Nintendo has had a sublime year on all counts, with great 3DS sales and the staggering success of Pokemon GO. And it looks like Nintendo is set to continue that trend.
Chatting with some gaming critic friends this week, we all agree that Nintendo is likely to have a very successful few years off of the back of the Nintendo Switch. And its a success that’s kicking off early thanks to the mini-NES classic, which has already sold out (though, partly because Nintendo intentionally didn’t produce enough of them).
What is most amazing about Nintendo’s current market strategy, however, is that it is so clearly against conventions. Nintendo look like they are about to win by breaking all the rules.
Take the mini-NES Classic, for example.
The Mini-NES Classic scoff in the face of all that high-powered hardware. It says, “I’m just gonna chill and play some games I liked in my childhood because they’re fun”. Super Mario Bros. Metroid. Galaga. And all the game pre-installed games on Mini NES. They take us back to when we were just wee little kids who thought 8-bits and four buttons were the best things ever.
Nintendo have bet against the number on convention in the world: new sells.
The mini-NES Classic is popular precisely because it is old, because it reminds millions of gamers over the age of thirty what gaming was like when they were kids. That’s the kind of nostalgia that Christmas is built on.
What is Christmas all about to you? My Christmas is about looking back. It’s about remembering those times, as a kid, when the Coca Cola “Holidays are coming” song made me jump with joy. It was about that wonderful white stuff on the ground that made the world look like some fairy tale.
Most older gamers want to look back on Christmas. And the mini-NES Classic lets them do precisely that. Nintendo know that the best way to get into people’s hearts at Christmas is with nostalgia. And because of that, they are going to succeed this holiday season even though their product is, essentially, thirty years old.
Even in its very premise the mini-NES classic defies conventions. But it doesn’t stop there.
The Mini-NES Classic breaks conventions at every angle:
Gaming convention says that gamers want cutting-edge graphics. Sorry, but you can’t exactly get much less cutting edge than the Mini NES Classic and its 8 bit graphics. But early sales figures show that plenty of us will play through those 8-bit mini-NES Classic games anyway.
Gaming convention says gamers want “accessible games”: Accessible games generally means “easy games”. Easy games are supposed to be more popular because, hell, anyone can play them. That’s why games have steadily gotten easier over the years. NES games? Ha! How do you like playing a platformer where jumps require pixel-precision and death means starting all over again? Do you remember smashing your head into the wall in anger over difficult NES games?
Microsoft and Sony will be astonished this holiday season. Will Nintendo win the season? Unlikely. But they will achieve a healthy share of the market on a nickle-and-dime console that is effectively 30 years old. And that in itself is one hell of a mind blower for billion-dollar corporations like Microsoft and Sony. And it only gets more interesting from here in.
If the mini-NES Classic seems impressive, it is nothing compared to the Nintendo Switch.
Nintendo has become famous for reinventing the wheel. Of course, we all know precisely how inventive the N64 and Wii were. And the Wii U attempted to be equally inventive, though struggled for sales.
Nintendo Switch is arguably even more innovative than the N64 and Wii. And it’s innovative for one reason: because Nintendo are finally fully committing to the mobile space.
Everything about the Nintendo Switch is more inline with a mobile device.
We’ve all the seen the trailer by now. Nintendo clearly advertise the Switch as a mobile device. The ability to take the console away from the TV is the unique selling point.
The console’s architecture is also clearly intended for mobile.
The Nintendo Switch will be powered by a custom Tegra GPU by NVIDIA. This is the product NVIDIA has optimised for delivering high-power graphics for handheld and mobile formats. And it comes with custom software that includes, “a revamped physics engine, new libraries, and advanced game tools. And NVIDIA has created new gaming APIs to fully harness this performance. The newest API, NVN, was built specifically to bring lightweight, fast gaming to the masses,” says Nintendo Everything.
Having seen the success of Pokemon GO and the 3DS, Nintendo is now fully committing to mobile.
For years, Nintendo has been a mainstay in the console war. It was once Sega VS Nintendo. Then it was Nintendo VS Sony VS Microsoft.
With the Nintendo Switch, Nintendo is kissing goodbye to the console war. Nintendo is finally saying, “We cannot win in that war. But we can draw up new battlegrounds”.
The Nintendo Switch will move out of the console space and into a unique space between consoles and mobiles.
The Nintendo Switch’s main competition will be the iPad. Both devices offer mobile gaming, and both are quite clearly aimed at a more casual market. But Nintendo isn’t a tablet. And it isn’t a console, not in the conventional sense. It’s something else entirely. It’s a midway point between consoles and tablets. And in being that, it enters a market all of its own.
So suddenly, where there were two markets there are now three. The mobile space will have its horde of competing companies. The console space will have Microsoft and Sony. And then there’s be the Nintendo Switch, in a market all of its own.
When the Playstation 5, new Xbox and Nintendo Switch are all out, the picture will look like this. Either consumers will go with the traditional gaming consoles, buying either the Xbox or the Playstation. Or, they’ll go for the new and unique Nintendo Switch. So while Sony and Microsoft share profit, Nintendo get a market all to themselves.
But will the Nintendo Switch be successful in its unique market position?
Most critics currently say yes. Among them is NVIDIA CEO Jen-Hsun Huang has praised the Nintendo Switch and has full confidence in it:
Several hundred engineering years have gone into the development of this incredible game console. I really believe when everybody sees it and enjoy it, they’re going be amazed by it. It’s really like nothing they’ve ever played with before. And of course, the brand, their franchise and their game content is incredible.
Of course, Huang has business relations with Nintendo so his praise should probably be taken with a grain of salt.
Regardless, however, the overall opinion of the Nintendo Switch is positive, and if it ends up succeeding it will significantly change the gaming landscape.