At Nintendo Life this week, Damien McFerran wrote in response to a Bloomberg article about Nintendo’s future prospects in the traditional game console life-cycle. That cycle tends to swing up and down. And, worst of all, it generally resets the installed user-base. For example, fans of the popular and best-selling Wii console dwindled after the launch of its disappointing successor, the Wii U.
I understand the financial angle about the Switch’s promise, and I’m excited by Nintendo’s current fortune with their awesome hybrid console. But the most interesting point to me is this new idea: the Switch could be Nintendo’s iPhone!
What does that mean? Practically everyone knows what an iPhone is. It is Apple’s smartphone and, according to about half of all US consumers, it is THE phone to get. And the big point is that the iPhone, despite Apple making several variations of it every single year for over a decade, is still the iPhone. For example, I’ve owned the iPhone 4, 6, and 7. They were all…iPhone.
The iPhone is like an appliance you buy once and use for years until it breaks. Otherwise, you don’t want it to change because it works so well the way it is. If it isn’t broken, don’t fix it!
Gaming consoles have had a different approach. After several years in the market, console makers unleash all-new and improved consoles with new names, different form factors, upgraded parts, etc. Yes, they still do the same thing – play video games – but they restart from the ground up or reinvent what it means to play a video game. If you’re a gamer, you must reinvest in the new systems or be left behind. Your “old” system, though it still works, will not play the new games.
But what if Nintendo changed all that? What if the Switch is here to stay? The iPhone has been known as “The iPhone” for the past 13 years. What if gamers will be playing on a Switch 13 years from now? That’s never happened before!
Sure, the Switch would be upgraded over time just like an iPhone, but it would always remain essentially a Switch. It would become a known item, the thing you go to if you want to play video games.
For example, if you wanted a music player, you got an iPod. It was iconic! It was the go-to thing for playing music. And if you want a smartphone, you get an iPhone… Likewise, if you want to play games, you should get a Switch; it’s a fantastic gaming machine!
Nintendo’s Switch isn’t broken; don’t fix it.
Upgrade it. Instead of sun-setting the stellar Switch and trying to come up with a totally new console, just keep the Switch moving forward forever. It will have the mindshare as the reliable gaming rig – everyone will know the Switch is the thing to get for video games.
Thanks to the iPhone, Apple is known for inventing Mobile Computing as we know it. And one can argue that Nintendo invented Mobile Gaming. Now I’m not talking about the kind of mobile games for casual play on a smartphone or tablet. I refer to console caliber gaming with tactile buttons; Nintendo has owned this space since at least the GameBoy in the early 1990’s. And as a hybrid, the Switch works great as both a home console and a handheld mobile gaming machine.
Nintendo’s Switch may be the most obvious yet most ingenious innovation to video gaming ever.
Given that Nintendo now has all their gaming eggs in one hybrid basket instead of being split across two segments (home and mobile), and since the Switch is outperforming expectations, it is a solid and winning strategy that should not be fixed.
The Nintendo Switch (verb)
The Switch may have switched up the traditional game console paradigm.
Nintendo’s Switch can ensure this with longevity, which equates to reliability, more mindshare, and greater market share. Sony and Microsoft both do great in the home console space, but nobody plays as well in the handheld game space as Nintendo. “The Nintendo Switch” may refer to not just the game console but to the shift in the gaming console cycle itself.
And the more I think about this, the more I’m starting to see the Switch differently. I have long viewed it as Nintendo’s latest home console that doubles as its handheld machine. But now I’m starting to think the Switch is a handheld machine first and foremost, playing to Nintendo’s strengths, and doubles as a home console.
Could it be that Nintendo’s strategy all along was to invent a 3DS replacement that would also fill the void, left by the Wii U, in their home console space? Whatever their plans were or are, they’re working! The Switch is a runaway success.
It should be. Doing double-duty as a hybrid, the Switch should be at least twice as good as any previous game system sold by Nintendo. Going forward, I hope Nintendo does not try to fix what’s winning and working. Because it means I can keep playing!
The Whole Hybrid
Nintendo should mimic the success story of the iPhone. Apple makes the “whole widget,” combining both hardware and software to invent amazing devices, with their supporting ecosystems, such as iPod, iPhone, and iPad. Likewise, Nintendo makes innovative gaming hardware and is known for some of the most iconic intellectual property outside of Disney with the likes of Mario and his library of gaming software.
The Switch, with Mario, Zelda, and more, provides some of the greatest video gaming you can have, both at home and on the go. There’s no stopping it.