With every new console launch, there exists a degree of anxiety related to whether or not the investment in the console will pay off. From a consumer perspective, this translates into getting the best value from your new system, in terms of entertainment, prior to the vendor retiring support for the console and moving on to its next venture. From a corporate standpoint, this means recouping the hard and soft costs related to R&D, producing, selling, and marketing a system. Moreover, since we live in a capitalist society, manufacturers and investors want to see a large profit margin as a direct consequence of their investment.
Because there are so many variables involved in the market place, it’s always a gamble to put a new product on the market. Nevertheless, there are a few key things that Nintendo can do to increase the chances of success for the Nintendo Switch. Now that the console has been out for a bit and has enjoyed healthy sales, Nintendo needs to find ways of sustaining the momentum it has enjoyed out of the gate.
Here are some key strategies Nintendo can employ that would enable the company to solidify Switch’s success:
Nintendo possesses one of the largest and most valuable war chests of triple-A video game titles of any other developer. Therefore, it goes without saying that making these titles playable on Switch would bolster its marketability ten-fold.
One of the more provocative facts that isn’t often mentioned in Switch-related commentary is Nintendo’s consolidation of its internal development houses. This new configuration was made possible by Switch’s hybrid nature. No longer are the company’s development teams split between its portable and home console market spaces. In simplistic terms, this could mean twice the amount of games for Switch than previous Nintendo-branded systems. Nintendo needs to produce a steady stream of quality product to maintain consumer interest — especially if third-party developers choose to reserve their wares for competing platforms.
In the past, Nintendo has partnered with and invested in third-party developers, such as Rare, to produce exclusive content for systems like the Super NES and Nintendo 64. This arrangement was mutually beneficial and helped to bolster the resulting game catalogs of each respective system. In fact, Rare’s Donkey Kong Country may have, arguably, assisted in winning the 32-bit console war for the SNES. This success was repeated by titles such as GoldenEye 007 on N64. Also, Rare and others were able to capitalize on the fact that the N64 had a rather anemic gaming library, which made consumers desperate for new, quality gaming experiences. Nintendo often gave second-party developers wide latitude in creating titles for its systems while also providing leadership and skillful oversight by the likes of Shigeru Miyamoto. In other instances, Nintendo would task second-party developers with adapting existing franchises a la Metroid Prime, developed by Retro Studios and Nintendo for GameCube. This strategy has often been a fruitful one for Nintendo and I would love to see a return to this concept. In addition, second-party developers can also exploit markets that Nintendo doesn’t traditionally target (i.e. mature-themed games and games with ultra-realistic graphics).
Unfortunately, many of the top third-party developers are taking a wait-and-see attitude toward the Switch. As such, fans of these third-parties are also taking a wait and see attitude. Due to the strong tie between the quality and diversity of software and the success of a dedicated game system, it’s very difficult for a console to achieve long-term success if there is not a good quantity and variety of quality video games to choose from. Third-party games can also help to normalize Switch by enabling consumers to see that the console’s graphical capabilities are not an order of magnitude lower than other current generation systems such as the Xbox One and PlayStation 4. Once naysayers realize that they can take an Uncharted 4-style experience with them on a road trip, the cult of Nintendo loyalists will, undoubtedly, be expanded.
Where are Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, Plex, and YouTube!? Touting a portable console without including these must-have staples of entertainment is bordering on foolishness. We live in a time where consumers desire a Swiss army knife device as it relates to options where technology intersects with entertainment. Third-party apps like browsers and streaming media software are widely accepted as default standards and shouldn’t be relegated to afterthought status. Nintendo could also use this as an opportunity to close the gap between home consoles and mobile phones — a market that has grown exponentially over the years.
If you aren’t already familiar with game streaming services like Sony’s PlayStation Now and Nvidia’s GeForce Now, you will be hearing more about these platforms in the near future. They have the potential to become the standard way video games will be delivered in the 21st century. In fact, the only impediment is the requisite stable network bandwidth requirement required to sustain a quality experience. Otherwise, having your entire gaming library in the cloud and ready for your enjoyment on-demand is an awesome concept. No more storage concerns. No more console hardware wars. No more upgrade hassles. At the heart of Nintendo’s Switch is a custom Nvidia graphics processor -– which supports this capability, out of the box. Think of the possibilities.
Outside of the typical add-on options for the Switch (i.e. battery packs, controllers, and docks), there are a few other peripherals that Nintendo could bring to market that could dynamically shift the system’s capabilities. One would be a 4G wireless device that could enable Switch to have network connectivity outside of the home. Hence, permitting access to online gaming, media streaming, and countless other options while you’re on the go. A second option would be a set of Bluetooth headphones. Right now, if you wish to play Switch in docked mode and privatize your aural experience, you would need to run a long cord between your console and your couch. This isn’t an acceptable proposition for most. Last, since Switch is very modular in design, it would be very easy for Nintendo to release a “Switch Plus” in the future that consists only of an upgraded, backwardly compatible tablet. This new device could have a more powerful processor/graphics chip and give new and existing games a boost in fidelity. Costs could be controlled as Nintendo would not have to include the price of Joy-Con, the Joy-Con grip, power adapter, or a new dock. This is similar to the approach that Sony is taking with the PlayStation 4 Pro and Microsoft with its Project Scorpio, but would be much more easily attainable with Switch.
Console manufactures usually consider hacking and home-grown software the bane of their existence. Little do they realize that a hackable console significantly increases the interest of many potential buyers. There’s a large contingent of consumers that are looking for an all-in-one video gaming experience that can enable them to relive all of their nostalgic gaming fantasies of yesteryear. Having all of your classic gaming experiences in the palm of your hand, while also being able to dock your system and play them on the big screen of your entertainment center would be gaming nirvana. Sony probably will never admit it, but this is why there is such a large after-market demand for its portable devices.
There are often many paths to success with any new venture. But only the astute and adaptable among us are able to capitalize on these opportunities and bring their goals and vision to fruition. Nintendo has shown hints of both brilliance and stubbornness over the years, but the launch of the Switch represents a key opportunity for the company to increase market share and regain prominence in the industry. If Nintendo plays its cards just right, it may witness many consumers making the switch back to the house that Mario built.