Nintendo’s Switch: A new approach to modern gaming
Nintendo Switch presents a new, modern Nintendo. More in tune with the sensibilities of modern gamers and modern gaming.
Unashamedly a ‘Nintendo’ console, Switch demonstrates a willingness by the company to embrace much of what it had previously shunned. Switch is a console that is both the results of decades of creativity and a response to the ever-changing way in which we live our lives.
To the casual observer, Switch could appear to continue Nintendo’s trend of ‘different not equal’, but the last few years have shown a changing attitude coming from Kyoto. Nintendo’s ethos looks to be heading down a path which more aligns with fans hopes and expectations.
Embracing Mobile Gaming
Nintendo arguably invented mobile gaming when it released its Game & Watch toys between 1980 and 1991. Game & Watches weren’t the only portable video games, but they were among the most popular.
It wasn’t until Nintendo released the original Game Boy in 1989 that playing video games away from an Arcade cabinet or TV really took off. Even then, the Game Boy was clunky, ugly and a battery hog.
The LCD display was pitiful (by today’s standards) and wasn’t even capable of displaying colour until the 1998 revision. That didn’t stop a combined total of 118 million units being sold worldwide. Game Boy and its successors in the DS and 3DS have been among Nintendo’s most successful endeavors. So much so that it seemed illogical for Nintendo not to publish games on Smart Phones.
The argument that Smart Phone games would cannibalise the DS/3DS market has merit. However, the types and quality of games (particularly when it comes to controls) available on Smart Phones is entirely separate.
Thankfully, in 2016 Nintendo finally embraced Mobile and released not three titles. Miitomo, Pokémon GO and Super Mario Run were very different experiences and still very ‘Nintendo.’ Any fears that fans held of Nintendo releasing pared down, vanilla versions of their titles could rest easy.
In 2017, Fire Emblem: Heroes, while a little heavy on microtransactions, is another worthwhile addition to Nintendo’s growing Mobile stable. With news that Pokémon GO’s Pokédex is set to grow by 80 soon and a special Switch app on the way, Nintendo’s love affair with gaming on the go is as strong as ever.
Post Release Content
Nintendo hasn’t embraced DLC (or AOC) as readily as other developers and publishers. 3DS games seem to have had a far better rate of post release support than Wii U, but it’s still a much smaller number than usual.
For full console releases only Splatoon, Smash Bros. and Mario Kart 8 immediately spring to mind. Mario Kart 8’s DLC was a rare example of Nintendo fully embracing both its brand power and development studios to ensure a flagship title would enjoy a long life.
It was a huge success. Mario Kart 8’s release saw Wii U sales soar by 662% and in total, the game sold over 8 million units. This obviously can’t be attributed to DLC, but Nintendo’s announcement of both DLC packs early in the piece, along with a discount for purchasing both had all the hallmarks of a season pass.
Splatoon on the other hand, launched almost as an early access title. It was incredibly bare bones at first, but free updates over the following months beefed up the offering.
Now, Nintendo has announced an Expansion Pass for The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. For $30 AUD players will gain access to two sets of DLC when they’re released. This DLC includes challenge modes, expanded features and a new story.
Both lots of DLC will arrive in 2017 and those who purchase it will receive three special treasure chests and items immediately. Again, this Expansion Pass shows a willingness by Nintendo to embrace modern conventions it had previously opposed.
eSports and Pre-Release Engagement
Demos have been a staple of Nintendo releases for years and still are today, but with Splatoon on Wii U and Splatoon 2 on Switch, Nintendo is tapping a different market.
While it may be named Splatoon Global Testfire, let’s call a spade a, spade.
It’s a beta.
Open and closed betas have gradually become the norm for online focused console titles. As console games and consoles themselves become more reliant on connection to the internet, updates, server loads and the like, it makes sense to test titles before release.
It’s also prudent to test the servers and performance of a title that’s destined to join the eSports circuit; something Nintendo is clearly keen to happen with Splatoon 2.
Putting aside the Switch reveal video with a group off players in a stadium, Splatoon has always had designs on becoming an eSports staple.
Over the past weekend, Nintendo announced that Splatoon 2 on Switch will include spectator and commentator views and will be able to broadcast matches via online streaming. It was also announced that 10 docked Switch consoles can be connected via wired LAN for 4v4 battles with two commentators.
It’s heartening to see Nintendo embrace and engage with a community that it’s previously ignored. Nintendo titles have long been a feature of fighting game tournaments, speed-runs and streaming, but without the support of Nintendo itself.
Think back to the debacles of Smash Bros. at EVO and Nintendo’s YouTube policy. Thankfully, those days seem to be fading into the past as Nintendo realises that giving tools to fans and supporting their endeavors only serves to engender a sense of community.
The historic push back against the changing landscape of gaming by Nintendo appears to beginning to soften. Switch along with Mobile games, embracing DLC and looking to a future in eSports signals a new Nintendo with a new attitude.
For so long, ‘hardcore gamers’ have shied away from Nintendo for being too ‘kiddy’ and not offering experiences suited to them. Switch gives players console games at home and on the go, fully connected, integrated and with every function you expect from a current system.
The new Nintendo could become the old Nintendo. Market leader and king of gaming.