Nintendo's release of a 3-minute teaser video introducing its new Switch console/handheld hybrid broke the Internet yesterday. Nintendophiles freaked out, and devs expressed interest in developing for the device. But Nintendo stock fell on the news.
Will this new device succeed? What are the metrics for success in the shifting console market? Gamasutra asked several prominent game industry analysts for their take.
What does the Switch tell you about how Nintendo is thinking about the changing console market? What audience are the looking for, how are they trying to position themselves?
"With the Switch, Nintendo is trying to replace the Wii U and 3DS with an all-in-one device. They never did that before. It reflects that Nintendo thinks that players nowadays want to enjoy high-quality games anywhere, not only on the big screen. That's why they showed the gorgeous-looking Zelda in the video." -Serkan Toto, Kantan Games Inc.
"The audience they are looking to go after is the one that wants a more plug-and-play system where you turn it on and it goes. A major weakness of the PS4 and Xbox One (and Wii U) is that they were complicated and slow. They were designed for premium gamers and are not well suited for the gamer who is looking for a simple experience. This is a large potential market, and I think a major reason of the success of Apple products has been capturing that consumer that wants a push-a-button-and-go experience.." - David Cole, DFC Intelligence
"It seems that they are after an older audience. I am particularly intrigued by them embracing eSports and featuring competitive gaming so prominently in the reveal. By moving away from the Wii brand, Nintendo is also moving away from motion controls that made it so successful. That in itself may not be surprising, but is an important evolution. Then, of course, there is the decision to go for portability. Nintendo has been successful in the past in the space, but the space has changed, and how it distinguished itself from mobile gaming (or embrace staples of these platforms) will be very interesting. It will also define their audience, as the current generation have grown up with games that are free-to-play and easy to download. Will they accept games loaded on a cartridge? (I do fully expect a digital store alongside the cartridges.)"- Thomas Bidaux, CEO at Ico Partners
What do you think of the device?
"I think Switch is interesting and novel, but I also think it is more of a handheld than a console. The device looks cool, and looks like the best handheld ever. It may be a good console as well, if graphics are up to snuff and if it gets third party support. If it has compelling graphics similar to the PS4, it will be easy for publishers to port games to it. If it is significantly lower in power, porting might not be possible. If publishers are required to perform a completely separate game build in order to release a game on Switch, they are unlikely to do so."- Michael Pachter, Wedbush Securities
"My question is, how do they keep from getting it positioned as just another expensive tablet with some controllers? I think messaging will be key." - David Cole
"I have been buying every single Nintendo device since the mid-80s. For me, Nintendo is the best game developer on the planet. The Switch looks great, but I am personally a bit underwhelmed. A portable that doubles as a home console -- is this really that exciting? It's clearly different from PS4 and Xbox One, the third party support seems to be strong (at least for now), and I am sure the first party games will also not disappoint. But Switch is an evolution, not a revolution like the Wii was. I always expect something special from Nintendo, and at this very early stage of the reveal, I am not really seeing it." -Serkan Toto
"It is obvious that Nintendo has spent a lot of time and resources on the design. The different components seem to attach very well to one another."- Thomas Bidaux
How well do you think the Switch will do? How successful does it need to be in order to be considered a success?
"DFC Intelligence just released forecasts for the system which were fairly bullish. However we have been cautiously optimistic. We think there is the market opportunity, but we question whether Nintendo still has the ability to properly market and position the machine. Decisions at Nintendo come from Japan, and it is clear the Switch was designed with the Japanese market in mind. We are worried that they might not quite have a solid plan for markets like the U.S. I think shipping 15-20 million units a year would be a success, but they also need to do well in North America." - David Cole
"If it is inexpensive and powerful, it will sell tens of millions of units. If it is expensive and weak, it won’t." -Michael Pachter
"With 13 million units sold worldwide, the Wii U is a total catastrophe for Nintendo. There's obviously a ton of different factors determining the performance of a video game console over its lifetime, and we don't know enough abut the Switch at this point. Looking at the lifetime sales from previous Nintendo hardware (portable and for the home), I would say 50 million units sold would be a good number. The PS4 is already on its way to reach that mark. I hope I am wrong and the Switch can get there as well eventually. What makes me hopeful is that Nintendo targets the portable as well as home game market, meaning there is, in an ideal scenario, an overlap of these two markets for the Switch." - Serkan Toto
"The Nintendo consoles don't obey to the same rules as the others when it comes to how they sell. The games are at the center of their success, and with already a Legend of Zelda title, alongside Mario Kart and Super Mario Bros, it is already a must buy for many Nintendo fans. The success will be there if they manage to go beyond this core pool of gamers, but without knowing the initial price point the console will sell for as well as the expanded initial launch line up, it is not possible to assess how well it can do."- Thomas Bidaux