On November 18, 2012, Nintendo released the first new eighth generation gaming console the Wii U. By this time the phenomenal success of Nintendo’s previous console the Wii had begun to rapidly stagnate in sales, and motion controller games were on their way out of the mainstream. With Nintendo’s new console the Wii U, Nintendo looked to introduce a tablet–like controller (known as the “gamepad”) complete with an LCD touchscreen that allowed for a multi screen experience. Nintendo’s hope was to translate the success of their dual-screen mobile platform the Nintendo DS into the living room via a TV screen and gamepad with the Wii U. But despite Nintendo’s best efforts, the Wii U failed to generate mainstream success mainly due to the weak internals of the hardware that made it difficult for third-party game developers to produce and port traditional console games to the device. By competing in a console market mostly focused on making highly graphical experiences, Nintendo failed to offer the hardware required for third party developers to port their games over to the Wii U. This eventual led to a severe lack of games for the system that would eventually lead Nintendo to cease production on the Wii U.
Fast forward to the present day and Nintendo is looking to make up for the weak sales of the Wii U with its latest console the Nintendo Switch, currently set to launch on March 3. With the Switch, Nintendo is looking to blur the lines between mobile and console gaming with its new gamepad that can be played on the go much like an iPad, or put in a docking station and played on a TV much like a traditional console. The Switch looks to challenge the conventional division between console and mobile gaming by creating a hybrid system that can do both. Being able to support the conventions of both console gaming and mobile gaming, Nintendo is opening up the opportunity to target both the console and mobile markets in an attempt to reach a much wider audience of players.
But problems for the Switch roll-out might be just over the horizon. Unfortunately, as it stands now, Nintendo has only announced a measly ten games to release on launch for the Switch. To add insult to injury, the launch line-up for the rest of the year for the console is looking pretty slim with only a handful of games announced for release in 2017. Specifically, with the rise of smaller independent games on consoles, and mobile games on smartphones, there’s absolutely no excuse for the Switch’s lack of first-year content. This revelation makes circumstances even more frustrating considering the uniqueness of the Switch’s vast potential to exceed in bridging both the console and mobile markets together within one product. Where competing companies such as Microsoft and Sony have been widely successful in both self-publishing and signing smaller games to their platforms, Nintendo continues to struggle.
The Switch isn’t exactly a bargain. And the lack of content becomes an even larger problem when considering the Switch’s price. The bare-bones Switch will be launching without a game at the cost of $300, which is $50 more than both of its competitors, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. As far as peripherals go, extra Switch pro controllers will be going for a whopping $70 a piece, nearly $20 more than both of the competing controllers. On top of failing to be price-competitive in the console market, when looking at the mobile market, one could argue that Nintendo is also competing against itself by continuing to offer the less expensive mobile platform the 3DS. Although the price of admission may be a deal-breaker for some, given the novelty of the Switch, a compelling argument could still be made for the purchase of the product if one thing were true: that the Switch had the content to back it up. But for now, looking at Nintendo’s first-year release titles for the Switch, the company, for some reason, has just not provided enough content to justify a purchase of the product.
Nintendo’s inability to capitalize on its new hardware potential is disappointing in a world where independent and mobile game development has been embraced by the vast majority of other platform providers. Is there still hope for Nintendo to turn things around with the Switch? Let’s hope so, because the Switch is currently the only product on the market actively trying to converge both the console and mobile market into one, and their potential to offer unique experiences compared to other competing consoles still exists. Unlike the Wii U, Nintendo has compelling hardware this time around, and they shouldn’t be as reliant on hardware specs to succeed. If Nintendo wants to reach a larger audience, they must make an effort to embrace third-party development because, at the end of the day, video game players want to play video games.