When Nintendo unveiled their upcoming console, the Switch, it turned out to confirm most of the rumors about it being a handheld/console hybrid device. Once again Nintendo brings something creative and innovative to the table, but the Switch is just as risky as the Wii and Wii U were. There are a number of concerns already being talked about, such as the actual power of the Switch, when it comes to trying to gauge whether or not it will be able to succeed (and not be a repeat Wii U). The Switch has a huge amount of buzz and hype building up around it, even with what little information we have right now, so Nintendo needs to make sure they work to give it the best shot they can to avoid another Wii U. Here are five ways they can do it.
5. Third Party Support
Now, I know what your’e thinking “but Kyle they already showed a big list of third party developers on board for supporting the Switch, why’re you so stupid?” First of all, rude and hurtful, but more importantly we need to look back at the Wii U’s launch to see that there was a very similar list of third party launch games and developers that eventually all but abandoned the Wii U. This led to the Wii U becoming a device solely for playing Nintendo games, which means that unless you had an extra $300 to throw around, you were probably going to go with either the Xbox One or PlayStation 4.
We already know that Nintendo’s own games like Smash Bros., Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, and their other IPs will usually be fun quality games—hopefully Star Fox Zero was a fluke—so third party games will be a big draw for gamers that love Nintendo games but also want to be able to play the latest multi-platform games. They also need to make sure the Switch ports are the exact same as the other platform’s versions. Clearly the Switch is going to be less powerful than the PS4 and Xbox One, so some graphical downgrade is to be expected, but the Switch versions need to make sure that they don’t lose any actual game features or functions due to its power deficit. We’re already getting some companies talking with uncertainty about how they’ll support the Switch. That combined with the failures of the Wii U means Nintendo has quite the uphill battle ahead of them when it comes to third party support coming to and staying with the Switch, and they need to do everything they can to support third party developers when they’re developing for it.
4. Multimedia Support
With the Switch ditching the optical drive for cartridges, in terms of multimedia support, it’s already at a disadvantage when it comes to being more than just a video game console. At this point, video game consoles can’t really get away with being just that anymore. With so many streaming services for TV, movies, and music out there, a console that doesn’t support use of those services is lacking in value compared to the other consoles on the market. Not only do the Xbox One and PS4 support media streaming, they also support streaming of your own to be broadcast with services like Twitch.
Nintendo needs to support the biggest services like Netflix, Hulu, Pandora, and Twitch. The Switch is in a very unique place to provide that support as well because of its portability. Instead of parents worrying about their kids with a tablet or their phone, they could just get the Switch to allow for multimedia entertainment as well as a video game system. Instead of wasting phone battery on a movie or TV show, you could just use your Switch. Multimedia support will be a big draw for parents and for people who would otherwise get a tablet, because if it can provide the multimedia services on top of big name video games, it could make a big impact in the market.
Although this also brings to light a big risk for the Switch: what if people would just rather use a tablet? Sure they might not be able to play bigger games right now, but if you’re mobile, you probably wouldn’t want to get drawn into a big time consuming game in the first place, so a normal tablet would be a better option. Nintendo will need to show people that getting the Switch over a normal tablet will have more value (price will also be an issue). Making it so that all their future mobile games will be available on the Switch would be a smart move as well. To make sure the Switch has a fighting chance, Nintendo needs to make sure that it provides value as a video game console as well as a multimedia tablet-like device.
3. Battery Life
Battery life for the Switch is going to be a major issue because of its portable mode. We still have no information on how long the battery life is for it when it is off of its dock, but if we take a look at the Nvidia Shield’s 7-10 hour battery life or the Razer Edge’s 3-4 hour battery and take into account that the Switch will be (hopefully) much more powerful, battery life could be a good bit lower than that when playing highly taxing games. I’m sure Nintendo isn’t unaware of this issue; they’ve probably done all the can to maximize the battery life of the Switch in order to make its unique feature actually viable, but with trying to keep it as portable as possible, they probably had to make a few tradeoffs, and most likely in the battery size and processing power departments.
So since Nintendo is limited structurally in what they can do to maximize battery life, what other options are there? Since the Switch is basically a tablet, the first and most obvious would be portable power banks and battery pack cases. Now you might be annoyed that I’m suggesting you’d have to buy extra peripherals for the Switch, aside from extra controllers and controller battery packs, but Apple has been making people buy extra stuff for years, so I think Nintendo can get a free pass this once. A battery pack case would be the best option because it can provide protection from drops as well as extending the battery life. Nintendo could also sell Mario, Zelda, and Pokémon themed cases to add value. Portable power banks would work too but would be a little more cumbersome. It would also be great if they would use USB-C for charging, so that it could be done as quickly as possible (the fast charging on the Nexus 6P is amazing).
2. Keep Or Ditch The 3DS, Pick One
This is going to be a big decision for Nintendo: whether to keep their separate handheld systems or focusing completely on the Switch. Nintendo hasn’t given any real definitive answer on what will happen with the 3DS after the Switch launches, and they definitely need to. Nintendo can say as many times as they want that the Switch is home console first, but there’s no getting around the fact that if someone has a Switch, trying to get them to buy the 3DS or any future handheld Nintendo system will be a hard sell.
They could focus on the Switch being a home console, but then its gimmick will seem all the more gimmicky, and it will be in the same situation as the Wii U is in now. A gimmick on a device that is under powered compared to its competition and has a same company handheld system that renders its gimmick inconsequential is a perfect storm for the headline: “Nintendo Announces It’s Ditching Consoles To Focus On Game Development.” The way things are now, the best option looks to be ending dedicated handhelds with the 3DS and going all in on the Switch.
The Switch would still be a system that the developers for 3DS games could develop for, they’d just need to adjust to one screen instead of the 3DS’s two screens. This would allow Nintendo to focus on a system that could play all of their games past, present, and future. Nintendo could continue the great Virtual Console store where you can buy the classics, make great new games with AAA budgets, allow for future Nintendo mobile games on the Switch, and have a place for indie developers to create smaller, experimental games (creating a Nintendo version of Steam Greenlight could be amazing). All of this hinges on Nintendo accepting that the Switch kind of requires them to do this and getting the process started as soon as possible.
1. Finally Embrace The Internet
This has been one of Nintendo’s biggest failings for years now; they just seem so darn resistant to working with the Internet. Over the past few years, we’ve seen Microsoft and Sony make amazing systems for allowing people to play with their friends wherever and whenever, enabling the sharing of people’s recorded gaming moments and even letting people dip their toes into early access games (for better or worse). Nintendo on the other hand has been treating the Internet the same way a 6 year old treats their vegetables.
Nintendo’s treatment of the copyright system for taking down YouTube videos of Nintendo games has been the subject of a lot of anger. Nintendo created its own partnering system to try to appease people upset with their policies, the Nintendo Creators Program, which takes a 30%-40% cut of ad revenue from the videos featuring Nintendo gameplay (this is in addition to Google’s 45% cut). Besides the revenue sharing, you’ll also only be able to use gameplay from certain “whitelisted” Nintendo games, leading many YouTubers to simply ignore Nintendo games rather than jump through the hoops. Basically, everyone realizes that for most games, YouTube videos are free advertisements for the game being played, but Nintendo seems to only be able to see videos as lowering interest in buying games, rather than increasing interest.
Even if you don’t see much of a problem with how Nintendo treats YouTube videos, the way they’ve structured their own systems’ online services is definitely holding Nintendo back. Microsoft and Sony have always been very focused on making things quick and easy when it comes to online play, where Nintendo has always taken the route of “overly complicated and almost pointless. With the Xbox One and PS4, you just find your friend’s username, add them, and can immediately start a party with them and play with them. With the Wii U, you can enter a random 12 digit “Friend Code,” they’ll need to add yours at the same time, then you can play together. You might have thought to yourself “he forgot to mention party chat, ” but actually it was Nintendo that forgot to allow party chat to even exist in the first place. Most Nintendo games don’t even feature voice chat, and for the ones that do, you’ll need a third party headset to use with the Wii U GamePad, since Nintendo couldn’t be bothered to make one themselves.
With the Switch, Nintendo needs to make an online service that works similar to the Xbox One and PS4. People want to play and chat with their friends online—just let them already. Nintendo has always made extremely fun couch co-op games, but they don’t need to limit people to just being able to play couch co-op. Another reason for how they treat online play could be because Nintendo is a little more geared toward kids, so their systems are set up to be very protective of kids. Nintendo can still do that with a normal online system, just put those options in the settings rather than baking them straight into the essential functions of the system. Nintendo, you need to get with the times, or the times are going to get on without you.
If Nintendo can address these five main problems, they’ll be able to give the Switch the best chance possible at being a success. The Switch is a huge risk and has a lot of factors already working against it, but if Nintendo can use that bold attitude and direct it at some of their internal policies, there might be hope for them to return to being a dominant video game console producer.
How do you think Nintendo should help the Switch succeed? Did I miss anything you think is more important? Let me know in the comments!