I’m going to pre-face this post with, I’m a Nintendo Fan Boy. I love Nintendo and their games and I will always have the best memories of playing their games. With that out of the way, let us dive into the signs I see that the Switch will fail.
I want to address the parallels I see between choices Nintendo is currently making and the choices in the past made from another little Japanese game company named, SEGA.
In the Early 90s I grew up with “the console wars”. It was a war to dominate the home video game console market and the main contenders were Nintendo and SEGA with brief appearances from other manufacturers. SEGA screwed up big time and lost the war, hence why we don’t have SEGA consoles today. Here are the factors that parallel what Nintendo is currently doing which SEGA did that led to SEGA’s demise:
- They relied on technical specs and marketing to sell product
- Lack of good first party and 3rd party games hurt their library
- Failure to heal the broken trust of their established fan base
The console wars really heated up when SEGA released the Genesis. With tag lines like, “Genesis does what ninten-don’t” and, “Blast Processing!” SEGA was looking to make the original Nintendo look like a baby’s toy (and they were doing a good job!) On top of all this, people started to look at consoles with a more technical approach – what processor and memory specifications does the console possess? 8-bit graphics vs 16-bit graphics was soon a major topic of heated conversations at the lunch table during school.
This tactic by SEGA worked and it sold consoles to both new video game players and old alike. Snatching up everyone in the market from Nintendo Fan Boys like myself and audiences buying into home video game consoles for the first time, proving to Nintendo that there were no consumers that were out of SEGA’s reach.
Nintendo’s quick answer to the Genesis was the SNES – a console that I don’t believe needs an introduction or explanation. SEGA’s claim to the 16-bit world was now in jeopardy because of Nintendo’s new offering. What could SEGA possible do? At this point SEGA was loosing ground in the console war and Nintendo was back on top like there was never any competition to begin with. SEGA didn’t have the strong library of games that Nintendo did, their brand mascot didn’t seem to have the appeal of Nintendo’s infamous plumber. SEGA’s hardware was on the same level as the competition. SEGA continued to push propaganda and technical specs down gamer’s throats but no one was buying it anymore.
By this time SEGA was in a panic and trying to figure out how to go one up on Nintendo. In the 90s was a shift from traditional forms of media like VHS tapes and disks to optical media such as CD/LaserDisc/DVD. They could hold more information on a more durable medium. This would be SEGA’s saving grace, or so they thought.
So SEGA released an attachment for the Genesis called the SEGA CD. Long story short it was a failure for SEGA (however paved the way for the next gen consoles we enjoy today!) The games were even worse than the Genesis titles and relied on horrible “full motion video” as a gimmick to sell titles. Load times were slow. Hooking the attachment up to even be able to play would even prove a challenge for some. It was also expensive for the time. It was a disaster every which way you looked.
Time went on, Nintendo continued their reign. SEGA, still growing even more desperate decided to try to regain consumer confidence by releasing an all new 32-bit…. ATTACHMENT for the already aging Genesis/SEGA CD. I can tell you right now, no one bought these. You could find them in a clearance bin for like $10 years after they ceased production. The SEGA 32X suffered a worse fate than the SEGA CD. It was prone to functionality problems. It was difficult to setup and use. It went back to cartridges (after SEGA already released a CD based system promising consumers, “this is the way of the future!”) Lets not forget about the poor and tiny game library.
At this point consumers resented SEGA and felt betrayed.
Lets take a step back now and look at what they’ve done. SEGA has released 3 consoles, all which were technically on paper more powerful than the last, but all of which for the most part (I know there are exceptions) pretty much looked the same graphically. Those few games which did show a hint of graphical improvement suffered from horrendous game play. Be it poor controls or just bad game design, the games were just terrible! The expense of owing all the SEGA stuff in the 90s was damn near $400 by the time you purchased all three consoles and a game or two for each system, maybe another controller you were probably closer to half a grand.
The numbers just didn’t add up for consumers and we turned our backs on SEGA. They screwed us. We weren’t stupid all the technical specs and add-on upgrades in the world couldn’t make up for all the fun we were having on the SNES and the Nintendo64.
I could go on to speak about the SEGA Saturn and how it had to compete with the Sony PlayStation when it was released (we all know who won that battle) but I think by now you get the point. I’m not going to talk about any negatives about the SEGA Dreamcast because there weren’t any, it was amazing and innovative (it was the first mainstream console to feature online gaming) but, by this point SEGA’s reputation was so tarnished by 4 generations of broken promises for better gaming experiences that the trust between consumers was irreparable.
So you’re probably asking now, “How does this have anything to do with Nintendo?”
Lets pickup where we left off with the Nintendo64. Nintendo decided it was time for a big upgrade. Enter the Nintendo Game Cube. The Game Cube was Nintendo’s first console to make use of optical media (as long as you don’t count the CD-i or Nintendo PlatStation – which may make for an interesting post some day). This meant that Nintendo could pack more game information into a disc – expanding graphical and audio capacities for game developers making it an attractive platform for development. They even released a device to allow one to play games cartridges for their hand held game system on the Game Cube. Top this with online multiplayer capabilities and you have one killer game system!
Unfortunately, this is also where our story departs from all the happy good stuff. Nintendo would go on to produce the Nintendo Wii. Motion controls, DLC, and a competitive price point are what seduced consumers to purchasing what was otherwise a dated device. I used to see people joke around about the Wii, saying it was nothing more than two Game Cubes duct taped together. Honestly that’s not far from the truth. In fact, that statement
may even be a little generous. When you have two consoles, current generation and last generation and you’re releasing the same game simultaneously on both platforms, that should be a RED FLAG. You’re pretty much buying the same hardware in a smaller package with a few new “tricks and gimmicks”. Graphically, it was very difficult to tell the difference between games like Zelda: Twilight Princess – the average gamer probably couldn’t tell. This is the turning point for some gamers. I should also point out the Wii had to defend its market share against the Xbox 360 and the Playstation 3, both of which without any shadow of a doubt were graphically superior.
The second major issue the Wii had which wouldn’t be realized until the introduction of Nintendo’s next console was its library. The Wii’s library is absolutely massive. I mean mind blowing. There were almost two thousand games produced world wide with over 1,500 in North America. The Will was also backward compatible with the ENTIRE GAME CUBE LIBRARY! Throw in DLC and there’s more games than you could ever play in one life time. Here’s the problem with that. Nintendo made the Wii so easy to develop software for that there were quality issues. I would venture to estimate for every 20-30 Wii games, there was one amazing game worthy of the Nintendo Seal of Quality. I’m sorry but that’s a lot of shitty games and Nintendo knew it.
Which brings us to the Nintendo Wii U. So mind blowingly un-original and un-innovative they didn’t bother to change the name and just added the letter U on the end. The Wii U had a whopping 128 exclusive titles, of which i could probably name 10 if you gave me a few minutes to think – AND THAT INCLUDES TITLES THAT WERE ALREADY RELEASED ON THE WII!!!!!! (AND NOW ONE WHICH WILL SEE A DUAL RELEASE ON THE SWITCH)!!!!
Seriously, the Switch is nothing more than a Wii U with better portability and detachable controllers. Oh and lets not forget the online play system that you
need to pay for access to. Nintendo should have just marketed the Switch as Wii U Slim. I’m having a very difficult time distinguishing any major difference especially when your kill app, Zelda: Breath of the Wild is seeing a simultaneous release on the Wii U!
My mind is blown.
So time to come full circle. Earlier I mentioned SEGA failed because of relying on technical specs to sell a product. I’ve never in all my years, seen anyone talk as much as they do, about the Switch’ s specs. The specs are always in question, people already debate, will the specs allow games to hold up graphically to the PS4 Pro and Xbox One? If your game system isn’t even on the shelf yet and people are already calling into question its hardware capabilities you have a problem. Nintendo relied on releasing these specs in hopes that consumers would see them and have confidence the system will be a high performance game console. This backfired.
I also mentioned lack of first and third party software. Well if the Wii U isn’t a shining example of that I don’t know what is. The release titles aren’t exactly confidence instilling either. Two Nintendo original titles, some cross platform games, and some crap-ware. No thanks Nintendo. Take me back to your glory days, when your pack in game was a Mario game.
Lastly this brings me to the single most important reason why the Switch will fail. Nintendo has broken their fan base’s trust. 3 Generations of minimal innovation, weak software releases, and lack of features that other consoles have which, ninten-don’t (yep, I went there) you can only expect one thing. No matter how good the switch actually is, consumer confidence isn’t there. The SEGA Dreamcast was a fantastic piece of hardware which had everything we wanted. The Dreamcast failed because it was too little too late, SEGA had damaged the confidence of their fans with 4 generations of short comings and broken promises.
The Switch is destined for the same fate.