Nintendo: What's The Next Move?

Updated: Aug 21, 2020

As of the date of this blog we are about three-months away from the release of the other two 9th-generation consoles.  The Sony PlayStation 5 and the XBOX Series X.  Both Sony and Microsoft will have lesser-versions of their main-console as well.  Sony will have a PS5 that is all-digital with no disc-drive.  Microsoft has of yet “officially” announced it, but it is all but a certainty that the XBOX Series S (formally known Project Lockhart) will also be revealed soon. 

We know that the Series S will have a slightly scaled-down version of the Ryzen 3000-series Zen 2 processor that is also in the Series X as well as a less-powerful GPU with 4 teraflops of GPU power.  This console is basically going to replace the XBOX One X which has been discontinued by Microsoft. We have seen both Microsoft and Sony give us their showcases of games coming to their new-hardware.  Microsoft’s efforts have not gone over very well, whereas Sony seems to have had a string of strong-presentations.  In any event, for different-reasons people are very-excited for the next-gen triad to be complete.  So, what about that first next-gen device?  The one called the Nintendo Switch? Well, the Switch has been a huge-success.  The device has sold 62-million copies in 3 years as it just recently-surpassed the Nintendo Entertainment System.  The system has sold at a profit most of the time and at a loss NONE of the time that I am aware of.  The Switch has recaptured a lot of those blue-ocean consumers that they had with the Wii and a lot of the mindshare that they lost due to the lack of success with the Wii U.  The overall-viewpoint of Nintendo in the social-atmosphere is a positive-one.  So, one may ask.......

“What could be wrong with this picture?” 

........I think the question that should asked would be, “IS anything wrong with this picture?” Fundamentally, anyone who starts a business ultimately on some-level or another is looking for a way to do what they love to do and get paid for it.  That is what Nintendo is doing right now.  They are making the games that they love to make (and play,) and they are making millions from it.  That is a win-win, right?  Well, some people would disagree.

A LOT of people believe that Nintendo is just standing-still while the industry passes them by.  They see these insanely-powerful consoles on the horizon and wonder what Nintendo is going to do in-order to counterbalance that.  There are those that believe that games such as The Legend of Zelda: Breath of The Wild 2 and Metroid Prime 4 will be enough to combat that onslaught at least for a while.   The problem there is that as of right now, we don’t know when those games are coming. 

If you want QUALITY-versions of those games. then "later" rather than "sooner" is the way to go in my opinion. As we have already seen with Nintendo blowing-up the development of Metroid Prime 4 with the previous development-studios working on it because they felt the quality was not up to their-standards, quality indeed is at a premium for Nintendo. Not only that, most-cetainly these games will satisfy and pacify current Nintendo Switch owners, but are they enough to entice someone who doesn’t have a console to buy a Switch over the PS5, XSX, PC, or XBOX Game Pass? (More on that later.) We shall see, but right-now there are a lot of Nintendo fans that are nervous, discontent, and even angry that Nintendo is so-quiet with Microsoft and Sony dropping all this info about their plans in the near-future.  One thing I will definitely-agree on is that Nintendo is far too-quiet.  Regardless to what it is that you are doing, you do need to keep your fanbase more-informed than this.  Even if you are working on something big and don’t want to take a chance on info being leaked-out, you just have to take extra-precautions and still connect with your install-base in some way to let them know you've got something-cooking in the oven. It doesn't take much.

We saw how just releasing a JPEG-file of Metroid Prime 4 affected the Nintendo-fanbase. You literally had people saying that Nintendo "won" E3 that year because of that JPEG and nothing more. The point is that Nintendo doesn't have to do much to get their fanbase excited.

So, how do I feel about this? Well, as I stated before, the base-concept in business is to do what you love to do and get paid for it.  That is what Nintendo is doing.  That being said, why would they change?  Why should they change?  Who are they changing for if they do?  I grew up in an era when Nintendo was king.  When someone asked if you have a video-game console they would ask if you had a “Nintendo.”  Not an NES or SNES, but a “Nintendo.”  That is how strong that brand was back then.  It was all over pop-culture.  On TV shows, movies, music-references, even in the sports-world.  Nintendo was very-ambitious and very-aggressive both with their marketing and with the R&D.  Their philosophy then was to give you the very-best experience in gaming POSSIBLE.  The best-software performance and the best-hardware performance.  This philosophy changed when the reigns of leadership switched-over from Hiroshi Yamauchi to Saturo Iwata.  This “new” Nintendo was about giving you the best-gaming “experience” and since that time, both software and hardware have been built-around that philosophy.  Nintendo has their own definition of what that means of course and because of this, sacrifices have been made in both hardware-specs as well as choices of genres.  There-in lies the conundrum.

We all applaud Nintendo’s efforts to push innovation in game-play, however a lot of people feel that this mindset has nerfed the full-potential of what Nintendo could be or what we think Nintendo “should” be.  We look at a game like The Legend of Zelda: Breath of The Wild and how amazing it looks considering that it is a game built from the ground-up on the Wii U and then ported to the Switch, but seeing how just by simply adding Ray-tracing effects and upscaled to 4K makes the game look like it was built to run on the PS4 Pro or XBOX One X.  When people see this, it makes them think out-loud..... “WHY CAN’T NINTENDO GIVE US THIS?” The answer is an easy-one to say, but a tough-one to hear.  They CAN give you that, but they don’t WANT to give you that.  Even worse, they don’t HAVE to give you that for numerous-reasons. 1. Nintendo fans (even if they don't want to admit it) tend to accept whatever Nintendo gives them regardless of initial-complaints or apprehension. They need to be honest with themselves about that.

2. Nintendo doesn’t see gaming the way that the rest-of-the-world does.  They live in a bubble and whatever THEY deem to make-sense, IS what makes-sense and because it makes “dollars and cents,” they aren’t going to change.

So basically, Nintendo does not need to change.  We want them to, but they don’t need to.  We are guilty of allowing the idol that we have created of Nintendo either based off-of who Nintendo used-to-be or based off-of what we think they can be or should be to obscure the transparency of who Nintendo actually IS.  They know who they are, and we know who they are, but a lot of people refuse to accept it.  I did.  A long-time ago.

I had to be honest with myself and admit that when I look back on my gaming-experiences for the last 20 years, the most-fun that I have had playing-games were on consoles NOT made by Nintendo and games NOT made by Nintendo or their 2nd-parties.  The reason being as I mentioned-earlier, Nintendo's philosophy-changed.  Mine did not. 

So, rather than complain about what Nintendo isn’t doing, I accepted them for who they are and left them alone.  That was the best-decision I’ve made from a gaming-standpoint.  It allowed me to see the talent from other gaming-studios out there.  Mostly indie-studios that are created by people my-age who grew-up in the Golden-era of gaming and want to recreate those experiences they had as kids with Nintendo-consoles.  I don’t have to rely on Nintendo if I want to scratch that itch of a platformer, party-game, or RPG.  So finally, the question would be that we know Nintendo doesn’t HAVE to do anything, but will they?  My guess is that it all depends of the success of XBOX Game Pass via the XCloud.  In my opinion, this is the ONLY threat to Nintendo.  What makes the Nintendo Switch unique and why it has been so successful is because of its hybrid-feature.  It’s not the first-device that has done this, but it is far and away the most-successful at it.  A lot of its success is resting on the foundation of the blue-ocean consumer.  People who don’t have an allegiance to any-brand, but are curious based either by word-of-mouth or advertising (which Nintendo has done a fantastic-job of thus-far.) HOWEVER.......

If you take someone who does not own any gaming-console and say to them....

“For $15 per-month you can have access to over 100 games that you can play on any smart-device or PC you already own and oh by the way, you can use XCloud to play games on the go?” ….....that, is a legitimate-threat to the Nintendo Switch. What makes it unique is no longer "unique."  It's already pretty-much bodied Google Stadia and made it irrelevant. They are just waiting for the proper eulogy and epitaph at this point. Sure, Nintendo still has the upper-hand because with cartridges you don’t have to worry about internet-connections and of course their 1st-party IPs are tailor-made for quick and easy gaming-experiences which is why Nintendo has dominated the portable-gaming space for 30 years.  Speaking as someone that has the XCloud preview right now, unless the Wi-Fi speed where you are is super-slow, or the bandwidth is too-small or too-congested, there won’t be a problem.  Of course online-gaming with the Nintendo Switch isn't exactly lollipops and gumdrops on candy-cane lane either, and to play games that are online-multiplayer based are cumbersome at best on the Switch.

Then, you also add in the current-climate that we live in today and how local-mulitplayer (especially the way Nintendo has marketed the Switch) is not exactly safe or attractive anymore. Even after things cool-down and we get past this, some people may never again feel "comfortable" being in social-gatherings where people are in close proximity to one another. So if there is another iteration of the Nintendo Switch in the pipeline, Nintendo may want to think about a way to greatly-increase the local-multiplayer connectivity-range so that people can game together from a safe-distance without having to use Wi-Fi. There is a still *TON* of work to do before XCloud can become a major-thing. Right now it still has issues with connectivity. When it actually is "connected" it runs great. Getting it to connect and stay connected is still an issue at-times. Eventually Nintendo will need a follow-up for the Nintendo Switch, but until (unless) the XBOX Game Pass/XCloud combination becomes a thing, in my opinion there is no rush to do anything and their behavior tends to agree with me.

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