It is an incredibly exciting time to be a gamer. Virtual reality is taking off and the market is in the golden years of two home systems with more powerful iterations out or on the horizon. What amps me up the most though, is impending launch of a new Nintendo console. Nintendo is where quite a few people cut their teeth on gaming and a new generation is gearing up. It’s hard not to be excited.
The Switch touts the ability to take home console game experiences on the go. The entire system is portable and playable on the go. The promise of playing the new, open-world Zelda game or a full-fledged 3D Mario adventure on the big screen or on the go is enticing. It is the fusion of Nintendo’s home and portable market.
The benefits are immediately apparent. Merging game development to one system instead of splitting it across two facilitates development cycles and generating a software library. Having one core product allows marketing to be wide spread, aggressive, and focused. To reap the benefits though, Nintendo has to cultivate the seed of this new piece of hardware carefully and meticulously.
Nintendo’s last home console, the Wii U, was a commercial failure on all fronts. Confusing marketing, lengthy gaps in primo software, and out-dated tablet technology led to a poor life cycle. The Wii U has some of my favorite Nintendo games, but it has certainly been near the bottom of Nintendo’s hardware totem pole.
To avoid repeating the mistakes of the past, Nintendo needs to hit the ground running with the Switch. This is how I think Nintendo needs to handle the launch and first year of the Switch.
Nailing the Price Point
The question that I think immediately comes to consumers’ minds for the Switch is how much it will cost. Looking back at Nintendo’s previous launches of brand new hardware, it doesn’t look promising. Both the Wii U and 3DS were overpriced at launch, which created a high barrier of entry. The Switch cannot have that. It also cannot be priced too low. This is a premium product and the price should reflect that. Nintendo is in a Goldie Locks situation and doesn’t have the luxury of trying multiple prices before finding one that is just right.
I believe that sweet spot is $250-300. This is comparable to the new PS4 Slim and Xbox One S, both systems in their prime. With PS4 Pro out and Xbox Scorpio on the way, Nintendo needs to get a foothold in the market before being drowned out by more powerful and newer systems (again).
A key element to this is having one version of the Switch. Muddying the market waters with two different tiers or bundles is only crippling. Customers should be able to walk into the store and ask for a Nintendo Switch and not be met with questions rattling off about versions, storage, or pack ins. Save the bundles for the holidays, after the Switch is a known, and hopefully proven, quantity.
Confronting the Battery
Let’s just face it. The battery life of the Switch is not going to be pretty. Boasting a custom Nvida Tegra chip, HD graphics, and fully featured console games, the Switch is gonna lose its battery faster than my opponents in Mario Kart 8. Nintendo needs to address the battery front and center at its event on January 12.
The news won’t all be bad though. It appears that the Switch uses USB-C to connect and power the device. That means charging and data transfer will be top of the line. Also, the Switch is a home console. I imagine people will keep their Switch docked a majority of the time, which would alleviate the need for a long lasting battery a tad. Nintendo needs to tackle this head on and not save the bad news for launch.
Removing Software Droughts
One crippling factor in the Wii U’s life cycle was the droughts in notable software. Lengthy gaps in games to play begs the question of why purchase the system or turn it on. At this point, the Wii U has a fantastic library of games, but being in the moment with the system was frustrating at times.
During the information blowout, Nintendo needs to address the launch lineup, both day one and year one. Show us what Nintendo games are going to show up along with third party support. The biggest piece is to take a cue from Sony’s PlayStation 4 reveal and talk games, games, and more games.
Introducing a Comprehensive Online Ecosystem
Nintendo’s online platform is disjointed. Barriers like cumbersome friend codes and purchasing the same game twice have been dragging Nintendo’s online presence down. With a singular, unified device on the horizon, it is time to treat their online ecosystem the same.
Friend codes must go. A dedicated, paid-for service should be implemented to pay for the upkeep and stability of online gaming. Single versions of Virtual Console games have to be there. No more Wii, Wii U, and 3DS versions. One version that works across all (current) platforms.
I hope Nintendo embraces the element of sharing gaming moments and achievements that the industry has featured so prominently this generation. From the PS4’s dedicated “share” button to live streaming, Nintendo has hopefully put these kinds of tools and applications in place to make it native, or at the very least, simple to achieve.
And there we have it. Those are the key points I believe Nintendo has to address this week for the Switch to hit a stride. The Switch is promising and exciting to me as a life-long Nintendo fan. For the platform to open up beyond people in my camp, Nintendo has to make some big changes. I hope they make them.
For more on the Switch, check out my predictions for the event here!
What do you think Nintendo needs to do at the Switch event on January 12 to come out swinging? Sound off in the comments below or tweet at me @MaxTheWhite.