The Nintendo Switch: A risky gamble

Oct 20, 2016

After months of rumor and speculation, Nintendo has revealed to the world their “Project NX” and it seems that much of the rumors were absolutely true.

Named the Nintendo Switch, fans around the world were treated to a three and a half minute trailer of the new console device which is a gaming tablet with removable controllers on the side. Highlighted was the multiple ways that the device could be used. Not only can you play the Switch on the go as a giant tablet ala the Wii U controller but you can also separate the left and right controllers and prop the device on any flat surface. Additionally, a dock is included that allows you plug in the tablet and play your game of choice on any television.

Rumors had swirled for months that pointed to the these very features. Unfortunately, it’s my opinion that this is a massive misstep for Nintendo for many reasons. Hear me out and please leave comments below letting us know if you agree or disagree!

1) The Timing – Less than 6 months till release. Nintendo held it’s cards way too close to the chest for this release. The March 2017 timeframe was confirmed in the trailer. In other words, Nintendo has less than 6 months to build excitement and hype for their new console. This might be easy amongst the  Nintendo faithful but much harder with the general public. Additionally, the choice of March 2017 is a very odd one. Typically, console releases are scheduled around the holiday season and for good reason! What’s happening in March? Literally nothing! Similarly timed rollouts such as the Vita which debuted in Feb 2012 were not terribly successful.

I don't need a holiday to get excited about March!

I don’t need a holiday to get excited about March!

2) The Technology – Nintendo has partnered with Nvidia to power their tablet (in sharp contrast with PS4 and XB1 which both use AMD architecture). Nvidia has already developed a portable gaming device in the form of the Nvidia Shield. It was originally designed to work with the Android Market and to play older (pre 2014) PC games.

Hmmmm….this looks familiar.

Indeed, if you look at the K1 Shield Tablet, you’ll see it bears a striking resemblance to the Nintendo Switch. In fact, they gutted the tablet to build the Nintendo Switch. On a practical level, what this means is that you shouldn’t expect to be wowed graphically speaking. No matter how much optimization Nvidia claims to have done, this was essentially designed to play pre 2014 games. Both XB1 and PS4 are still pushing the graphics envelope, the Switch is going to be limited.

3) Third Party Support –   For those people who think that Mario, Pokemon, Metroid, and the various other esteemed franchises under Nintendo’s belt will be able to make this console a success I only need to point to the Wii U. Despite some great games such as Super Mario 3D world, Smash Bros, and Splatoon, this console cycle has been a disaster for Nintendo. While a list has been revealed of 3rd party partners, it unfortunately doesn’t count for much. That’s because it’s highly likely that most of the 3rd party games on the Nintendo Switch will simply be ports of existing older games. The reason for this goes back to internals, the Tegra Chip. Most 3rd party developers release games simultaneously across XB1, PS4, and PC with minor exception. They can do this because these are all able to provide a comparable level of cpu/gpu. This won’t be the case with the Nintendo Switch which is going to be bottlenecked by the Tegra chip. As such, most newer games will need alterations to function on the weaker hardware which often lead to less features and lower sales. The Wii U has shown us that Nintendo alone can’t sustain a console. It NEEDS 3rd party support and unless it’s willing to shell out some big bucks for exclusives, it’s highly unlikely that any kind of 3rd party support will solidify.

4) Pricing/Battery Life/Portability – Pricing hasn’t been revealed yet about the system BUT there are 2 important pieces of information that we do know. The 1st is that Nintendo isn’t cutting out support for the 3DS. The 2nd is that they have stated they will not be selling the console at a loss (a common tactic for PS and XB to get their consoles into more hands.) As such, we can reasonably speculate that the Nintendo Switch will cost more than a 3DS XL ($200) but somewhat less than a PS4/XB1 which are sitting around $300. It’s hard to justify purchasing a console for $250 minimum (my best guess at the price) who’s biggest selling point appears to be it’s portability. Heck, according to Nintendo, this isn’t even a portable, right? It’s a “console”, remember the 3DS is going to be continue to be supported and marketed as their portable gaming option. In fact, the nature of the Switch’s portability is suspect. This thing does not appear to be properly suited for portability. It’s very doubtful that the battery life on this tablet will exceed that of the 3DS. If anything, I’d suspect that it would be less but we won’t know for sure until the system gets closer to launch. Additionally, It doesn’t have the 3DS’s clever clam-shell design to protect the screen so you’re going to have buy some thick screen protectors/cases to protect your device. Said protection along with it’s length is going to make it difficult to fit this thing into your pocket. Do you want to carry around a bag just to play your Nintendo Switch? I doubt it.

We've all been waiting far too long for this

We’ve all been waiting far too long for this

5) The Rise of Mobile – Nintendo has finally embraced the 21st century and is slowly starting to roll out mobile games as part of it’s partnership with DeNA. While their first game, Miitomo wasn’t received very well. Their next game, Super Mario Run seems like a slam dunk. Why am I even mentioning this? Nintendo has a notifications signup for Super Mario Run. Over 20 million people signed up! 20 million and the game is so far only scheduled for an iOS release. In contrast, Smash Brothers Bros for Wii U (highly regarded as one of THE BEST games for the system) has sold only about 5.3 million copies. Come December, if even half or a quarter of these people end up playing the game, Nintendo is undoubtedly going to question and alter their future actions to skew more heavily towards mobile. Why pour all sorts of resources into selling a brand new console when you can get far better numbers out of a significantly cheaper to produce app? A question I’m sure the higher ups of Nintendo will need to contend with.

Don’t get me wrong, I will be the first to admit that it’s a little too early to throw in the towel based on a single 3 1/2 minute trailer. There is still time for Nintendo to impress and win over new players but that window is rapidly closing every day. Many 3rd party companies will be watching the release week sales numbers closely to decide if this is a system worth developing for. A weak launch could mean the beginning of the end for their legacy of console manufacturing…

I’m going to keep my fingers crossed that Nintendo will be able to make a convincing case for why we should all “switch” over! What about you? Comment below and let us know!