How the Switch can maintain momentum
The Switch has been out for four weeks now and despite Nintendo’s plan to increase production, retailers still expect to have a hard time meeting demand for the remainder of the year. Indeed, the Switch has a shot at being the hottest game system this holiday season if Nintendo plays its cards right. Here’s what Nintendo can do to ensure a strong finish to 2017 and an even brighter future in 2018.
Get the Virtual Console up and running
It’s no secret, Nintendo dropped the ball by not having the Virtual Console ready at launch. Demand for the NES Classic is still high, and scarcity has inflated the cost to well over double the original MSRP of $60.00. While the demand for their older titles is obvious, it’s unclear why they aren’t presently available on the Switch. Perhaps Nintendo is having trouble getting the emulation performing at an acceptable level, or maybe they are spending more time adding online modes to their games. Either way, it’s surprising to not have any official word from Nintendo on when we can expect older titles to hit the eShop.
Hopefully, when the games do arrive, the offerings will be more in line with the original Wii VC, rather than the truncated version offered on the Wii U. Another trickle release of games will just exacerbate any droughts the system suffers. Nintendo needs to put their best foot forward this time and bring back all the old systems that had a home on the Wii VC while also adding newer systems like the GameCube. The Wii U VC wasn’t all bad though, it’d be nice to see them offer games at a discount the first week after release like they did with Wii titles. Likewise, Nintendo should take a hard look at dropping VC prices. Currently, on the Playstation Store, most PS1 and PS2 games go for $6 and $10, respectively. This is a stark contrast to Nintendo’s pricing that puts SNES games at $8 Nintendo 64 games at $10.
Kill the 3DS
Nintendo has quieted down on selling the Switch as the perfect solution for both portable and home gaming now that 3DS sales have made a bit of a comeback. Unfortunately, they need to take the opposite stance and double down on the portable aspect of Switch. As a home console, the Switch is hard to sell when you compare it to the PS4 or XB1 with their similar price point and deep library. The only thing the Switch has over its competitors, other than the first party titles, is its portability.
To really sell the portability factor, Nintendo will have to compete with itself. The 3DS still has quite a bit of support in 2017, including first-party titles like Pikmin and Fire Emblem. Development of 3DS titles should have been moved to the Switch to bolster the launch year, but sadly Nintendo stuck to an aging system. Hopefully, the games already announced will be the end of it. They need to move full steam ahead on Switch development while also enticing all those primarily handheld third-party developers to do the same. If Nintendo can get everyone to focus on this one device, they can pump out enough games to prevent all of the droughts that have plagued their previous consoles.
Get meaningful 3rd party support
No more Mass Effect 3 a month before the trilogy collection is released at half the price on every other console.
No more Arkham City a year after launch, once everybody has already had their fill.
No more Darksiders II with performance issues.
Everybody knows the Big N needs to step up its game with the big third party developers. Unfortunately, being a generation or two behind the graphical cycle of Sony and Microsoft makes that a steep hill to climb. Third parties will go where the gamers are, and currently, there are 83 million of them enjoying their PS4s and XB1s. Straight ports are no longer an option, and third parties are going to be wary about dropping exclusives on a Nintendo console after the Wii U debacle.
Nintendo needs to work harder at securing third party deals that brought the likes of Bayonetta 2 and Zombi to the Wii U, and go over the previous gen with a fine tooth comb to find hidden gems. They can even pitch the console as budget friendly given that developers don’t need to worry about making their games 4K ready. Right now, their glaring weakness is a lack of first and third person shooters. A Singularity or Alpha Protocol sequel with Nintendo assisting on development would bring some excellent diversity to the platform. Who knows, maybe they could even talk Platinum into working on an exclusive Vanquish 2!
The Big Picture
The Switch is off to a great start, but a great launch doesn’t always guarantee long term success. To keep the future bright, Nintendo needs to focus on three things. First, they have to get the Virtual Console up and it needs to be stronger than the poor effort put forth on the Wii U. Second, it’s time to let the 3DS ride of into the sunset. Keep producing units if the sales are there, but don’t split your development between the two devices. Third, figure out a way to work third parties into the fabric of the console. Don’t settle for lazy ports, aggressively work with developers to breath life into cult classics that will generate a buzz around the system that is sure to attract gamers beyond the typical Nintendo fans. If Nintendo can execute on each of these three steps, we’ll have a system that can stand on its own for the rest of this decade and hopefully a few years into the next.