Nintendo is facing one of the most important moments in its three decades in the video game business. It has given up on the Wii U, a console that sold far less than any other main Nintendo system, and shifted its focus to the Nintendo Switch, which it plans to release in March 2017. It’s no exaggeration to say Nintendo’s place in the industry hinges on how successful the Switch is. If the device sells, it will let Nintendo continue to do what it does. If not, there’s a good chance investors will urge the company to make games for other more successful platforms and give up on hardware entirely.
Success will require Nintendo to make the right moves at the right time. Here’s how the Switch can succeed where the Wii U failed.
1. Accept market realities
Nintendo seems to be on the right track in terms of adapting to a changing market. The biggest problem it has is the rise of mobile gaming, which eats into a big portion of Nintendo’s target market of casual gamers.
To deal with mobile, Nintendo is taking an “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em” mentality and releasing a handful of mobile games of its own. It all started with the middling social app Miitomo, which was followed up with the ultra-successful game Pokémon GO, a franchise in which Nintendo has a partial stake. Nintendo plans to keep putting out mobile games based on its properties in hopes of drawing new fans to the Switch. So far, those plans include launching Super Mario Run in December, plus mobile games based on Animal Crossing and Fire Emblem next year.
The other market reality Nintendo seems to have accepted is that it can’t compete with Sony and Microsoft in terms of power. The Nintendo Switch will be a handheld device you can plug into a TV, but there’s no chance it will approach the latest PlayStation and Xbox machines in terms of horsepower. That’s fine, but it’s also nerve-racking; no underpowered console has been successful since the original Wii, and that was years ago. Is there still a market for a device like the Switch? We’ll find out soon.