Nintendo - Switching It Up
This has been a huge week for Nintendo. New console launches are always an exciting time and we are roughly six weeks away from the Switch hitting the streets. To top that off Nintendo streamed another Nintendo direct focusing on the impending release of not 1, but 4 new Fire Emblem games. But before we get into that let’s back it up and focus on what can make the Switch a success.
There are a lot of different reasons that the Wii U failed. Ranging from the fact that it was underpowered compared to its peers to consumers just couldn’t figure it out. What was it? How did that controller work? Was it a tablet? All of those lead to terrible sales and a plummet back to reality for Nintendo after the massive success of the Wii. How can they prevent that this time?
Clearly define what the system is
This could coalesce in the next few months but there are still a number of consumers out there that see the Switch and have no idea what it is. Is it a home console? Is it a mobile device? The short answer is it’s both. This is a system where you can play a fully featured game on the go. No shortcuts, no gimmicks (even though this system has plenty of them), you can have the same Mario and Zelda adventures on your commute or on a plane that you can have on your couch at home.
Does this compete with the PS4 and XBox One?
Ever since the Wii I’ve felt Nintendo no longer sees themselves in competition with the PlayStation of XBox even if the rest of the world does. They’ve always done things their own way and will continue to do so even to their own detriment. Sometimes they hit a homerun like Wii Sports. 1-2-Switch could be the next Wii Sports. The problem is this game is an additional $50 USD. This should be a pack in. It highlights all the special uses of the Switch and gets that marriage between software and hardware even if it is a bit hokey. Make consumers aware that the Switch stands on its own and you see it as a complement to other consoles and not just a competitor to them.
Great Co-op games
This also takes advantage of the mobile feature of the platform. Up to 8 Switches can link together over a single LAN. Make great games that take advantage of that feature. One is clearly on the way with Mario Kart 8 Deluxe but don’t let that be the only one for the next 12 months.
Cannibalize the Wii U
Find a few studios that do contract work and start porting the library of games from the Wii U to the Switch. Don’t just release them on the Virtual Console. Update the graphics and bring them forward. There are a lot of truly wonderful first party games on the Wii U that no one ever played. Get these into the hands of people who own a Switch. Super Smash Brothers, Mario Maker, Pokken Tournament, etc.
Nail the Online Experience
Nintendo is getting into the premium online experience business with the Switch along the lines of PSN and XBox Live. Nintendo needs to nail this. I expect them to stumble at first but hopefully figure it out before they start charging. We will get a free preview into the fall. No word yet on how much it will cost but expect around $15 a month or $60 for the year. For our money we will receive an online lobby, voice chat, monthly game download, and exclusive deals. Nothing earth shattering there but it’s worth noting that monthly game download is only for the month. However these classic SNES and NES games will be updated for online play so that could turn into something special. I could see timed events revolving around the game that is available that month that really get the community involved because of the limited time to play. Hopefully they also add trophies and other ways to track your gameplay. Focus on the social engagement of the players. They have been working on this and that was in part what Miitomo was all about. Let’s just hope it’s more successful than that experiment.
Leverage Third Party Support
It looks like all the major players are lining back up to put games on the Switch. Nintendo needs to keep this momentum going.
Nintendo has a giant back catalogue of amazing games. Most of these are available digitally through what is known as the Virtual Console. Hopefully Nintendo gets most of these classics available in a timely fashion and doesn’t fleece everyone for them. They also need to figure out a way to allow players that already own a game to upgrade to the Switch Virtual Console and not make them pay full price. Nintendo is notoriously stingy. This giant back catalogue can help them through lean times.
If Nintendo can get those seven things right they should be good to go with the Switch. It’s not going to be easy but even after a flop Nintendo has a lot of buzz around the Switch. It’s amazing how much goodwill nostalgia can create. You’ll notice that good quality first party games aren’t on that list. That is something that Nintendo always has and as history has proved doesn’t guarantee success.
In other Switch news we found out that the Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild will only render in 900p 30fps on the Switch while docked and 720p 30fps in tabletop mode. It’s disheartening to see that even though the Switch can support 1080p that it won’t be able to handle Zelda in 1080p. Granted XBox One can’t handle all of their titles in 1080p either but Zelda doesn’t really look like a graphics monster so it leaves me to wonder how tough that Nvidia Tegra is in the Switch.
Finally Nintendo Direct yesterday announced four new Fire Emblem games. One is a remake of the second Fire Emblem that was never released in the west. We will see that in May on the New Nintendo 3DS family of systems. We also can look forward to Fire Emblem Warriors. If you have ever played Hyrule Warriors or Dragon Quest Warriors you know what you are in for (that will also get a 3DS version). For those that haven’t it’s a game with the Dynasty Warriors fighting system skinned with your choice of graphics and lore flavor. In other words a good time. In the far future (expected 2018) we will get an all new Fire Emblem for the Switch. This is the first new home console Fire Emblem since 2008 for the Wii. More immediately, however, the first smart device based Fire Emblem is due out next month. The fights only take place on 8 x 6 grids so how strategic they can be is really anyone’s guess. I’m also seriously concerned about the price. It’s free but from what I’ve heard the microtransactions are whale sized.