Escapist Editorials

Escapist Editorials
What Nintendo Needs to Get Right for the Switch to Succeed

Liz Finnegan | 12 Jan 2017 18:00
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Most of our current knowledge of the Nintendo Switch is coming from unverified reports and rumors. There is a report that the tablet is a 720p multi-touch screen. There is a report that the Switch will charge over USB-C. There have been rumors about a Pokemon Sun and Moon follow-up launching on the system, rumors that From Software has Dark Souls III running on the system and is planning to re-release the main three Dark Souls games, complete with DLC, on the Switch. There was a report that The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild will not launch with the system. Then, there was a report that it would, just not in Europe.

Months of speculation about what the Switch would be were followed by months of speculation about what the Switch would do, and finally the answers are near - Nintendo is holding a Switch presentation tonight at 11pm ET, with a Treehouse livestream to follow tomorrow morning that will further highlight the games we can expect to see from the new console.

A number of us here at The Escapist see the Switch as a last hope for Nintendo as far as consoles go. While there is, and likely will always be, value in the company's IPs, overall optimism is relatively low after the Wii U. We always like to see a company succeed, and we've come up with a few ways that we believe the Switch, and Nintendo's place in the console market, can do just that.

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A Strong Launch Lineup

At the moment, we have no clue what games the Switch will launch with. As an admitted Zelda fanatic, a launch alongside Breath of the Wild would be enough to push me towards an early console purchase, but even the most dedicated of Zelda fans will be wanting more from the system, even at launch. Everyone is asking about the Mario game showcased in the reveal trailer - the one that may or may not exist - and bringing out two of its largest IPs in time for launch is a good start. Despite including a number of good titles, the Wii U didn't exactly have the most solid launch lineup. More important than how many games launch with the console is which games release with it. You only get one launch, Nintendo. Make it count.

Even Stronger Third Party Backing

While launch titles are going to play a huge role in the Switch's up-front success, strong and consistent third-party backing is going to be what keeps the system alive. Post-launch, Nintendo was dedicated to playing catch-up with the Wii U, releasing games that had already been out for months. While this is an option guaranteed to pay off (to an extent), Nintendo needs to focus its efforts on maintaining a viable and attractive platform for developers, and needs to do so in a way that will guarantee them a spot at the metaphorical competitive table when a game releases, not months after. While third party support will exist for a time, keeping that support is the greatest challenge facing the Switch. Whether or not Nintendo succeeds on that relies heavily on what's in the box.

It Needs to be Powerful

More than nearly anything, Nintendo needs to prove that the Switch can handle large, detailed modern games. Realistically, none of us expect the Switch to be a powerhouse equivalent to other current consoles, because that honestly has never been the Nintendo way. What we do expect is a console that can keep up with modern gaming without expecting players to sacrifice quality. This will be the biggest way the Switch can maintain third-party developer interest. Developers want to push the envelope, create bigger and better things, not tone it down for weak hardware.

Last month, it was reported that the CPU, GPU, and memory clock speeds were known, with the reports stating that when docked, the GPU will run at 768MHz, but apparently when you lift the Switch from its dock, that drops to 307.2 MHz - roughly 40% of the docked speed. There are legitimate concerns about how larger games will handle that - if you can play Zelda on the go, but it isn't performing as you'd want it to, what's the point? While you'd expect some differences when going portable, that is a key point of the marketing of the console. Nintendo has to prove that, even with that drop, it's just as capable of performing well. Otherwise, what's the point?

It Needs Good Battery Life

One of the biggest points the reveal trailer tried to push was that the Switch offered players gaming on the go, while still being a powerful console. The biggest challenge and most important aspect of the Switch - the thing that could ultimately determine whether the console succeeds or fails - is the battery life of the handheld. In a trailer that shows people playing at a rooftop party and on a plane, one would realistically expect the console to have enough juice to last four to five hours, ideally. There's no denying the fact that the Switch itself is a gimmick of a console - and that doesn't necessarily have to be a negative. It's only if that gimmick only lasts 90 minutes at a time that Nintendo's going to run into some serious, potentially irreversible issues.

Allow Livestreaming

This may be one of the less important points, but still a point worth making. Streaming is on the rise, and the ability to stream directly from the Switch would be a benefit to gamers and Nintendo alike. I don't have too much to say on this point, with the exception of "please do it."

Don't Fake Scarcity

With the NES Classic fiasco still fresh in our minds, some of us have concerns that Nintendo will fake scarcity in order to increase demand - or rather, the appearance of demand. These concerns grew after the NYC Nintendo Store announced "a limited quantity" of pre-orders would be available this Friday, and I quote, "while supplies last." I'm not sure how one would gauge the supply of pre-orders, or how one could run out of pre-orders, but this isn't the sort of stunt consumers want to see. Making the system appear rare won't make it more appealing - in fact, it could ultimately turn people off.

Price it Right

This one is a biggie - how much will the Switch cost? There have been unverified "leaks" the past few days, showing the cost ranging anywhere from $250 to $399. That's a massive stretch of area, and it's very likely that the larger number is a fake or a bundle. Either way, what people get for their money is a huge factor in whether or not the Switch will succeed, and leads nicely into my final point...

Be Honest With Your Customers

Be straight with us, Nintendo. What is the long game here? Is this, or isn't this, going to replace the 3DS? Will people be paying for all of Nintendo's new hardware, handheld and traditional console, in this hybrid? Or are there plans to either release a new handheld or maintain the 3DS? The value people are receiving for their purchase is dependent on the answers to these questions, and while I sincerely doubt any of these questions will firmly be answered tonight, it would be nice to know exactly what people are actually buying.

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