have a system that starts to push $500 with tax For a normal console, this is a typical launch. With Nintendo, this could be a death sentence for the Switch.
Finding a Nintendo system on launch is always an exercise in disappointment. One major criticism of Nintendo has always been shortages during hardware launches.
Nintendo has promised to do their best to avoid this happening, but they have said this before countless times. As people begin to pre-order the Switch, the signs of a under shipped console are again beginning to appear. Stores only offering one or two consoles to pre-order is a worrying sight. For a system who desperately needs consumers to purchase it, having none on store shelves would be awful for Nintendo.
A Switch failure will not mean the end of Nintendo. They have a war chest of billions from the Wii and DS sales Nintendo can ride out any major storm. The video game industry is better because Nintendo is a part of it. When Nintendo does well, everyone else in the industry does as well.
If the Switch is the way Nintendo is trying to right the ship, it appears that it still has a lot to learn about what today’s players want.