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Will the Nintendo Switch Have a Successful Launch?

Will the Nintendo Switch Have a Successful Launch?

Last night at 11 p.m. EST, my roommate and I congregated in the living room to watch the Nintendo Switch presentation, streaming the video on our TV via a Wii U. What a cruel fate for our current Nintendo console, made to broadcast the grand unveiling of its eventual replacement, the hardware that is tasked with making up for the Wii U’s failures, both commercially and technically: it has sold just a hair over 13 million consoles (about 90 million shy of the numbers achieved by its predecessor, the Wii), likely because the hardware was seen as confusing and under-powered to both consumers and third-party developers.

Although the Wii U boasts at least a few absolutely fantastic games (Super Smash Bros. Wii U, Mario Kart 8, Super Mario Maker, New Super Mario Bros. U, among others), the popular opinion is that it was underwhelming, so the Switch must be a redemption from what came before. It would be damning for the company to have two commercially irrelevant consoles in a row—but will it?

After watching last night’s presentation, my immediate verdict, sadly, was no.

While the Wii U had trouble differentiating itself from the Wii due to its name, the Switch may have trouble standing apart as its own entity because to the average consumer who doesn’t understand the function of “HD Rumble” and the motion detection technologies of the Joy Con controller, the Switch sure looks a lot like the Wii, which is over a decade old at this point. On the surface, there doesn’t appear to be enough to lure casual, “non-serious” gamers, a demographic that accounted for a lot of Wii sales—”Been there, done that,” they’re thinking. More dedicated gamers want more than a novel, potentially gimmicky control scheme: They want games, good ones.

Sadly, the Switch has a launch title problem: there just aren’t enough games to sell the console. 1-2 Switch looks amusing, but it’s likely little more than this generation’s Wii Sports: A tech demo that acclimates you to the console, but is only playable for so long before boredom sets in. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is shaping up to be an amazing game, and while the series is widely loved, it’s also not really a console-seller.

Zelda sells itself, but not its hardware.

Before you Zelda disciples reading sharpen your pitchforks, listen: Of the ten top-selling games for the Wii U, the only Zelda title in the bunch (The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker HD) comes in at tenth, while seven of the other top-sellers are Mario games. For the Wii, The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess is the most financially successful Zelda game, and the 14th best-selling for the system, but six Mario games (counting Super Smash Bros. Brawl) rank ahead of it. Zelda sells itself, but not its hardware.

Super Mario Odyssey looks absolutely wonderful and like a game I very much want to play (my roommate and I got audibly excited when the teaser footage started rolling and we realized what it was), but my heart sank when the release date was announced as Holiday 2017. Super Mario Odyssey is a system-seller that’s only coming out (presumably) nine months after the system itself, and to be frank, it looks like it may be the only system-seller expected to come out in 2017.

“Well, it looks like I’m only getting a Switch in a year,” I said.

Super Mario Odyssey is a system-seller that’s coming out months after the system.

All these issues are only compounded by the console’s price: $250 was the expected number, a figure some thought may be lofty, but when the actual price was revealed to be set at $299, and knowing about Nintendo’s general reluctance to drop the price of their consoles over their lifespans, I smelled trouble brewing. As Kotaku put it:

“The Xbox One has dropped from $500 all the way to $250, while the PS4 has gone from $400 to $300, with bundles running as low as $250.”

But:

“When the Wii U launched in 2012, it came in two flavors: Basic (8GB), which cost $300 and was not good, and Premium (32GB), which came at a slightly steeper asking price of $350. Basic has pretty much disappeared at this point, and Premium now costs $300, but otherwise the official price hasn’t budged.”

These competitors have managed to continue selling units years after their launch: From May to December 2016, the PS4, which launched in early 2013, sold ten million consoles, and the Xbox One, which also debuted in early 2013, made headlines for its impressive sales in October 2016. Nintendo, then, must bank on early-life sales in order for the Switch to *switch* things up for the company. But sadly, there aren’t yet enough compelling reasons to spend $300 on an experimental new console with few worthwhile games when buyers can get a safer system for the same price.

The Switch is a compelling piece of hardware, but between the general wariness of Nintendo consoles following the Wii U, the lack of immediately available strong software, and the price point (not to mention the expensive extra controllers), it feels like the Switch may suffer a fate similar to that of the console before it, going down as a system whose strange, preventable problems overshadowed what is ultimately a fun and exciting video game experience that too many people (understandably) missed out on.

Featured image: Nintendo


Editor’s Note: In the video above, we stated that Zelda comes bundled with the Nintendo Switch, but that was an error. Zelda will be available to purchase separately from the console.

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