The Nintendo Switch is going to be a flop.
Sorry, but it’s true, and what’s ridiculous about the whole thing is that it’s a result of Nintendo making exactly the same mistakes that turned the Wii U into a disaster – an astonishing lack of games and a price that’s too high – £280 – given said astonishing lack of games.
In fact, the Switch’s launch line-up is a joke even compared to that of the Wii U, with only two games so far confirmed for its debut, one of which is an underwhelming collection of mini games that comes with the console.
That surely won’t be everything that hits at the same time as the console on 3 March, but if anything even half exciting was going to be ready for that date – a date that’s just seven weeks away, remember – don’t you think it would have been shown off or even just mentioned by now? Exactly.
It’s not like the line-up of games beyond launch day holds much excitement, either. Super Mario Odyssey could well turn out to be ace, but it’s not scheduled for release until Christmas – until then you’ve got practically nothing to tide you over except remakes of old games.
And if you’re thinking the Switch will also get the same third-party titles as those on the PS4 and Xbox One, you can think again.
With those two consoles sharing very similar specs, third-party devs can quite easily produce one game for two platforms. Switch is apparently far easier to develop for than previous Nintendo consoles, but it contains very different and far less powerful components than the PS4 and Xbox, which means if a developer wants to port its game to Switch it’s going to have to invest a huge amount of time and money into making it happen.
If Nintendo only sells a few million consoles that’s just not going to be worth it, and I think we’ll soon see a repeat of what happened with the Wii U – namely the likes of Activision and Ubisoft publicly declaring that they’re not making games for the Switch.
The lack of games isn’t the only problem with the Switch, either. Although comparatively minor issues, the console’s arguably poor battery life and the threat of a subscription charge for online play that the games and install base will never justify are also issues that will put off a fair few potential buyers.
And let’s not underplay what a big deal the Switch is for Nintendo. This isn’t just a replacement for the Wii U, which didn’t sell anyway, but also for the 3DS family of handhelds, 62 million of which have been sold and which continue to be bought in surprisingly large numbers even after all this time. OK, so we don’t know for sure that Nintendo will stop making the 3DS altogether, but the fact that the Switch is designed as a portable console will obviously affect the 3DS’ future. Will Nintendo continue to support it with new games when it has a newer portable to promote? Unlikely.
That puts a huge amount of pressure on the Switch, which means that when it fails, and it will, it will be a bigger disaster than anything Nintendo has faced before. Such a big disaster, in fact, that Nintendo will entirely lose its appetite for making consoles.
And that will be a great day for gamers everywhere.
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This is where Nintendo fans start frothing at the mouth and yelling about how amazing Zelda – the one big launch game – is going to be.
You know what? You’re right. It’s probably going to be brilliant. But wouldn’t you prefer to be able to play it without having to buy a whole new console?
Because Nintendo pulling out of making its own hardware means that it will instead turn to making games for other consoles. And that, in turn, will mean that you’ll be able buy the next Zelda for £60 and play it on the PlayStation or Xbox you already own, rather than spending the £340 it will cost to buy both the game and a Switch.
Making games is Nintendo’s real strength. There’s a charm and style that’s all its own, even after all these years of rival companies trying to steal that Nintendo look and feel. But it just doesn’t make enough titles to justify the purchase of a whole new console. Buy the Switch with Zelda and then wait nine months for the next great game? I’ll pass.
But how many more people would buy Zelda if it came out on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One? There are around 80 million of those consoles out in the wild right now – if the Switch reaches a quarter of that figure in its whole damn lifetime it’ll be a miracle.
Imagine if all of those PS4 and Xbox gamers could play the next Zelda, the next Mario and the next Metroid. Wouldn’t that be awesome for all of us? It would probably be pretty awesome for Nintendo’s finances, too, especially when combined with an even greater push on iOS and Android.
Crucially, I don’t think it’s something we’ll have to imagine for very long. By 2020 I reckon Nintendo will be calling time on hardware and doubling-down on games, and once the tears have dried it will actually turn out to be a whole new lease of life for the company – and one that even its most ardent of fans will come to appreciate too.