The Ball Is Still In Nintendo’s Court

Image result for nintendo switchIt’s finally here. We can put the Nintendo NX to rest, and welcome the Nintendo Switch. I can honestly say I am extremely excited for this console; it’s everything I was hoping to see. I’ve wanted true portability from a home console for a long time, and that dream is officially coming true.

But even after getting that glimpse that we’ve been salivating over for more than a year, there’s still plenty left for Nintendo to accomplish. In my first official post on this blog, I outlined how the Switch was going to be huge for Nintendo. And while the name has changed, I still wholeheartedly believe in the sentiments I shared in that post. Nintendo Switch can be a game changer, but it’s still on Nintendo to make sure that happens. Here’s a few things they need to do:

1. Get The Console In gamers’ hands

Image result for nintendo switchAccording to the trailer Nintendo released today, Switch is still on track for a March 2017 launch. That’s a good thing, obviously. A delay is okay in certain situations, but Nintendo isn’t really in a position where they can wait much longer. It’s encouraging to hear that the hardware is in a state where we’ll be able to handle this thing soon. But that’s only the first step.

Nintendo needs to be sure it’s priced right. While the console appears to be decently powered (it has a cooling fan and was shown running what appeared to be the graphics-heavy Skyrim), it’s still reasonable to expect something below a PS4 or Xbox One in terms of power. There’s been rumors supporting this, but logically you wouldn’t expect a console with this form factor to have face-melting power. With the PS4 ringing up at $299, and even the Xbox One S carrying the same price, Nintendo is going to have a tough sell if Switch is priced anywhere above that. Keep in mind those consoles also include a game. And, as Switch is being marketed as a home console, it also needs to include the Swtich console, the Switch dock, the Joy-Cons (the funky name for the detachable controllers), and the Joy-Con Grip (the funky name for the funky device that acts as your Joy-Con controller dock when not attached to the Switch).

The last component to getting this in gamers’ hands is availability. We don’t need to see another Nintendo Wii situation where people can’t get a Switch for months after its initial launch. It’s always safest to pre-order something like this so you can be sure you get a unit, but Nintendo needs to be sure that people who want a Switch can go buy one immediately after launch. That didn’t end up hurting Wii’s sales numbers in the long run, but Nintendo isn’t in the same situation they were in at the Wii’s launch. They need to move this thing.

2. Get Cozy With Developers

It looks like Nintendo is coming into a post-gimmick age. Yes, Switch isn’t a conventional console. Yes, it may even feature some type of motion sensitivity. But the focus, at least in the trailer, wasn’t on gimmicks. This isn’t Wii that tried to force motion control, causing developers to essentially create different styles of games for that console. It also isn’t Wii U that forced coding for two screens simultaneously. It encourages different styles of gameplay that fit what the developer wants to accomplish.

Image result for nintendo switch

If you’re accomplishing step one and getting this console to consumers, and you’re not requiring developers to put extra effort into games, third party titles will come. Nintendo released an image (left) of the “partners” they’ve lined up to deliver content on the Switch. It’s an impressive list, with some really big names. Some of these companies even backed out of Wii U after a while, so seeing them back is refreshing. It doesn’t, however, mean that you’re going to automatically see the next Battlefield on this console. Everyone wants that, but this console will need to prove itself first.

There’s already signs that this is happening. Rumblings from developers so far seems positive, some even saying it’s a “dream to code for.” Even today, developers praised the Switch – although most of this is probably PR speak. That’s still encouraging. Also encouraging was news today that Switch is going to support Unreal Engine 4, something that PS4 and Xbox One have done for a while and Wii U never really managed. Supporting developer tools like this not only makes porting games easier, but it sends a message that Nintendo wants that to happen.

3. Provide A Great Online Experience

Image result for nintendo onlineAs I publish this, gamers everywhere are enjoying EA’s newest multiplayer heavy Battlefield 1. I’ve also been online this morning browsing for servers and seeing what trouble I can get myself into. Both Microsoft and Sony offer a robust online experience with AAA titles, voice and video chat, intuitive friends lists, and party modes. They also have great social and sharing options, allowing me to snap a screenshot or put together highlight reels (or, more often, blooper reels) and share them on social networks. Since a majority of the Switch’s reveal trailer revolved around sharing your experiences with friends, this type of online experience is a must.

Nintendo isn’t done with announcements yet. They showed off their new hardware yesterday, along with a few games, but three minutes can only show so much. There’s still more on the way, and I have a feeling a lot of that will revolve around online features. Nintendo could, for example, offer a subscription service that would allow you to play games from the Virtual Console. Because one of the things that needs major attention is the Virtual Console. Buying Super Mario 3 on each different Nintendo platform is a good revenue stream for Nintendo, but it’s tiresome for consumers.

Image result for nintendo switch share buttonThere’s also a tiny button on the left Joy-Con (square button with a circle inside, below the 4 D-pad buttons). While it hasn’t been officially identified yet, this could be the rumored Share button. There’s already a home button, and the plus/minus usually acts as your start/select buttons. That doesn’t leave a whole lot of options for that extra button. A Share button, much like what already exists on Sony’s DualShock 4, would be a welcome addition for those that want to easily capture and upload their gaming experiences. If that is what this button is, that hints at a change in the right direction for Nintendo.

There you have it. I think these are the key ingredients to make Switch a successful home console. Nintendo is marketing this as a home console first, so it needs to have these things that are common to home consoles to succeed in that regard. Nintendo seems to be ticking off at least some of these boxes already. We’re most likely going to have to wait until January at this point to see what other boxes, if any, get checked.

If you look around on the web, you’ll see some concerns floating around already (mainly in regards to processing power and battery life). I would advise to take those with a grain of salt at this point. There’s a reason I don’t have those listed as a component for Switch’s success. If Nintendo can create a console that lets players play the way they want to play, can get that console in their hands as early and often as possible, and can show developers this is a worthy home console, the other things don’t matter. These are the things the matter most right now.

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