The reveal of the upcoming next-generation Nintendo console via trailer has demonstrated that competition breeds innovation. With only a glimpse of some titles running, the potential of the hardware and flexibility of configuration is certainly a tribute to Satoru Iwata’s vision of the Blue Ocean strategy. As Microsoft and Sony duke it out based upon specifications that follow a cadence similar to the PC-centric x86 architectures used by their offerings, Nintendo’s path targets a much larger audience. The overall approach with the Wii U now feels more like a pilot for where Nintendo was heading all along with the Switch. The strengths, reputation, and support that are still present in the mobile space via the 3DS are amplified by a noticeable boost in visual processing capabilities and the ability to establish multiplayer experiences in person with minimal limitation. The flexibility of control schemes and the nature of use cases highlighted in the trailer demonstrate that Nintendo is aggressively aiming for ALL gaming markets.
Initial comments on Facebook and other forms of social media have reverted to “what are the specs?”. As we get closer to launch, the Switch has the potential to drive an emotional response similar to Apple’s 1984 commercial for the introduction of the Macintosh. Those of us that have fond memories of the original Game Boy with the link cables for a personal and unique multiplayer setup that has fallen by the wayside due to online services providing the competition can get back to what made gaming so special while enabling new friendships to blossom over the experiences. Going out on a limb, a few assertions will be made:
1.) It’s not about the specs once you get to 900p/1080p: Before anyone gets too wrapped up in “but it doesn’t do 4K”, neither do many platforms without significant concessions to frame rate or image quality. The associated displays are still not quite mass market from a living room adoption perspective. Putting a 4K display in a tablet-sized form factor would price the Switch out of reality and would negatively impact to the system’s battery life when it’s not docked. Furthermore, if the use of the nVidia Tegra to power the system is true, the horsepower to provide 4K60 isn’t there. What is there has the potential to provide near-parity to current generation consoles with the bonus of portability.
2.) The flexibility of design will make this the next Wii in terms of sales volumes: It’s capable of supporting core gaming and casual gaming. The detachable controller approach enables specialized controllers to be introduced further down the line to support games and experiences that we have not even considered yet. The redesign of the Nintendo Network into something that is far more usable will provide benefits, rewards, or special offers to entice the “candy crushers” and “panda jammers” to step outside of the smartphone gaming scene. A universal gaming and content consumption platform that excels equally at touch and traditional control schemes makes it far more accessible and reduces any potential learning curves. If the alleged $399 bundle includes the equivalent of a “Wii Sports” pack-in to get people hooked, Microsoft and Sony will need to rethink their approaches beyond VR and cloud-streaming.
3.) It has a headphone jack. That’s sure to please some people.
4.) This is the type of innovation that we normally expect or experience from companies such as Apple, Google, and Microsoft (when they’re really trying with the Surface Book and Hololens). I would not be surprised if, during the Switch’s life cycle, one of the tech titans decides to go all in and attempt to buy Nintendo. There’s a hidden road map starting with the Switch that can lead to the “stickiness” that the major players prefer to have within their ecosystems.