Why the Nintendo Switch Concept Could Be Brilliant

Nintendo Switch

Nintendo Switch | Nintendo

Nintendo has finally revealed its next video game console, the Nintendo Switch. It’s a slick piece of hardware that you can play plugged into a TV like a traditional home console, or by itself when you’re on the go. It’s slated for a March 2017 release, so it’s just around the corner.

When it comes to hardware, Nintendo needs a hit right now. While the original Wii sold in record numbers, its successor, the Wii U, was among the worst failures in the company’s history. But based on what we’ve seen of the Switch, it looks like a shrewd move on Nintendo’s part. Here’s why.

It plays to Nintendo’s strengths

Someone playing Dragon Quest XI on a Nintendo 3DS.

Dragon Quest XI on a Nintendo 3DS | Source: Square Enix

Ever since the launch of the Game Boy in 1989, Nintendo has maintained two distinct product lines: handheld gaming devices and home consoles.

On the console side of things, the company has delivered a number of killer systems, including the NES, Super Nintendo, and Nintendo 64. But its most recent ones, the GameCube, Wii, and Wii U, have been shakier. The Wii skyrocketed with popularity, but its motion-based controls left many longtime Nintendo fans wishing for something more traditional. The GameCube and Wii U both failed to catch on with gamers and sold poorly.

On the handheld side, it’s a different story. Essentially, Nintendo has ruled the dedicated handheld gaming market since 1989, eclipsing the sales of all competitors that cropped up.

Looking at it from this angle, it’s not surprising Nintendo is effectively merging the two product lines into one handheld device you can plug into a TV when you’re at home. The Nintendo Switch offers the best of both worlds.

Minimal competition with Sony and Microsoft

The Nintendo Wii U and GamePad controller.

The Nintendo Wii U and GamePad controller | Source: Nintendo

In the current console generation, the Wii U has failed to compete against the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. People just aren’t buying it.

By choosing to make handheld gaming a core focus of the Switch, Nintendo minimizes the areas of overlap with the competition. Sure, Sony has the PS Vita, but that handheld has been on life support ever since Sony stopped making games for it years ago. For its part, Microsoft has never shown any interest in the handheld gaming space.

That leaves the whole dedicated handheld market to Nintendo. The Switch will still face stiff competition from phones and tablets, but its physical controls and Nintendo-made games will give it a leg up.

It unifies the software output

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild | Source: Nintendo

Without separate handheld and console product lines to worry about, Nintendo can tighten up its game-making machinery. In fact, the company already did that in 2013, when it merged its Wii U and 3DS software divisions together.

The move raised eyebrows back then, because at that time Nintendo was still making games for both systems. But since the Switch merges the handheld and console product lines into one device, it’s now clear why Nintendo merged the software divisions as well. That’s what business types call synergy.

Ideally, with every Nintendo developer laser focused on making games for a single device, we’ll get a firehose spray of great Nintendo games coming out regularly all year long. That will help Nintendo avoid having more years like 2016, when practically nothing came out on Wii U.

A fresh start

Art for The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

Art for The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild | Source: Nintendo

Nintendo has been struggling financially for years now. It’s time for a fresh start, which means letting go of the past.

Despite being home to some great games, the Wii U was a failure. The 3DS was more successful, but it didn’t come anywhere near the sky-high sales of its predecessor. From the looks of it, Nintendo has spread itself too thin.

But by bringing the two product lines together, Nintendo can put all of its resources into making the Switch as good as it can possibly be.

If Nintendo wants to remain in the hardware business, this seems like the right move.

Follow Chris on Twitter @_chrislreed
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