Everyone wants Nintendo to triumph.

Nintendo is synonymous with gaming for many and this isn’t hyperbole – people will call an Xbox or PlayStation a Nintendo in the same way everyone calls any adhesive strip a Band-Aid®. Nintendo single handedly (slight hyperbole) brought gaming out of the disastrous oversaturated market in the 80’s when truckloads of games were being dumped in the desert.

With a rich and pivotal history in the gaming industry, it’s easy to root for Nintendo. They are the mascots of our childhood, the first entry point for many gamers and Nintendo consistently makes quality games – Nintendo is the Disney of the video game universe.

Which is why it is so incredibly frustrating that Nintendo refuses to succeed.

The Nintendo Switch Event (Press Conference-Treehouse-Nintendo Direct-Hybrid Monster) was by all accounts disastrous. I am actively less interested in the Switch than I was when they released the teaser trailer in November. Instead of preparing for victory and endearing themselves to an audience that is starving for attention – Nintendo insists on a series of odd choices and doubling down on bad strategies.

Casual Market

Every Nintendo console has sold less than the one before it, besides the Wii which saw a huge spike in sales as the Grandma-friendly machine. Because of this accomplishment Nintendo appears to be targeting the same casual players who picked up a Wii but were confused by the Wii U.

1 2 Switch, the first game showcased during the announcement is a collection of goofy mini-games and party activities to replace charades, Scattergories or Head’s Up. The logic: it worked with Wii Sports, it will again. The fallacy: Wii Sports was a bundled game and 1 2 Switch has the audacity to be a full retail release.

Another issue with the mini game collection is the lack of relatability; beating up your friends in boxing, bowling or tennis makes sense and is something you might actively want to do outside – I don’t think people are excited to milk a cow faster, eat a sandwich or shake ice cubes in a glass better than their buddies.

The casual gamer is a lie. They purchase the console once and don’t pick up games – or just pick up Wii Fit. This is great for sales numbers but not longevity. This is a parlor trick that works once but probably won’t ever again – or at least not for 20+ years. They remember their Wii collecting dust and don’t necessarily want to invest $300+ for another product to stuff in their closet.

Nintendo should focus on their brand-champions who still claim the Wii U was a good console instead of the elusive everyman.

Handheld or Console?

$300 is a good price for the newest, shiniest console on the market…but the Nintendo Switch isn’t competing with the PS4 and Xbox One Slim (much less the SIX TERAFLOPS Scorpio releasing later this year)…it’s competing with itself. Already, Breath of the Wild is announced at 900p which is unacceptable for a 2017 console’s must buy game…but it is pretty good for a handheld.

The marketing for Switch is a console you can take with you anywhere (for 2.5 to 6 hours) – it is more realistic to say that it is a handheld that plugs into your television easily.

With less than 2 months until launch, Nintendo still hasn’t announced the specs. They are embarrassed of what’s inside and know that it pales in comparison to the existing options. Switch is on-par with the PS3 and Xbox 360 – even the announced Skyrim game is the previous-gen version and not the remastered re-release coming to modern day consoles.

Instead of focusing on the Switch as the next console offering Nintendo might be better served leaning into this being the successor to the 3DS and the only place to play Nintendo games at home or on the go.

Nostalgia 2.0

Nintendo doesn’t compete with modern games, they compete with their own previous entries. Super Mario Odyssey looks like Super Mario 64 (not in terms of graphics but the exact same gameplay). I loved SM64 but it feels like such a step backwards to revisit this gameplay loop after Super Mario Galaxy delivered something new.

Fans of Nintendo rally that Nintendo might use the same characters but they change the formula from game to game. This doesn’t appear to be the case for the proposed Switch titles Super Mario Kart Deluxe, Spla2oon (fixed!), rumored Smash Bros 4. Pokémon Stars, Fire Emblem Fates/Birthright and other ports of existing Nintendo releases. It is a quiet admittance from Nintendo that the Wii U was a failure and they don’t want some of their games orphaned on abandoned hardware.

Even Breath of the Wild looks like it will borrow heavily from Ocarina of Time – Link is running around collecting a ragtag team of misfits to fight alongside him to vanquish Gannon from Hyrule. Nintendo lives and dies by nostalgia and how much fun their fans remember having with their games from yesteryear…

Preorder Predictions

Nintendo started off as toy company and stumbled into the gaming market – they are still a toy company at heart, they just happen to be making video games.

They don’t care what the rest of the industry does; their lack of trophy support, weird 1-month “free game” offering that isn’t permanent, required add-ons for in-game chat and insistence to not include a traditional controller all point to a willful decision not to engage with the mainstream gaming audience.

Regardless of all this, Switch will have fantastic pre-order numbers thanks to the Nintendo-faithful. Sales during the first few months will be impressive and outshine the Wii U, though, not as many as possible – Nintendo won’t manufacture enough for everyone who pre-orders in an attempt to replicate the Blue Ocean strategy that kept the Wii off shelves for a couple years.

Nintendo’s recently released NES-classic alludes to a failure in production to keep up with demand and create an artificially inflated second-market – the Switch will follow the same fate.

I hope I’m wrong. Despite everything stated above, I want Nintendo to win. A thriving Nintendo is good for the market and makes sure Sony/Microsoft don’t get complacent in their position as powerhouse consoles. Nintendo has been on the forefront of innovation and hopefully the Switch will be once again – instead of just being another unrealized gimmick that no one understands how to design for.

The lingering question you might have at this point is…did I pre-order one? And ultimately yes. My wife feels that it will be another Wii situation and I can’t discredit her instincts and despite any worries I might have…there’s still an awesome looking Zelda game coming out and Nintendo is comfort food.


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