By: Coard Lowery
When January 13th came around, I sat down to watch one of my favorite YouTubers cover the Nintendo Switch event live and bask in the moment of hype with an audience of up to 13,000 viewers. The event came, the console was showcased, and games were really only touched on, and that's when I thought to myself, "Is that it?" I understand the presentation was about the Switch and its impressive design and abilities. However, it brought with it a concern.
To start off, they neglected to mention the specs of the machine. Granted they are now available, but if you thought highly of the machine, wouldn't you want to mention the specs? I can't recall a Sony or Microsoft console release that didn't tell us about the machine's power. Yet here we had nothing. It's almost as if they weren't sure they wanted us to know. Maybe it's just paranoia, but it got me thinking: could the Switch fail like the Wii U? Well, here's how I think it could happen.
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The Failed Predecessor
To really understand how the Switch can fail, we'll need to touch on that which came before it, the Wii U. Now at this point, anyone who knows the industry understands the largest factor that led to the Wii U's failing was its third party lineup. I can't get into a discussion without their poor third party support being a key topic. This time around Nintendo has assured its audience that they will be bringing in third-party developers; however, the developers they brought onto the stage on January 13th looked, well, bored. It was as if they didn't care about developing for the new console. I will admit to that being pure speculation, but it certainly didn't leave a good impression.
Beyond third party support, however, we also can't forget other problems with the Wii U, like it's weak power, it's less than perfect controller, and it's awful lineup at launch, not to mention its gimmicky nature with the gamepad. Add onto the fact that it failed to bring in core gamers and couldn't lure back its casual gamers from the Wii, and it's no surprise why it just didn't work.
Now, let's look at the Switch: gimmicky controls, a less than stellar controller unless you drop 70$ for a pro controller, an abysmal release lineup of games, and third party development that at this time, we have little knowledge of. This all, like it's predecessor, could spell the Switch's doom on its own, but there are two more issues I'd like to add.
Core Gamers, Third Parties, and the Loop of Despair
It's no question that Nintendo and the Switch will need third party development to succeed where the Wii U failed. However, this leads to a minefield of thoughts in my head that I'll try to keep to a few.
For starters, there's Nintendo's image. For a long time, Nintendo has done everything to be a child-friendly, casual gaming company that's great for the whole family. Can this really be maintained with all the third party support Nintendo has promised? Is it worth maintaining? Well, there's two outcomes
First, if Nintendo decides to embrace third parties with open arms, and market them appropriately, we could she a shift in Nintendo's identity as one that can be a home to all gamers. Could this have negative impacts on their casual player base? What about with families? Potentially, but as the industry ages it's more likely parents will have grown up with games enough to know what's good and bad for their children. Add in that many of Nintendo's child-friendly games are the best out there, even bringing in adult players, this could be the best option. The other outcome, however, is that Nintendo only allows developers to create family-friendly games, which is not what core gamers are looking for in third parties for Nintendo, which leads into another potential problem.
You see, Nintendo's image and marketing have never really addressed core gamers, only gamers that would be interested in the Nintendo exclusives to begin with. This is fine; however, it limits the audience you can reach, which doesn't help third party developers. Third party developers have their own image to uphold, and developing for Nintendo might cause problems. Nintendo must bring in a player base that will be willing to buy all sorts of third party games. If Nintendo can't bring in those new gamers and convince them to adopt the Switch, third party support will dry up; without third party support, core gamers will have no reason to buy the Switch. Do we see the issue? Right now, Nintendo's caught in a loop, and they need to break this cycle to make the Switch a success. To be honest, I don't know if that'll be the case.
Recent news from Gearbox's Randy Pitchford has all but confirmed Borderlands 3 won't make it to the Switch. Why does this matter? Well, it would appear that Gearbox wanted to develop for the Switch, and whether or not you like Gearbox or Borderlands it is a popular core game that would definitely help bring in a new audience. I know I would choose to play Borderlands 3 on my Switch over my PS4 just for the portability alone. However, it appears the discussion between Nintendo and Gearbox just stopped with Nintendo effectively dropping the idea, and I think I know why. Borderlands is a very mature game, filled with sex, drugs, and lots of violence. It's possible Nintendo looked into the franchise and decided it wasn't for them. This doesn't just worry me, it terrifies me. If I wasn't set on purchasing the Switch already, Borderlands 3 on the go would have done it easily, and the fact that it appears Nintendo is still afraid to approach a more mature, core audience is one of the reasons many core gamers dismissed the Wii U. Nintendo can't afford to just give up high profile titles like this if they want the Switch to succeed.
Youtube, Twitch, and a Company that Doesn't "get it"
If you get a lot of your gaming buzz from YouTube and Twitch like I like to do, you know that Nintendo has never been the friendliest with YouTubers. Taking revenue, pulling videos involving Nintendo gameplay, and only allowing YouTubers to create content when given their permission and then paying them half the revenue from the content makes me wonder what they're thinking. In this day and age, I don't know many people who don't get their gaming information from their YouTube subscription box or their favorite Twitch streamer. Heck, most of my library only really got purchased and played because my favorite YouTubers and streamers introduced those games to me. If I can't watch gameplay or an honest, unaffiliated review of Nintendo's games how can I be expected to purchase them? Sure, the Nintendo stamp has always been one of great quality, and it would be unfair of me to say they deserve a lot of trust from us as gamers, but it has its limits.
Nintendo fails to realize a number of things:
1) Their games aren't really bought for their story. Watching a Mario or Zelda playthrough doesn't give me the same experience as playing the game, and if I'm choosing to watch someone play over purchasing the game, not being able to watch it won't make me want to purchase it anymore.
2) YouTube is honestly one of the better ways to advertise smaller titles for free. It's no secret Mario and Zelda are going to be big news and heavily advertised regardless or Youtube or Twitch, but what about Bomberman? Did you know that a new Bomberman title is in the works? Do you even know who Bomberman is? Sure you could use Google, but wouldn't a video of classic Bomberman 64 be more informative?
At the end of the day, Nintendo needs to just stop it. They need to terminate their Creators Program and leave YouTube alone. Where companies like Microsoft and Sony are just raking in the free advertising, Nintendo's getting ignored and even bashed by YouTubers and streamers alike, causing Nintendo to lose out on a chance to expand to core gamers and casual gamers who watch these channels.
Who knows, right? At this time this is mostly speculation, and Nintendo could have a plan greater than I could imagine!
Look, I love Nintendo. I'm buying a Switch, I'm gonna play it with my friends, and we're going to have a grand time. I want so bad for the Switch to succeed because it'll only make me, and other adopters, that much happier. I know this has been speculation, but it warrants thought and hopefully, who knows, Nintendo sees this and thinks about it.
Probably not, but hey, if you agree, disagree or have anything add please leave it in the comments below. I'll check you out next time! Peace!
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