Today is a good day to be a geek. We got our first trailer of the Wolverine-focused X-Men movie “Logan,” Rockstar gave us a taste of Red Dead Redemption 2 and Nintendo finally presented a glimpse of their new console, the Nintendo Switch. I guess that the Nintendo Paradigm Shift didn’t have the same ring to it.
After the misfire that was their previous console, the Wii U, the company needed to do something different to not only win back consumers but third party game developers as well. The Wii U had some great Mario, Donkey Kong and Zelda games, but…there wasn’t much else. Nintendo’s unconventional iterations (motion controls, tablet-like game pads) left developers with an underpowered system which felt gimmicky. It didn’t help that there was no easy way to summarize why it needed said iterations. To illustrate how bad things were, Nintendo only shipped 13 million Wii U’s over the past five years while the original Nintendo Entertainment System, which came out over 30 years ago, sold nearly 62 million units.
The elevator pitch for the Nintendo Switch is a lot easier than its predecessor, it allows you to play a game at home and then take it on the go. The modular Voltron-esque controllers and removable screen allow for an uninterrupted gaming experience that’s been attempted a few times by different companies with limited success. So instead of only being able to play a big open world game when you get home, you can explore a bit on the train ride home or during lunch.
As of this time, cost is still a mystery but Nintendo has a long history of innovating on older, cheaper technology to keep costs down. The Nintendo Game Boy far outsold the SEGA Game Gear (like 11 times over) because it was a cheaper device with a better battery life at the expense of being less technologically impressive.
Then there are the games and third party support. Nintendo consoles can’t survive on their own games alone – as proved by the Wii U. Another part of what made the Game Boy sell so well was a little game developed in Russia called TETRIS. The Switch was demoed with Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim and an NBA 2K game but those might have just been for demonstrative purposes. A strong launch game lineup will be the key in their winning back of traditional gamers. Just give me Metroid 5, Mario Party 11 and a new Star Fox game and I’ll be happy.
So until we learn more it seems like the best tactic is to stay guardedly optimistic. Nintendo is our underdog now, trying to take back the crown. While VR, 4K and HDR are the buzz words that Microsoft and Sony are trying to sell us on, Nintendo might be able to find its window of opportunity and switch things up.