The Nintendo Switch is going to fail.
I would first like to make it completely clear that I wish nothing more than for Nintendo and gamers in general to find great success with the Switch. As I have written in the past, I think Nintendo excel at making high quality games and are a fundamental player in an industry that I feel has the potential to enter some of its best years in the immediate future. I have also previously written that I feel that the Switch is Nintendo’s last real shot at making a successful console. I do not think that the Switch will be a successful console.
The reason behind my thinking this is not due to one or two major flaws, but rather a long list of minor “oh Nintendo why?” moments. The Switch itself is actually an intriguing piece of technology and something I was very serious about buying after watching that reveal trailer way too many times. But then came the big conference a few days back and the drip feed of info we have been reading since then. Whilst many are likely to disagree with me, I don’t see the Switch selling any more than 20 million units and I have several reasons to think this.
1). The launch line up.
Zelda, 1-2 Switch, Skylanders Imaginators, SuperBombermanR and Just Dance. That is the launch day line up for the Switch. Yikes. Yes, Zelda looks fantastic and I will get to that in a minute, but seriously 5 games? No matter which way you look at it, that is a joke.
Then if you look to releases further on in 2017 there is nothing much to excite either. Skyrim, that 5 year old game that launched last generation isn’t coming until the New Zealand spring and has no confirmed release date. Super Mario Odyssey is apparently coming in the holiday season (putting my money on a delay for that one) and games releasing later on in March include I am Setsuna, Snipperclips, Has Been Heroes and Fast Rmx. I don’t know about everyone else but my March will consist of Horizon Zero Dawn and Mass Effect. Other big titles coming in the Switch’s early months include Ghost Recon (though I see a delay happening for that one), South Park, Persona 5 and Yooka Laylee (which doesn’t appear to be launching on the Switch at the same time as other platforms).
These early months are when Nintendo needs to get everyone talking about the Switch and to do so it needs to couple great hardware with great titles. It won’t matter how good Zelda is in early March, by the end of March many of us will be desperate to sink our teeth into Mass Effect which we can’t play on the Switch. Where will the conversation be by April?
Perhaps Nintendo will have a massive E3 and set up a dream holiday season. Perhaps they will announce a Metroid, Smash Bros and Pokemon game. Perhaps Red Dead Redemption will make a surprise appearance on the platform (it won’t). No matter how big an E3 or holiday season Nintendo could put together, it would still mean nearly an entire year on the market with barely any compelling software to justify a purchase. What happens to Nintendo’s stock price in that time? What would a soft start out of the gates say to third party’s on the fence about putting their game on the Switch? A soft start would not mean the end. The 3DS and PS3 are two successful platforms that had a poor start for example. Despite other platforms being able to turn things around in the past, Nintendo will not be wanting such a start for the console they are placing so much pressure on.
2) Zelda looks incredible, but it’s not a big a deal as you think it is.
The first thing I think of when I think of the launch line up is Zelda. Zelda looks great, incredible even. If I were to buy a Switch it would be to play Zelda and it seems that everyone else in the gaming sphere is in the same boat.
As much as Zelda looks great, I am sick of it being talked about like the second coming of Christ. When I think about people who jumped ship to Sony in the 90s or Xbox in the 00s and all the gamers even younger than me who don’t even know a time when Nintendo was top dog, I think it is safe to say that Zelda is very much a small fish of an IP when put next to some big third party titles.
No matter how good it is, it is just one game and it is launching in a time where an entire system can no longer stand on the back of one essential title for a long period. The pressure for Zelda to live up to the hype is immense and while I think it will, it is not going to be enough to convince anyone other than Nintendo’s core fanbase (i.e. the people who bought the very poorly selling WiiU) to pick up a unit at launch just for that.
Despite being beloved by the games press and talked about possibly more frequently than any other franchise in the past year or so, Zelda is not actually that big a deal. Twilight Princess is the series best-selling game having sold a combined 8.58 million units if you count its original release in 2006 and recent HD remaster. Twilight princess can be played on Gamecube, Wii and WiiU; which have sold a combined 136.7 million units. For contrast, it was recently announced that Uncharted 4 has sold 8.7 million units across 53 million PS4s in approximately 7 months. Uncharted definitely makes waves when one is released but it is nothing of a sales behemoth when you stick it next to GTA, Call of Duty, Fallout, Elder Scrolls, Battlefield, Destiny etc. Zelda is certainly a big deal, but like Uncharted it is no titan. Also like Uncharted, Zelda is a critical darling but positive reception for a single game alone is not enough to define a platform’s success. With its paltry launch line up, Nintendo can’t afford for Zelda to wow the pants off those who were going to buy it anyway, they need it to sell Switches to people who didn’t know they wanted one in the first place. Unfortunately Zelda just isn’t that big of a franchise.
3) Third party support.
Third party games we know that you can play on the Switch in 2017 include Skyrim, I Am Setsuna, Fifa, Rayman Legends, Steep and Project Octopath Traveler. Ports of old games and a few new ones with no confirmed release date. Again, yikes.
Ubisoft, the great supporter of Nintendo’s last two consoles have clearly packed their bags seeing as all they have to offer is the three year old Rayman Legends and the niche game Steep. EA came all the way to Japan to announce they have got Fifa in the works for the Switch. The other two consoles meanwhile get all of the EA sports titles, plus Mass Effect, Battlefront 2 and anything else the mega publisher wishes to release this year. Fifa is a huge title but seriously, that’s it?
Square Enix meanwhile appear to be supporting the platform, not with Final Fantasy XV or Kingdom Hearts or anything with a huge following but again like Ubisoft are offering smaller “low development cost” titles. The games might be fantastic but sadly they are not system sellers.
Like the WiiU before it, the Switch has no serious third party support. Ports of old games and niche titles are simply not good enough. Like me, it seems that third party publishers are not convinced with what Nintendo has.
4) First party support even.
Whilst the lack of third party support is worrying, I don’t think any of us are surprised. At the end of the day, the best thing about owning a Nintendo machine is to play Nintendo’s own games on the device. If Nintendo could come out with a group of games that look great and a release timeline that gives adopters the reassurance another one of their great tiles is just around the corner, things wouldn’t look so bad. Instead we have a Zelda at launch (yay) and Mario in the holiday season (apparently). Splatoon 2 whilst being reported as great, is also being talked about as a minor refinement to the first game. The Mario Kart offering sticks with the recurring theme of being able to play old games on the Switch and we know nothing about Metroid, Smash Bros, Pokemon or any other games that are probably in development. Whilst some are likely to get announced during the year. I imagine not showing these at the conference where you need to sell your device to the world means that they are more than likely a very long way away.
There are several reasons to be super excited about some of the games Nintendo has in store for its own device. I just worry that they don’t have enough to get things going with a bang, especially considering the lack of compelling third party software to bridge the gaps between Nintendo’s titles.
5) Questions and hiccups.
The press conference was atrocious. There is no excuse for the awkward transitioning, the poor translation and the lack of clarity about the games that are on their way. For a multi-billion dollar company they can and should do better. Being Japanese is no excuse, just look at Sony’s E3 conferences in the past few years. Microsoft and the other publishers that also have their own press conferences do far better than Nintendo as well.
What is going on with this online service Nintendo have implemented? I have no issue with Nintendo charging to play games online. But apparently there is no built in voice chat? (something featured on the original Xbox), the free NES or SNES game you get every month is only playable for the month before you have to buy it and the whole reason it seems to be a free service initially is because there is literally a handful of games that will even have online multiplayer in the first few months.
The Switch is not all that powerful. This is not necessarily a big deal. Zelda doesn’t need to look like the Witcher to be fun, or beautiful for that matter. Yet there are already headlines seemingly confirming that it will run at 900p docked into the TV. I am not someone who cares about the details of screen resolution, but 900p for your flagship game is not a good headline you want circulating amongst gamers in 2017. You can pick up a more powerful Xbox One or PS4 with a game and 968GB more memory for less than what a Switch with no game will cost at launch. Hmmm. Less power for more price could be an issue for Nintendo.
The extra bits and pieces will cost you a fair bit. Looking at Mighty Ape, a Switch pro controller will cost you $120, a pair of JoyCons $130, an extra dock $140 and then the cost of a game on top of that. That stuff isn’t cheap. Whilst $550 for a brand new console is not bad, if you want a nice controller and a game (e.g. Zelda at $99), that cost quickly balloons to $770. $770 for what for many early adopters will be a Zelda machine. Zelda had better be good.
Other issues that might be worth considering is the 32GB hard drive, half of which will be gone if you choose to download Zelda. The apparent lack of trophy/achievement system. The death of the Miiverse. No headphone jack on that $120 pro controller and finally no suggestion that you can bring your old digital game purchases over to your new console, in other words they want you to purchase Super Mario 3 for the 5th time. Hmmm.
The fight it will be jumping into.
Finally we must look at the Switches two big competitors; the Xbox One and Playstation 4. Sony recently announced that they have sold 53.4 million PS4s. We also know that Xbox One sales have picked up considerably and are now sitting at an estimated 30 million units sold. In other words, both platforms are on fire. The games in the pipeline for both Xbox and Playstation are also very enticing. Microsoft will undoubtedly have more Halo within the next two years along with some other titles like Sea of Thieves, Cuphead and Crackdown 3. The most recent Gears of War and Forza games also impressed both critically and commercially.
As for Sony, the PS4s own line up of exclusives seems to be just getting started. Uncharted 4, Rachet and Clank and The Last Guardian (in a more divisive fashion) impressed in the past year and 2017 appears to be a time of doubling down on exclusives. Horizon and Gravity Rush are imminent; Crash Bandicoot is coming back and Persona 5 hype is ballooning. Both Nier and Nioh have gathered intrigue and Ni No Kuni 2 is also apparently coming this year to an adoring fan base. Gran Turismo can also be expected to arrive some time in 2017.
Whether or not any more of the big Sony exclusives can make it this year remains to be seen but the list for the future is impressive; God of War, Spiderman, Detroit Become Human and Days Gone are all looking in good shape. Then further into the future Playstation fans have The Last of Us Part II and Death Stranding to dream about.
So even without the third party support they have over Nintendo, things are looking great for Xbox and Playstation. Both consoles have large install bases to support continuing development on these platforms. As far as big third party titles go this year, I have already mentioned several. I am not going to type them all out here but I’m sure any gamer would be happy knowing their console would have Mass Effect Andromeda, Red Dead Redemption II, some Call of Duty title and Resident Evil VII this year. Switch is about to enter an arm wrestle with two very strong foes, let’s hope it can impress.
2017 is going to be fascinating to watch.
Nintendo have proven us all wrong in the past having sold more than 100 million Wii’s and enjoying continuing success with its handheld hardware. The people at that company are clearly talented and very smart, as is clear from the huge amount of money they still have in the bank.
It is just so frustrating to see what they have done with the huge initial interest they garnered with the Switch’s reveal and I for one see no path to success for Nintendo if this is all they have to offer. I really do hope I am wrong and it seems that many people disagree with me when taking a scroll through twitter. I would love to hear what the NZG community think. Are you going to buy one? Am I being too negative? Let me know below! Thanks :)
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