I’m writing today to explain why I think some of your plans with the Nintendo Switch’s launch are squandering its potential and will hold your system back. I think you have a potentially great system on your hands but are missing the mark on a few points.
Let’s first talk about your lack of a pack-in game, which is going to make it harder to sell the Nintendo Switch. Right now you’re attempting to break into a generation of video game consoles that is mature but not ripened fully, while your competitors have dropped the prices of their devices and are working on mid-generation refreshes. This has their base hardware, the Xbox One S and PlayStation 4 Slim, retailing for a standard price of $299.99 with multiple bundles featuring at least one game and going on sale beneath that price a decent amount of the time. This means that they are matching or beating your price, while also not requiring an immediate software purchase to make use of the system, unlike the Nintendo Switch.
1-2-Switch would make great sense as a pack-in instead of a $50 title. The game would help the system reach out to more "casual" audiences and help it garner interest among the doubtful. However, I understand that does not appear to be possible (nor the inclusion of launch star The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild), due to your comments on the situation. Perhaps your investors are causing some issues here or there are other concerns. I would remind you before giving up too much on this idea, though, of a concept that Nintendo has espoused for a long time, that software sells systems. After all, it was Nintendo’s Peter Main who coined “The name of the game is the game” when speaking about that very topic.
With the assumption though that you can’t give away any of your launch line-up to convince people to buy your hardware, one needs to look at other options than just giving up. Nintendo has realized since the beginning that software drives the business, and its developers are among some of the best in the world, so perhaps it is a chance to exploit that. Instead of including a single game, what if you were to include what is functionally a demo disk showing off parts of some of the biggest games of the year to come. Include a small portion of Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, a few minigames from 1-2-Switch, perhaps a level from Super Mario: Odyssey, and a bit of ARMS. You could, perhaps, even invite some third-party developers to contribute to it.
While this would lack the depth of a full game, the Nintendo Switch Sample Pack could show the breadth of the system and the types of experiences on it. It would provide something to a person who didn’t have a game and would serve as promotion for games that someone might not have thought to buy. Perhaps the person who bought Zelda wasn’t convinced by 1-2-Switch until he or she played the demos. This could turn a poor situation, being forced to sell hardware with no software included, into a positive and help push software sales.
While the pack-in game situation is a major hurdle holding back the launch potential of the Nintendo Switch, it is far from the only one that I wish to address.
Your online services are an area where you need to change what you are doing presently. Right now, the messaging for it is unclear and something of a mess. This is an area you are talking about going into heavier, and to do that you need to build trust, which will help convince people that your system will be around and worth investing in. Additionally, as I’m sure you’ve discovered, both Microsoft and Sony make a lot of money on their online subscription services and that is why you are going there as well.
First, we need to address this issue surrounding the game inclusion. Regardless of the idea of value, and I know you wish to maintain the high valuation of your back catalog, you need to consider the subscriptions that you are fighting with. One classic title, that you only get for a month, is far less than what either Sony or Microsoft offer, with them offering a minimum of 2 games for the latest platform, typically hitting 4. That isn’t to say you need to fully match the number of titles, but going with 2-3 classic ones, and having them stay while you are subscribed, or even permanently, is going to be far more appealing. This is especially true if you are updating some of those with new online functions like you hinted at, and if you hit at a lower price point like $45/year instead of the $60/year that is charged by Sony and Microsoft.
Right now, the single game for a month and the lack of price information, as well as confusing comments on how online play will work, are making people wonder about it. The Wii, Wii U, and 3DS all have had lackluster online support, and you need to be clear and present what it is you are doing to help build that trust in customers. Saying that the subscription will help solve your server issues some is good, but you need to be clearer there, and perhaps avoid any more visits from Nin-Zilla on your new store front to bolster confidence among consumers.
Speaking of online, though, you should also take a hard look at video and other media options and when they become available. Lacking services such as Netflix and Hulu at launch is perhaps a bigger hit to your potential than you might perceive. As you may recall, the Wii was the most used console for Netflix in the 7th generation of consoles, showing that there is interest from Nintendo users in having that functionality. Lacking it may even drive some former Wii users away. Another point to consider is that with the Switch’s portability, you have something that people would like to watch those services on in different places. You want to displace tablets where possible as they are competing for the same type of space, and this is one key area that you can do so.
But, let us get back to games here as there’s one decision that I must say is baffling me on launch. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, your showcase launch title and system mover, is apparently going to not make use of your highly touted ice-cube moving HD Rumble feature. This is a game with things like shield riding, combat, block puzzles, and all sorts of situations that could make use of whatever this new Nintendo Switch rumble technology is and how it works. This is the game that people at launch have their eyes on and your big tentpole release for the launch that will drive sales. Why, would you choose NOT to include any of your new Nintendo Switch technology that makes sense in it? This is the game people are most likely to experience on the Nintendo Switch due to its brand name, so SHOWCASE IT! Show off the rumble here and how it changes things if you want it to be a selling point.
The Switch has all the potential in the world, and we want to see you reach it. Nintendo makes great games and when not making baffling decisions on things like localization or not including a LAN port on the Nintendo Switch or Switch dock, provides a good contrast to the other companies in this business with their style. Take some time please and make sure you don’t squander its potential.