Nintendo strategy is bewildering, if there even is one

Switch console launches in March with only a handful of games to go with it.

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Nintendo Strategy:

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Nintendo detailed its upcoming game console, the Switch, late last week and… well, it has left a lot of people scratching their heads. You don’t need to be a marketing whiz to know that’s not how you launch a product.

The Switch is promising to be a hybrid console that can be played on the go or docked to a television. But, like all hybrid devices, it makes compromises.

As a portable system, it’s big. Its 6.2-inch screen coupled with the Joy-Con controllers on each side make it the largest portable game device yet, but its short battery life – 2.5 to 6.5 hours – leaves much to be desired.

Will gamers want to lug such a big device around and will they put up with so little juice? Both are big gambles on Nintendo’s part.

On the home front, the Switch doesn’t pack anywhere near the horsepower of competing consoles from Microsoft and Sony and is barely a step up from Nintendo’s previous machine, the Wii U. Nevertheless, it will cost $299 (U.S.) when it goes on sale on Mar. 3, or about the same as its rivals. That’s another big gamble.

Gamers could overlook these issues if the new console had a killer lineup of titles to go with it, but that’s where the Nintendo strategy goes from odd to bewildering.

The Switch is launching with a woeful four titles to go with it: Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, 1-2 Switch, Skylanders Imaginators and Just Dance 2017. Worse still, those last two are available for other consoles, including the Wii U.

A few other games, including a new Mario title, are coming later in the year. But, just as with most Nintendo console releases, third-party developers are taking a wait-and-see approach with the Switch to see how it does before committing to it. If it’s anything like all of Nintendo’s consoles over the past two decades, with the exception of the surprisingly successful Wii in 2006, they’re likely to give it a pass.

Investors didn’t like what they heard about the Switch, so they sent Nintendo’s stock down 6 per cent on Friday. They also haven’t been fans of the company’s mobile strategy either, which kicked into high gear with the mid-December launch of Super Mario Run for Apple devices.

Nintendo is monetizing the game in an unusual way, where players get the first few levels for free and then pay for the rest. Most successful mobile games allow players full access, then charge for optional items and power-ups. For the most part, the system works and has turned games such as Clash of Clans and Candy Crush into cash cows for their respective publishers.

Super Mario Run made a reported $14 million in its first three days, but has apparently slowed down as players balk at its high $9.99 price tag.

Nintendo, which has been hovering between big losses and mild profits for years now, has pinned its turnaround hopes on the Switch and its mobile strategy. So far, neither seems to make much sense.

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3 Comments on Nintendo strategy is bewildering, if there even is one

  1. While the launch is little on titles the updated Mario Kart 8 Deluxe follows in April and their new original series Arms is coming in May. The sequel to the Wii U breakout hit Splatoon is scheduled for summer, likely meaning late May or early June before E3. It is similar in strength to how other Nintendo consoles have launched. It has long appeared Nintendo intended for the Switch to have a soft spring launch with a heavy holiday push. We will have to wait for E3 in June to learn more about those plans and by then the real retail units will be out with feedback from actual customers.

    • Releasing a product with little usefulness to start and zero momentum behind it is just dumb. It’s a good way to land a lame duck, which has become Nintendo’s specialty.

  2. This definitely feels like they are releasing it early due to investor pressure. I bet they wanted a fall release but just could not delay it to that quarter for some reason.
    I do also wonder just how many units do they need to move to meet profit expectations for this year. They always sell their hardware at a profit + their first party attach rate is always crazy high.

    As fot it’s future, the switch might fall under another “3ds ambassadors program” once they properly learn how to mass produce it and run out of crazy nintendo fans. I would not be surprised to see it go to 199$ in a year or two.

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