Nintendo’s Giant Switch-Up
Is Nintendo switching things up, or is it just more of the same?
Microsoft versus Sony, Battlefield versus Call of Duty and Forza versus Gran Turismo. These are some of the rivalries that can get people talking about console wars. “Game On or Game Over” is your place to get inside the minds of Nicholas and Andy as they seek to find the true meaning of gaming and tackle some of gaming’s most controversial subjects. Both are award winning authors – although the awards haven’t been mailed or created yet — but trust them. Would they lie to you?
Nicholas: A few months back you and I discussed Nintendo and their decision to essentially allow a dead-zone of sorts between their last few major releases for the Wii U and then the release of the Nintendo NX. We spoke about the fact there would be months of nothingness until 2017 until more information about their rumoured console was released and what impact that would have. Well, within the last fortnight Nintendo released a trailer for their new console and I thought it would be fitting to talk about our thoughts on what we know and speculate about what we don’t.
So, before I give my thoughts let me switch over to you. What do you think about the new Nintendo Switch from what we saw in the trailer?
Andy: First, I have to say that I haven’t played a Nintendo game in a long time. Not that I have anything against them, but I just drifted away over time and never came back. From the outside looking in it seems that, aside from the DS line, their consoles revolve around gimmicks. The problem with gimmicks is they lose their lustre and people move on. That moves right into my impressions of the trailer. My first thought with the video won’t surprise anyone who knows me but it was literally “that poor dog.” A guy takes his dog to a park, sits on a bench and pays no attention to it as it runs back and forth. My overall impression of the trailer isn’t much better unfortunately.
I understand what Nintendo was trying to do with the video. Make it young, hip, show off the versatility of it, and show that games are on cartridges again. Yet, I can’t think of anyone I know who would play games in 90% or more of the situations in that trailer. Have a roof top party and have everyone huddled around an 8 inch screen? Doesn’t make sense. Play a game of basketball and then challenge someone to another game… on the Switch? I don’t get it. Walk up to a random stranger, sit close to them, and show them your Switch and suddenly you’re best friends. Here’s the thing, those were my initial thoughts about the trailer, and I haven’t even talked about the system yet. That can’t be the response that Nintendo was looking for when they made the trailer.
Putting aside my thoughts on the trailer and looking only at the Switch itself. First, I see a giant gimmick again. It seems like Nintendo just doesn’t know how to commit to making a full-fledged home console anymore. Second, Nintendo has the handheld market, so I’m confused as to why they felt the need to have the Switch encroach on that. Obviously we don’t have the specs on the system yet, but logic says by making it a pseudo-handheld system that there had to be some sacrifices made in terms of power and what it can do. With the anticipated amount of movement it makes sense they went back to a cartridge, and I was surprised to see Skyrim featured so much. I’m curious to see what the limitations are with those big AAA titles like that.
I guess that’s a long way of me saying that while there is a certain novelty of the Switch, to me it still comes across as a gimmick and it’s hard for me to take Nintendo seriously when all they do is release consoles that have that type of feel to them. You are a much bigger Nintendo fan than I am though. So I am very curious what your thoughts are on the trailer and what it represents going forward. What did you think?
Nicholas: I definitely want to touch on what you’ve said about not taking Nintendo seriously, but later on. To begin, I completely agree with you what you said about the trailer – literally no-one is ever going to play with the Switch like that. I completely get what Nintendo is trying to do – make it seem like a new social revolution when it comes to gaming, but who’s going to carry the controller like that in their bag on the chance that they might play it when out. Even with the DS line, since it started I’ve not seen people gathering together with their handhelds outside a gaming convention. It’s literally never happened. So as far as the trailer goes, the hype they’re trying to generate is meant to be cool, but it’s unrealistic.
The point you made about the cartridges is also an interesting one, because it seems to contradict everything we expect. We last saw cartridges with the N64 (as far as home consoles are concerned) and since then we’ve had discs. To go back to cartridges, especially when games are so large they don’t always fit on a single Blu-ray DVD, yeah, it completely makes you wonder what’s been scaled back on the Switch to make it work.
Now, on that last point we need to make one thing clear – aside from the trailer we know nothing about the Switch. We know they have detachable controllers that are made for the hands of midgets, we know that there’s a take-away screen and we know that there’s still a standard controller, but the specs and everything else – its but a guess. I remember reading though that the screen and dock that we saw in the trailer was not the ‘main’ hardware, which makes me wonder whether the console really is scaled back.
You mentioned earlier that the ‘gimmick’ of the Switch has made you not take Nintendo seriously and I’d like to focus on this a little further. In the past we’ve discussed how Nintendo has never really run in the same race as the other hardware giants, but does part of you think that they should? You’ve mentioned that you’ve not played a Nintendo title for a while, so what would it take for that to change? By not trying to different, do you think it would make them… boring?
Andy: For me there is one phrase that comes to mind, and that I think really applies to how Nintendo handles it’s consoles. “Don’t be different just to be different, have a purpose behind it.” When I look at Nintendo’s consoles I can’t help but think that they are being different just for the sake of being different and to do something “new” with no real purpose behind it. The Switch, in my opinion, is a perfect example. When I first saw the cartridge port and the portability I thought maybe Nintendo was going to shoot for an all-in-one type of system. One piece of hardware to run all the games, keep it at home or take it with you.
Logically, if you’re going to do something like that do it big to make an impact. Yet, late last week a Nintendo spokesperson came out and said the company will continue to make DS systems and that the Switch will not replace them. Um… OK? If you already have a handheld portable system, and the new system isn’t replacing that system, then what is the reason for trying to add all these gimmicks to it? Look at the Wii U and how poorly handled that was. The Wii U is now nothing but a footnote in Nintendo’s history and a colossal mistake.
Being different is fine, but there has to be a reason for it. I don’t think the Xbox One, PlayStation 4, or even a PC is boring. They sit on a shelf, or TV stand, play games and run apps. That’s exactly what I got it for, and it does its job. I think the biggest reason I haven’t played a Nintendo title in a long time is because they have so few games I’d be interested in I can’t justify purchasing a console just for one game a year, or longer. The other thing is, Nintendo seems to have a hard time explaining what it’s doing. The Wii U was a marketing nightmare, and once it failed to get traction it was essentially tossed aside.
Again, look at the Switch trailer. They showed every conceivable way people won’t play games on it. Then, they said “no other information will be available until early 2017.” Excuse me but… what the hell? They are going to leave people with a single 3 minute trailer, no other information, to start to form opinions and talk to others about those opinions. That whole thing just doesn’t make any sense to me. I literally have no idea what Nintendo is doing here. Maybe I am just thinking about this the wrong way. Can you shed any light into Nintendo’s thinking and how they are handling this? Because I am beyond confused.
Nicholas: I wonder if the way your approaching this is influenced by your general opinions of the company. What I mean is, as a predominately Xbox gamer and as someone who hasn’t played a Nintendo game for a while, you’re looking for that spark to re-ignite that connection, but because it mightn’t fall into what you’d expect you’re finding it difficult to see the appeal.
Let’s switch it around. Assume you’re either a hardcore Nintendo fan or at the least, someone who owns a Nintendo console and has an interest in their next hardware. You recognise that the Switch can be played remotely and you recognise that it’s trying something different, but ultimately what you’re really after is news that something’s coming. Like the Wii and its motion controls or the Wii U and it’s gamepad, it isn’t so much the new (gimmicky) features, but more so that we’re getting something new from Nintendo in the near future. Waiting a few more months is fine if you know it’s on the horizon. Like you said, you just want a console that will play games, and stripping the remote play aside, the Switch will do that.
I think that’s what the Switch represents for the majority of the keen gamers – not playing with friends after their basketball game, but the next step for Nintendo and its. There’s new games coming and if Skyrim is an indication, it looks like the Switch isn’t going to be the less-powerful, forgotten and laughed at step-child of the gaming family.
What are your thoughts on that? Further to that point, Nintendo have announced that there are a lot of major developers and publishers on-board for the Switch. Even though you’re not a big Nintendo fan, does that at least tell you that the rest of the gaming community is taking it seriously and there’s every chance it’ll be a decent competitor to the Xbox One and PS4?
Andy: We could be approaching this from different viewpoints, but I think they are both valid. In fact, I would argue that (and this is going to sound entitled but I don’t mean it that way) I should be the type of gamer that Nintendo should be courting. What I mean by that is, there are the hardcore Nintendo fans who will buy whatever Nintendo pushes out the door. Much like myself and Fallout. If Nintendo slaps the name Mario or Zelda on something there is a segment of gamers who will buy it with no questions asked, and that’s perfectly fine. But, I would think that I am the gamer that Nintendo should try to grab because as of the past several years, I haven’t been a Nintendo gamer. The object should be to get more gamers to play their games, and thereby their system.
Thinking pragmatically, if Nintendo has shown me anything the past three years is that they can make a lot of promises, never truly fill them, then with the snap of a finger jump ship to the next big promise and leave everything else behind. That’s not a message that will really get me interested in giving something a try. As a gamer I would rather stick with something I know versus something I don’t. In regards to the announcement of several big name developers being on-board with the Switch, I’m reasonably sure the same thing was said about the Wii U but when sales weren’t what they were expecting, developers started to slowly drop off. Promises are cheap. Whether or not all those developers/publishers follow through, now that’s a different story. They were pretty quick to jump ship with the Wii U, I can’t see them all rushing back right away. I would imagine several of them will take a wait-and-see type of approach.
As I said before I have nothing against Nintendo. We have just grown apart over time and I have had no reason to 100% dive back in. I feel like I have to ask this, but I’m not really sure the best way to ask. So you may have to decipher what I mean a little bit. Are our differing stances on this indicative of where Nintendo is at as a whole? Meaning that there are those who will get the Switch for sure, and those (like me) who will probably continue to pass Nintendo by based on their recent history? Should Nintendo be doing more to get who are on the fence convinced that they have a console, and games, that can compete with the Xbox One, PS4 and PC?
Nicholas: I’d be interested in hearing what you mean by Nintendo making promises and not delivering on them. When you speak about growing apart over time I would say that I’m in the same boat. Sure, I haven’t stopped buying their consoles and games, but Nintendo has gone from being my primary (and only) console up until the Gamecube to being my secondary (and rarely used) console. Ever since I purchased my Xbox 360 it’s taken a backseat in my gaming collection.
The thing is though, despite what I’ve said above, my Nintendo consoles still have more regard than my PS3. You mentioned Nintendo competing with the Xbox One, PS4 and PC, but the question I’d like to ask you is, how many of the same (competing) consoles should we have? I’m not saying my life is anything special, but even with regular work and gym commitments, I rarely get time to play my Xbox One – let alone the Wii U or any other console I own. That’s my one hang-up whenever I discuss Nintendo and their competitors – if they simply when from being unique to being on-par with the other consoles, it would be just another console. By being different, being gimmicky and (I guess) underpowered, Nintendo is trying to target and fill another niche.
So you ask the question, “should Nintendo be doing more to get who are on the fence convinced that they have a console” and to that I think, “no”. Don’t get me wrong, part of me wants to return to Nintendo and have it become a primary console, but at the same time, I don’t mind that it’s now a sometimes device. Nintendo serves a specific function for me and that’s OK. I don’t need to buy Need For Speed for my Wii U, but I do want to keep buying new Mario titles. For me, as long as Nintendo keep killing it with their exclusive franchises then that’s OK. Like my cousin told me when I was tossing up between the Xbox 360 and the Wii, “Xbox is better for adult games”, and it is.
As we wrap this week up, you mentioned earlier that you’re the kind of person that Nintendo should be trying to get on-board, but my question back to you is – are you the target audience for Nintendo? There’s no denying that Nintendo gets it right that they absolutely kill it, and they’ve been killing it a few times since the Wii was released. Do you think that Nintendo need to bring more people on-board by competing with the other console giants? Is it really a market they need to get their fingers in when they seem to be surviving with their existing fan-base?
Andy: I actually would argue that Nintendo is “killing it”, unless of course you mean killing their gamer base. I’m not being sarcastic here either. I think Nintendo’s gamer base is always shrinking. There are certainly a few franchises that keep people coming back, but that’s the thing. Those games only get them to come back, not stay. I absolutely do think Nintendo should be focused of all those gamers who have drifted away over the years. I mean it makes sense. We (because I could put myself in that group) represent revenue that Nintendo hasn’t had a piece of in years and years. They would be doing themselves a disservice if they didn’t try and get a slice of my gaming dollar. They are a business after all.
I’m honestly not sure that competing with the others is the right phrase to use the more I think about it. I’m just looking for a reason to consider Nintendo relevant for my gaming dollar and gaming time. Because, quite honestly, right now they aren’t. Aside from maybe one title here or there Nintendo hasn’t put out a solid enough line-up for me to take notice. I’m not looking for Nintendo to be a catch-all for all my gaming needs like Need for Speed and Battlefield. I’m just looking for them to give me a reason to come back.
Look at the irony here. Usually we are talking about how greedy developers/publishers are by always squeezing every last penny they can from us. Here I am trying to get Nintendo to take some of my money because I miss playing their games. I mean really how crazy is that? I’m just looking for a reason to come back and thus far Nintendo hasn’t given me a solid reason to do it. Their games and quality of those games are just all over the place and not enough to get me to commit and move from being a past Nintendo gamer to a current Nintendo gamer. Right now I’m just not sure what Nintendo is doing. They don’t have a consistent mantra of what to expect. I just want them to switch things up so that we can get back together.