Monday, March 20, 2017

Death of Simple Technology, As Told Through the Fall of Nintendo

The Death of Simple Technology, As Told Through the Fall of Nintendo The Death of Simple Technology, As Told Through the Fall of Nintendo
by Andrew Samuel
Technology has come to define how we live our lives. It constantly changes the way we talk with our friends, do business, travel, and even wake up in the morning. A large part of technology’s influence is due to its kinetic growth. Moore’s Law has accurately predicted that processing power, and thus technology, will exponentially grow every two years. With this added power, tech companies have focused on making more machines to match this new potential.

These technological changes are not only affecting perceptions of products but also brands. For example, the Galaxy has focused on appearing as the new, cool thing that is stronger than the iPhone, the same way the Mac did with Windows PCs in the 2000s. Despite this pressure to constantly innovate, some brands have continued to make simple technology, relying on brand recognition or  accessibility to weather the storm. One of the most recognized brands to do this is Nintendo, which has redefined the gaming industry time and again. However, Nintendo has done so not by making the best machines, but by making fun products. Unfortunately, Nintendo’s most recent foray into console gaming can only be described as a total flop, and its brand has deteriorated as a result.

In 2013, the video game industry made over $21 billion. Through the release of a new generation of consoles and the continued popularity of games from the previous generation, sales have grown faster than GDP, at a rate of nearly 10 percent from 2009 to 2012. As powerhouses Sony and Microsoft lead the charge into the current console war, Nintendo has struggled with the Wii U, with sales barely passing 10 million units since its launch. While some attribute the failure of the Wii U to the lack of powerfully engaging games or the prominence of consumer tablets, others blame its failure on its inability to perform in relation to the other gaming machines of the generation, such as the market leader – the PS4. As a result, the overall brand for Nintendo has suffered over the time period, lagging in comparison to Microsoft and Sony.

Figure 1 shows how Nintendo’s brand equity has changed over the life of the Wii U, in comparison to Sony’s and Microsoft’s. From 2013 to 2015, Sony and Microsoft have remained fairly consistent. However, Nintendo has fluctuated heavily in comparison, with a net drop in Brand Strength of nearly 10 points.Nintendo Power Grid In addition, Figure 2 shows that Nintendo lags behind the other two companies in Energized Differentiation, Relevance, and Esteem, only maintaining a lead in Knowledge.

Nintendo Pillars

While we must remember that Sony and Microsoft benefit from being diversified electronics companies that work outside of gaming, Nintendo’s declining brand equity is apparent in other parts of the BAV Data. When looking at the BAV’s 48 Brand Attributes, Nintendo outperforms by a wide margin when it comes to Fun, Social, and Simple; however, it loses on vital metrics such as High Quality, Leader, and High Performance. This analysis raises important questions about consumer perceptions of technology brands and their products. In the world of video games, and possibly technology as a whole, it is important to consider the value in aiming to be a fun and social brand. While it may generate a loyal consumer base and a unique industry position, which Nintendo has enjoyed for the majority of its history, brand leadership is now determined by high quality, as shown by the Playstation 4 and the Xbox One.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

higher Nintendo Switch cartridges costs affect third party game sales

This week, Eurogamer has published an interesting piece about why a few games are just flat-out more expensive on the Switch than they are elsewhere.

They look at a pair of indie games Rime and Puyo Puyo Tetris, which cost £10 more than the same versions of the game on other platforms. What they found is that the cost of manufacturing Switch cartridges increases costs for these developers, particularly indie games with a smaller run, and that they can’t make their digital versions cheaper because Nintendo demands price parity between its physical and digital media in a bid not to upset brick and mortar stores. So even with no increase in production costs for digital, both versions of Rime cost £39.99 on Switch as opposed to £29.99 elsewhere.

When discussing this story around the FORBES office, a few interesting points were made. The thought is that this may not affect that many indie games because so many of them are digital only. This is true, and other games have forgone releasing a physical version of their game entirely, some because they never had one, but others because of the Switch demanding price parity between stores and the increased costs of cartridges.

It is a bit odd, however, that the Nintendo Switch, which has made a big point of courting indie games which are a perfect fit for the new console/handheld, has created this situation where games can literally just cost more than identical versions on its competition’s platforms. Even if this does not happen often, it’s not a great look, certainly.

But my concern is about how the Switch’s use of cartridges could affect its third party support more generally.

I have been beating the drum for ages that the “NX,” whatever it ended up being, would have to do a lot to court third parties to make games for the hardware. A console with the ability to have AAA blockbusters with Nintendo’s own must-have first-party releases would be unstoppable. But to get there, there would have to be less barriers in place for that to happen.
Rime costs more on the Nintendo Switch than it does anywhere else

The problem is, all the barriers are still in place, and then some. The Switch is not all that concerned with power, which is the opposite of the direction the larger industry is moving with PC, the PS4 Pro and Xbox Scorpio. The Switch also has unusual demands with its split functionality between running games in handheld and console mode. The online functionality of the Switch is largely a complete unknown at this point, which is a core component of many games. And now add to that the requirement of producing physical, expensive cartridges instead of Blu-rays. Larger cartridges too, given the size of most AAA games.

Now, I don’t think any one of these individual issues is an insurmountable barrier to third party Switch support, but combine them all together, and you a number of reasons why catering to Nintendo’s hardware may not be worth the hassle.

This is not a new issue, per say. We saw this back with the Nintendo 64, which was still using costly cartridges long after it was fashionable, and it did hurt third party support. But it’s a bit odd that once again we’re having this conversation in 2017.

Cartridges have their advantages, of course. They’re technically easier to develop for, and there’s something fantastic about popping in a game and having it ready to go instantly rather than waiting for length boot-ups and updates. But I do worry that it’s another somewhat alienating decision made by Nintendo which is certainly not winning them any third party support, though time will tell if it’s losing them any.

This issue occurs to me now more than ever because now that I own a Switch, I’ve found I actually quite like it. And I constantly find myself thinking “Wouldn’t it be great if I could play Mass Effect: Andromeda or Ghost Recon: Wildlands on my flight this weekend?” The idea of a Switch that could play all these big games is incredibly appealing, but that reality does not seem to be taking shape. The Switch has only drawn cursory support from big third party studios, and it’s been said outright that there are “no plans” for many of the biggest release of the year to come to Switch. And yet finally, this is a piece of Nintendo hardware that really, really cries out for this kind of support. Previously, few people wanted to play “worse” versions of games on Wii and Wii U, given their limited power capabilities, but would I play a stripped down version of certain AAA games in order to be able to play them on the fly via the Switch? Absolutely.

Is the cartridge issue a defining one? Perhaps not, but it’s another example of Nintendo doing whatever it wants based on its own needs, rather than considering how that might affect its other partners. We’re seeing that with these odd price spikes, and it’s yet another excuse for AAA publishers to avoid doing the work to port to the system.

Hopefully this isn’t how things play out, and strong Switch sales will drive third party support regardless of these obstacles, but we have seen zero signs of that happening yet, and the biggest third party “blockbuster” coming to the Switch at this point remains the six year-old Skyrim this fall.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

I'm too Old for Videgames, but I Still Play Them

We tend to be very critical of the video game industry here, and damn it, the industry deserves it. They charge more per-copy of their product than any home entertainment medium, and are always looking to squeeze us for more. If they don't like being held to a high standard, tough shit.

But ... a lot of the bitching I hear about games (some of which I hear out of my own mouth) isn't really about the games. It's about us, and the fact that once you hit a certain age, you're no longer the target audience game makers have in mind. Here are some signs that, sadly, you might be outgrowing your favorite hobby.

You Think Multiplayer is Bullshit

Hey, remember when a game was a wondrous adventure you could totally get lost in for weeks on end? Alone?

Depending on your age, there's a good bet that in your teens at least one Final Fantasy game sucked you in with a force that no novel ever could. What happened to games like that, when the single player was a sweeping, epic story rather than five hours you could blow through in a Friday night?

"Now let me tell you the entire history of the War of the Magi."

Of course, those games were created back when the main story was something other than a one-day crash course intended to train you up for the multiplayer. These days, multiplayer is like a "get out of a bad game free" card. Game makers don't have to worry about AI or plot or progression or variety, because the real game is out there on XBox Live, where it's all about players shooting each other until the time limit expires or a point cap is reached. Everything else on the disc is just window dressing for, "point, shoot, die, respawn."

Add in gamer shit-talk from emotionally stunted teenagers, and suddenly most modern gaming is about as fun as being held down by a bully and repeatedly slapped with your own hand until you black out. And if you don't live up to your teammates' expectations, it's even worse -- you have to get yelled at by some stranger who thinks the veteran/n00b relationship is basically employer/employee. What I'm saying is, I'd rather fistfight a wolf than play multiplayer.

But the Truth Is...

My complaint isn't really with multiplayer. It's with the fact that I can't stand teenage dipshits. Of course multiplayer games don't have to be random matchups with children and assholes -- some of the best times you can have in a game involve gathering friends and laughing your asses off as one guy ramps the Warthog off a cliff, sending everybody flailing through the air. And the technology makes it easy to set up those gaming sessions...

... when you're in high school.

"You need your own computers, dipshits."

When you're older, getting even four people your age together on the same night could take literally months, and requires the construction of an intricate scaffold of babysitters, vacation days and placated spouses. And then, when it finally all comes together, the novelty wears off after an hour or so and all that is left is the frustration of being absolutely horrible at the game. These games are electronic sports, they require practice. That's why my own kids can head-shot me on the run while jumping off of a building and switching weapons in mid-air.

And you know what? Not once do I hear them complain about what a fuckjob move it was for the industry to focus on multiplayer. I can whine right into their ear about how it's bullshit to have to pay separately for an online account, and how only an asshole would pay $15 for a pack of five recycled maps. They don't listen. They're too busy sneaking up behind me and laughing wildly as they knife me in my old, arthritic back.


You Think Games Are Suddenly Too Long

Of course, not every game is "beat it in an afternoon" length. The very next notch up the scale of game length is the "you will never fucking see everything even if you play it for three years" games. Skyrim is promising "over 300 hours of gameplay". Games like that have endless tricks to stretch out the game experience forever and ever -- from assloads of side quests, to the promise of a completely different experience if you go back and choose a different character class or skill set (see: Borderlands) .

You can always spot these bloated games immediately, because you have to invest 10 hours in the intro mission that teaches you the menus ("What, you mean Fallout 3 isn't about a dude who spends his entire life inside this fucking underground vault?").

"Press X to party."

But more does not mean better. I didn't have to skin too many coyotes in Red Dead Redemption before I realized I was playing a time wasting simulator. Now please, somebody tell me if this letter icon on my map will actually advance the fucking main story, or is just another side mission to earn $35 so I can buy bullets for the next side mission. Since when is entertainment about making the audience wander around aimlessly so you can boast about the sheer tonnage of hours you gave them?

But the Truth Is...

Boredom is a young man's disease. For me, every minute I spend playing, more shit is piling up in my work inbox. No, I don't need a game that will kill time. I need a game that will give me the most possible fun in the precious few hours of spare time I get in a week. Trust me, if you ever see me reopen my World of Warcraft account, it means I probably got fired from my job.

Thank you, hot mage chick. That money was really weighing me down.

And this is when I realize that these are the games I specifically asked the industry to make 15-20 years ago. Back then, one of a game's selling points was the amount of hours it took to beat it. A 40-hour RPG was a big deal, and even after you beat it, you still wanted more. There are RPG's I've beaten a dozen times. Grinding and leveling was such a "rinse and repeat" set of motions, there were times when I'd snap out of a daze and realize that I had been killing the same monsters for three hours, increasing ten levels on autopilot. I fantasized about endless games that you could just get lost in.

Well, game developers listened to the 17 year-old me. It's just that by the time they got around to figuring out how to make a 300-hour game, I had a job and three kids, and 300 hours represents every minute of gaming time I'll have available to me in the next three years. In other words, selling me that game is the same as taunting me, reminding me that the same obligations that let me afford to buy games also prevent me from playing them.

"And then you just hit the squat button to teabag him..."

You Miss Game Storylines That Were Actually Compelling

When's the last time you actually cared about what happened in a video game? Between the stiffly-acted cutscenes and bullshit recycled plots, you can't help but wonder what happened after the golden age of Role Playing Games in the 1990s and early 2000s.

I got absolutely hooked on a series of Nintendo games called Dragon Warrior in the 1980s. Jump ahead to 1994, and regardless of the day you arrive, you'll find me camped out in front of a Final Fantasy III (or FF VI, for you purists) marathon that lasted five years. When we got a hand-me-down Playstation, the first thing I bought was Final Fantasy 7. In 2000, it was The Legend of Dragoon, or the more aptly named "Final Fantasy with an Extra Button."

That's Dragoon on top. FF7 on bottom.

And what modern game can possibly match that amazing 20 minute-long ending cinematic for FFIII that wrapped up the storylines for each of the characters we'd come to know and love in the course of beating the game? And then again while beating it eight more times?

Now, all of those deep, engrossing games are gone, replaced by "point and shoot" games for the kiddies who could care less about story and just want action, action, action, hitting the "skip" button half a second into each cut scene. If they're playing Mass Effect, maybe they keep watching to see the fucking.

"It's like you dicked down the whole town... even though you got dick to go 'round."

But the Truth Is...

Let's go back and watch one of those cut scenes from Final Fantasy III/VI:

Huh. That seemed... way more powerful when I saw it as a teenager.

And even weirder, I watch my kids play games now that barely have a story at all, yet they're transfixed. It's almost like they're seeing something I'm not. For instance, I let my kids mess around in a Grand Theft Auto game (supervised) and the first thing my son does is steal an ambulance. My youngest daughter then pretended to be injured and dialed him on her pretend cellphone. He drove the ambulance around town until she told him, "I'm there on that next block." He'd then pull over and pretend to pick her up... and drive her to the actual in-game hospital. The whole trip, he'd bark out things he'd heard on medical dramas and pretend to save her.

"Be advised: incoming six year old female, acute myocardial infarction, BP steadily dropping..."

Wait a second. Is it possible that those old games didn't do anything magical with their programming to create "immersion," and that, like my kids with GTA, I "immersed" myself in those games because I was playing them at a time before I was dead inside?

I can play a zombie game now, and I just see a bunch of boring, repetitive enemies. My kids can't even be in the same room with me -- they find those games terrifying because they're imagining themselves in the game, fighting the zombies.

"If I hear you scream 'motherfucker' one more time, you're grounded."

The older you get, the less elastic your imagination becomes, and the less able you are to fill in whatever gaps the game leaves in the narrative. It's why a toddler can open a birthday present and then immediately disregard the toy in favor of spending the next three hours playing with the box. If you see an adult doing that, suddenly it's time for an intervention.

You Think Originality is Dead

The complaint is the same on every gaming message board: "Every goddamn game on the planet is a first person shooter." They're all Call of Duty (or before that, Halo) clones -- same mechanics, different outfits. Every sports game is exactly the same as the 15 versions of the series that came before it. Innovation is abandoned in favor of tried and true brands that guarantee sales. Shelves are a blur of Mario and zombies.

And holy shit, do not get me started on the zombies. Forget the actual zombie genre games like Left 4 Dead or Dead Rising or Dead Island or Dead Zombie Deathkill: the Dying. They even cram zombies into Call of Duty: Black Ops and the Red Dead Redeption expansion "Undead Nightmare" (a fucking cowboy game).

It's like being a real cowboy!

But the Truth Is...

From the first days of console gaming, and we're talking Magnavox Odyssey here, each hit game spawned a shelf full of clones. Tennis, Hockey, and Soccer were just modified versions of Pong. Track the top-ten best selling games down through the decades after and you see these fads come and go in waves. In later years it was Mario-style side scrollers, then Street Fighter-style fighting games, and so on.

The industry looked just as cookie cutter then as it does now. Which you don't mind, if you're young enough that games themselves are new to you and your parents can only afford like three games a year anyway.

"Oh, mom, you really are too good to me!"

Then you get a little older, and you obsess over games in the way that only a kid has time to do -- buying all the magazines and talking games with your friends, hunting down the cool stuff that isn't on the shelf at Walmart. It's the same as getting into unsigned bands or indie films -- you don't just shop among the bestsellers. But that takes time, and energy, and a willingness to try new things.

So now I'm approaching 40, and I often am surprised to find games I had been anticipating suddenly show up on the shelf. Hell, I obsessed over Diablo II back in the day and somehow missed that they were all the way up to doing a beta on Diablo III -- and that's a AAA, blockbuster game. Following that sort of thing takes time. And these days, when it comes to the smaller, more innovative titles, you generally have to look to the PC. For instance, those user-created mods for GTA IV look like the most ridiculously awesome things ever:

But me? The first time I spend two hours tweaking physics settings to make cars go shooting around the game world, only to have it glitch out and freeze on me, I'm going to feel like I've been cheated. It's the same if I download some indie game that's both innovative and impossible to play. It's easy to forget that discovering great new bands in college meant listening to a lot of shitty new bands in between.

So you reach that age when consuming entertainment becomes a passive rather than an active thing -- you sit back and say, "Bring me new, polished, original content. And feel free to take risks, but God fucking help you if I don't love it." Scroll up and skim all of the game titles I've mentioned owning in this article -- can you find a single one that isn't a blockbuster, AAA mainstream game?


You Miss When Games Used to be "All About Fun"

You know what the real problem with games today is? It's all about graphics and technology and flash, rather than fun. Whatever happened to simple, joyful games that you could just pick up and play? I remember playing Donkey Kong Country until I could hit those jumps with my eyes closed, circling back through the old levels to collect red 1-Up balloons. Over and over again, never getting tired of it.

And never questioning its logic or my own sanity.

Whatever happened to games like that? And why do people buy these new games by the millions? Do they really not know what they're missing? Are they that brainwashed, that they can be fooled into thinking they're having fun when they're clearly not?

But the Truth Is...

And now that I think of it, when did they change the ingredients of Kool-Aid so that it started tasting like a fist full of sugar painted with harsh red dye? Why were the Transformers cartoons I saw as a kid so amazing, but today the huge-budget Michael Bay movies featuring the same characters and plotlines just punch IQ points out of my brain? Why are toys today so lame compared to what I had as akid? Why do McDonalds cheeseburgers taste so cheap and bland to me now, when as a kid that was the shit straight from the Five-Star restaurant where God himself works the grill?


And why do my kids so happily consume all of this stuff? Don't they know it's bullshit?

They play Gears of War and laugh their asses off when they chainsaw an alien, and then proceed to do it over and over and over again, never getting tired of it. I swear I watch them play these modern games and it's almost like... and this can't possibly be true, but it's almost like they're having just as much fun as I had when I was their age.

Monday, March 06, 2017

Nintendo Switch impressions

Expectation is a tricky thing to manage, especially when your business is a famous name. Companies like Sony, Apple and, yes, Nintendo all struggle with issues of expectation; everyone knows you're meant to under-promise and over-deliver, but that's a glib (albeit true) saying that's far easier to rattle off than it is to practice.
Sometimes, over-promising happens because of internal communication issues - a single department, or even a single spokesperson, runs off at the mouth and commits the company to something it had never intended to deliver, which may even be impossible to deliver. Sometimes, under-delivering is even more unavoidable; nobody who's worked on any complex project can deny some familiarity with the sinking feeling when you realise that the goal you've been striving towards is simply technically unachievable, for example.
"How should we set expectations for a company that has enjoyed so much success and so much failure within such a short span of years?"
What makes the management of expectations even tougher is when they're being set by third parties entirely beyond your control. In the age of Internet hype, expectations can be set by everything from fake leaks to half-baked analyst reports (how could any VR platform, for instance, have lived up to the crazy expectations analysts set for their sales?) to minor misunderstandings blown out of proportion in excitable Reddit threads that spawn a thousand ill-informed YouTube rants. This isn't the same thing as the deliberate and strategic planting of "fake news" (remember when we just used to call that "propaganda"?) that has become such a hot-button topic in mainstream politics, but it's a symptom of the same underlying environment. The diversification and fragmentation of media has given us all access to a much wider range of voices, but has also stripped traditional backstops against falsehood and misinterpretation of their authority.
This is an oddly philosophical point with which to commence an assessment of this week's launch of Nintendo's latest console, but it's an important one. Switch arrives on a field muddied with conflicting expectations, and as a consequence, it will be met with a wide array of conflicting interpretations as to its performance and success. Some of this is simply down to Nintendo's recent history as a company; it has lurched between launching some of the most successful products the games industry has ever known (DS and Wii) and rolling out the lowest-performing home console in the firm's history. Even as the Wii U hardware flared out with all the glory of a firecracker in a tropical downpour, though, the company's software has been going through a golden era, with a new generation of creators emerging from the long shadows cast by the likes of Shigeru Miyamoto to launch huge new titles like Splatoon and Super Mario Maker.
How, then, should we set expectations for a company that has enjoyed so much success and so much failure within such a short span of years? Should we expect Switch simply to outperform Wii U and build a solid, albeit second-string, console business? Should we expect it to soar like the Wii or the DS? Equally importantly, when should we expect to be able to see which path the console is following?  the Switch launch is a muted affair and the company's real focus seems to be on getting a substantial line-up and mature supply lines ready for its first Christmas, yet it's inevitable that a great many assessments will have been made and conclusions drawn long before then; will they all be entirely premature?
All of this is compounded by a broad set of confused expectations that have been set by parties beyond Nintendo's control. Some of these are technical in nature; there's been a heavy focus, for instance, on the limited amount of storage (32GB) in the system, which contrasts dramatically with the 500GB or 1TB of storage present in other current-gen consoles, but relatively little acknowledgement of the fact that physical games ship on high-speed cartridges and need no installation, unlike PS4 or Xbox One games that often install the bulk of their data to the hard drive. It's not unreasonable to argue that this is an example of Nintendo undervaluing the digital ecosystem in favour of physical retail; it is, however, not reasonable to present this as a deal-breaker for potential console purchasers or to establish an expectation of an updated Switch appearing relatively quickly which "fixes" this problem.
Other misconceptions are more focused around the business case for Switch; the most common of them being the notion that the console is a merging of Nintendo's home and handheld console lines. While portability is one of the key features of Switch, it's likely that the very versatile controllers are going to be an equal, if not more significant part of the console's marketing and appeal; portability is designed with quite a specific, albeit important, audience in mind.
Crucially, that audience is not the 3DS audience, although there will doubtless be some overlap. Nintendo has been careful to avoid suggesting that Switch will replace 3DS, either now or in the future; the company is almost certainly still mulling over a 'real' handheld device that would be the ultimate successor of 3DS. Why? Because 3DS addresses a key market Switch is unlikely to fit very well: children and tweens being bought a handheld console (for Pokemon, Yokai Watch, Animal Crossing or whatever else) by family members who respect Nintendo's carefully-managed reputation, and aren't comfortable entrusting an ordinary smart device (with all the unfettered access to content that that entails) to a youngster. That remains a big market; as long as it's there, Nintendo will provide for it, which makes an eventual 3DS replacement that isn't Switch pretty much inevitable. (As a corollary, this also means that the oft-repeated claim that Nintendo's development efforts will now be focused on a single console is not the case.)
What, then, is actually reasonable to expect? It's informative, I think, to look at Nintendo's actual launch strategy and work out what the company's own internal expectations might be. Switch is the firm's first global launch, and it's going out in what is traditionally a quiet quarter for the industry. That tells you that the firm is feeling relatively confident about its supply chain (otherwise it would have staggered its release dates worldwide), but is also willing to be supply-constrained in the early months if the console is more popular than anticipated. Given the strong response of reviewers to both the system and its tentpole Zelda title, the chances of stock shortages for a while after launch are high; that's okay, in the firm's mind, because the people buying Switch in the first quarter will be quite dedicated to their purchase and will wait for new stock, unlike more casual purchasers who will likely spend their money elsewhere if Switch isn't available.
The decision to launch with Zelda is clearly aimed at that core market, and has the significant benefit that a lot of Nintendo's most devoted consumers will have a chance to get their hands on Switch before the rush at the end of the year - which is when, if the gameplan works out, casual consumers will hop on board in large numbers. By then, supply should be well-established, and core consumers won't find themselves competing with casual consumers in the case of shortages, which should ease stock issues (and frayed tempers) on all sides.
This assumes, of course, that Switch can repeat some aspects of Wii's huge first Christmas in seven months' time or so, but the console is arguably well positioned for that; assuming software quality remains high, the system will have an established base of core consumers to drive word of mouth, a pretty impressive line-up including Zelda, Mario, Mario Kart and Splatoon titles (most Nintendo consoles have to wait years to complete that line-up), and with powder being kept dry on marketing right now, we can only assume there'll be a big budget at year-end.
One fly in the ointment, however, is 1-2-Switch - which looked very promising but has received fairly negative feedback from reviewers so far. The decision not to bundle 1-2-Switch with the console was one of the major departures from the Wii's strategic playbook; it now seems possible that it was taken specifically to avoid console purchasers ending up with an underwhelming mini-game collection and nothing else. This is a problem, because the console really needs a Wii Sports style game that explains and explores the features of the system in an engrossing, entertaining way. Wii U never got one of those; the DS got an embarrassment of them, with the Wii falling somewhere in the middle (Wii Sports was an amazing demonstration, most other games rather less so). It bears recalling how much of the early consumer interest in the Wii was entirely down to Wii Sports, and wondering how realistic expectations of similar performance can be if Switch lacks a similar title to hook in that audience.
Of course, it also bears recalling that much of the response to Wii Sports from "core" media wasn't exactly hugely impressed; it remains possible that 1-2-Switch will pick up a lot of interest from consumers regardless of the critical response. Certainly, Nintendo is pushing it hard in its marketing, at least in Japan; it's just extremely odd, in that case, that it's not bundled with the hardware. That too may change; one possibility is that Switch isn't being bundled with 1-2-Switch now because the core market buying the console for Zelda won't care about it, but that by Christmas a 1-2-Switch bundle will be standard. It's also plausible that Nintendo has decided it's not so concerned with that aspect of the Wii strategy, and views having a strong overall line-up by Christmas to be more than enough to pull in the consumers needed for a successful first year. This could prove true; a Nintendo console with such a strong line-up in its first Christmas on the market is uncharted territory.
Herein lies the heart of the matter; much of what happens with Switch from here on in really is uncharted territory. It's a totally new kind of console with a new set of features and a very different software launch approach, coming from a new Nintendo under new leadership and highlighting new creative talent. We can compare it to the playbook of the Wii and see parallels, but there are differences too; we can adjust our expectations to fit the facts, and not the speculation, as best we possibly can, but that still gives us a very broad range of possibilities for the first year of this intriguing new machine.
The only thing that's certain is that Switch is going to disappoint some expectations it never intended to create, and exceed some expectations it would rather have avoided - and vice versa. As with any risky new venture, keeping an open mind until the picture is clearer is going to serve any observer of the industry well.