As the 3DS’s life cycle starts to wind down and Switch continues to gain momentum, one wonders if Nintendo’s marketing strategy can ever be the same again.
Since 1989, Nintendo have at least been a two system developer with the release of the original Game Boy during the original NES’s life cycle.
As we all know, the Game Boy developed into a colour system, formed into an Advance, and then a new family evolved into the DS, with the 2DS/3DS family being the most recent.
But as sad as it is to say, despite giving us some incredible titles, the 3DS is no longer Nintendo’s main priority. Nor should it be. The Switch is the talk of the town with not one, but two GOTY contenders within its first year, as well as the greatest Mario Kart ever made, a Fire Emblem/Dynasty Warriors cross-over, one of the best third-party Nintendo titles ever created, as well as the excellent multiplayer Splatoon 2.
Time to recover
Switch has quickly made up for Nintendo’s missteps with the Wii U, but it may have come at a long-term cost because it has raised portable expectations to unimaginable levels. Who would have ever thought the next major 3D Mario game after Galaxy would be playable in the palm of your hands on a train? Did you ever expect to be fighting through the greatest dungeons in Zelda history sat on the crapper?
Then we have Xenoblade 2 before Christmas, as well as Metroid Prime 4 in the works, a massive Monster Hunter title, and goodness knows what else.
The success of Switch is exciting for the industry. Indies are already clambering aboard, some even offering exclusives before any other platform, while others are scrambling to get their libraries on their ASAP to get in with the gold-rush. The hybrid nature of the console is obviously a big draw, as well as the allure of so much incredible first-party content.
But as Reggie Fils-Aime has already confirmed, Switch is not a direct successor to the 3DS.
So will Nintendo actually want to risk releasing a stand-alone, handheld-only system that could actually take attention away from that? Will there even be a market for one? Nintendo can’t just go out and release a more powerful, stand-alone handheld unit in 2019, what would happen to Switch? They also can’t release a less powerful unit for a bit cheaper because, by then, Switch bundles would be cheap enough that people probably wouldn’t consider it.
And long-term, what happens when Nintendo look to life after Switch? Can they afford to release a new central console without that portability factor? I imagine their direct competitors have been paying very close attention – much like they did with Wii U – and will adapt accordingly.
Some argue Playstation killed the Wii U dead in its tracks with the Remote Play possibilities offered through Vita. Combined with the poor streaming possibilities of the tablet controller, and Nintendo’s insistence of focusing on 3DS instead of Wii U certainly didn’t help.
Nintendo are making money in other ways now. Amiibo is taking off just nicely. They’ve clearly tapped into retro-desires with the NES and SNES Minis selling like hot-cakes. And let’s be honest here, Nintendo’s new focus on mobile is the most telling sign of all. There’s a lot more money to be made there as kids snap up smartphones at an earlier age and almost every home seems to have some form of tablet. It’s looking increasingly like the 2DS/3DS could be Nintendo’s final self-serving standalone portable system.
Times have changed, but that’s not to say it’s a bad thing.
Growth and expansion
For one, complete first party focus on one system means Switch’s library is going to grow exponentially over the next year. The stream of games’ we’ve seen for the platform year one could well continue at the same pace into year two, three, four and beyond. Something Wii U – and even previous Nintendo systems – were heavily criticised for.
For another, there’s a strong possibility Nintendo will actually release Switch as a standalone portable system in the future without the need for the dock. They may release a pricier model and add some machinery to the dock to support more data-intensive games suited to a television set. Keep in mind, there are already some titles that can only be played in handheld mode on Switch – Severed, Voez – what’s to say the reverse wouldn’t be true?
What seems likely, though, is further hardware to support Switch. There’s already been plenty of rumours about Nintendo dabbling in VR and considering how keen they are to support new technology – glasses-free 3D anyone? – it’s probably a matter of when rather than if.
What could also be a possibility is a second-screen tablet-like device which takes Joy-Cons, essentially recreating the Wii U, but with better range and the possibility of adding more touch-based games including Nintendo’s efforts on mobile.
Whatever happens, Nintendo is clearly in a time of transition in more ways than one. Yes, the success of Switch offers some exciting possibilities for the industry, but it’s their long-term strategy that has us most intrigued.
Do you think there will be a direct successor to the 3DS? Will it be a subsidiary system for Switch or something seperate? Shout out below.