Nintendo’s announcement of the Switch was an interesting way to debut a long anticipated console. The use of footage from games that are still unannounced for the console, the lack of clear pricing or release information, and the vagueness regarding the capabilities of the hardware left me – to be frank – annoyed.
The Nintendo Switch builds on the company’s place as the “mid-generation” console, releasing after its competitors as Sony and Microsoft had already released their products to market for several years. While, in a sense, this is a smart move that makes it easier for Nintendo to compete for sales and to better market its unique lineup of first-party games, it is an advantage that is now hindered by the releases of the Xbox One S and the PlayStation 4 Pro. Basically, Nintendo has to compete for sales with Microsoft and Sony anyway.
That context, and the aforementioned issues with the initial announcement of the console, simply make Nintendo’s marketing of the Switch harder than it already is. They must convince gamers that the Switch will not only have great first-party exclusives, but also a strong library of third-party games that will offer a unique experience on the Nintendo platform, due to the company’s legacy of innovative control schemes, and despite their consoles’ relatively lower power.
Essentially, that was what both the Wii and Wii U faced, yet the results were as stark as night and day for the two. In terms of sales, the early life of the Wii was stronger than the Wii U. Both consoles had great first-party support, but the latter half of the Wii’s lifetime and the entirety of the Wii U’s existence was plagued by a lack of third-party games, or at least third-party releases that could compete with their counterparts on the PlayStation 4 or Xbox One.
Yet, despite these challenges, I have hope for the Switch. The intentional marketing of third-party games shows a willingness to court a wider spectrum of gamers’ tastes, while the unique modularity of the Switch experience shows that gaming on the platform can fit not just any person, but any part of an individual’s life.
The availability of multiple control schemes was present in prior Nintendo consoles, but it was nowhere near the center of the design and marketing of those consoles as it seems to be with the Switch. Where the Wii and Wii U were marketed for everybody by virtue of their low-price tags and family-friendly games, the Switch is marketed for everybody by being the console you need it to be, in any situation. Building atop that, the control schemes capture the popularity of the classic gaming controller, the universality of touch screens, and the portability of tablets to provide a console experience in almost every situation.
I feel that this depicts the Switch less as a console that’s about being different just to make up for its lack of power, and more of a platform that allows games to be experienced flexibly, in whatever ways the players desire. That can create the chance for third-party developers to see more flexibility for their designs on the Switch platform.
So, I do have hopes for the Switch simply due to it being the flexible console. That is not to detract from what is still the core of the long-term experience – Nintendo exclusives. Regrettably (in my view) what sells consoles is the third-party support in the context of the power of the consoles – Sony and Microsoft simply have a history of having more powerful consoles with better looking multi-platform games. I say this is regrettable because that means the quality of Nintendo’s exclusives gets overlooked. The Switch however, tries to counter the power of the competition by being versatile while also providing the unique, high-quality library for which Nintendo is known for.
The one big question that remains is whether that third-party support will be there. The most awkward example of this is Skyrim – which Bethesda declined to actually say was coming to the Switch, but allowed Nintendo to use the footage as a commitment to the platform. Then there is the hardware support from Nvidia, which remains vague but indicated that the graphics card powerhouse is also willing to support Nintendo’s efforts.
The concept of the Nintendo Switch is another risky deviation from the standard console design, and the regular gamer still doesn’t have the full picture of what is coming. Yet companies like Bethesda (and many other third-party developers) and Nvidia are ready to support the unique platform. This gives me hope that the Nintendo Switch will have the fuel it needs to give the unique gaming experience it seeks to provide.
For a different perspective, read why the Switch could be a failure.