Changing The Narrative: How The Switch Can Be Successful

At the time of this blog it will be about 3 days before the Nintendo Switch press conference to be held in Japan on January 12th, as well as hands-on events to take place in the United States as well.

I’m not going to rehash all of the rumors because to be quite honest I’m plum sick and tired of hearing them.  They are either rumors we have already heard before that were just reworded to make them seem new, things that are as obvious as an air horn in a library, or outright lies from people looking for click revenue.   Let’s just look at the facts.

The Nintendo Switch is being branded as a portable/home console hybrid.  Nintendo themselves when asked have stated the console favors one aspect or the other depending on the question asked in order to squirm out of giving definitive answers that could tip their hand too much.  The comment I want to talk about here is this one.

“Nintendo Switch is a home gaming system first and foremost.”

Now, when I look at this piece of technology that is not what I see.  That may be the narrative that Nintendo wants to tell consumers, investors, and the public at large, but I don’t let people form my opinions for me.  If this had been a device from anyone else and they had not used that narrative, I cannot honestly see how someone just based off of the information we have so far would agree whole-heartily that this device is a home-console “first and foremost.”  Especially someone who is a tech-guru, or a gamer that is familiar with such things.  Even if most tech-jargon flies over their heads, there are certain key words and phrases that pretty much all gamers know and get the gist of.  So what are the distinguishing characteristics of the Nintendo Switch to where someone could come to a conclusion of what it is and what it is not?

We know that the NS will be powered by a custom-variant of the Tegra architecture designed for mobile use by nVidia.  The Tegra processor was not designed to be a direct competitor with dedicated home consoles or PCs, but to give a gaming experience that was comparable in some ways.  While we have heard from nVidia themselves that the Switch will be using a custom Tegra processor, the fact that they would not outright state that the Switch will be using a Tegra X1 or Tegra X2 lends me to believe that the chip is based off of a Tegra X1.  Similarly back in 2011, it was speculated that the Wii U would be using a Quad-Core Power7 CPU from IBM, which would have made it comparable in power to the PS4 and XBOX One.

This CPU gained notoriety from being the CPU used in the ‘Watson’ computer that competed on the TV game-show ‘Jeopardy.’   However, IBM made a statement saying that the CPU in the Wii U was “Power-based.”  So it was a PR spin-move to not chase people away by saying that the Wii U would be using a Tri-Core PowerPC 750 (which was not comparable in power to the Octa-Core AMD Jaguar CPU in the PS4 and XB1,) but allow people to still think the Wii U COULD have been using the Power7.

The Tegra X2 or ‘Parker’ chip is nVidia’s most ambitious project and one would think that with a major video-game manufacturer like Nintendo inputting this tech into their device that nVidia would want to tell everyone within ear-shot that the Switch was using a Tegra X2.  There is little to be gained by holding onto that information at this point.  The jury is still out on that so we will see eventually what the Switch has under the hood.

I can tell you this though for certain.  BY ITSELF, the Switch is no match for the PS4, XB1, PS4 Pro, Project Scorpio, and the next-gen consoles from Microsoft and Sony.  Even if the Switch is using the ‘Parker’ chip, the absolute best performance that we could see in my opinion accounting for all the customization and APIs from the Switch is somewhere in-between the XB1 and PS4 visuals. That is being VERY generous.  Now for RIGHT NOW, that is fine.  However, I feel the need to make this perfectly clear………..

The Nintendo Switch is a 9th-GENERATION CONSOLE.

However, this console is less-powerful than the competing 8th-gen consoles as well as the mid-gen consoles.  This is not acceptable for a home console “first and foremost” as Nintendo has said themselves.  Not in any way, shape, or form.  No one asked them to say that.  They did that themselves so any negative repercussion is on them.

NOW…….

How can Nintendo fix this problem.  It is very simple actually.  Change the narrative.  As I stated earlier, I do not allow others to form my opinions for me and I’m smarter than the average bear.  This is not a home console “first and foremost” nor is it a home console at ALL as far as I’m concerned.  Nintendo’s mind-set and marketing thus-far pretty much makes the Nintendo Switch a “Solution looking for a problem.”

They have convinced themselves that we as gamers en-mass have had this insatiable desire to merge home-console and portable-console gaming and that there was this huge worldwide outcry for someone to do something about it.  Then Nintendo comes riding to the rescue with The Switch in tow.  That’s a nice fantasy, but in reality that is not happening.  Instead of lying to us and lying to themselves on what the Switch is, be honest with us and yourself as to what the Switch is.

A portable console.  PERIOD. This is why and how this makes sense.

Nintendo has sold over 400 million portable consoles.
Nintendo has sold over 275 million home consoles.

Nintendo home consoles have been on a downward-trend since the NES (excluding the spike from the Wii sales which rode a wave of hype that Nintendo has been chasing ever since.)
Nintendo portable-consoles have been moderately-successful to smash hits.  The only console to sell less than 50 million was the Virtual Boy (775,000.)

Clearly Nintendo has had far more success in the portable console market than the home console market.  It doesn’t seem that way at first glance, but when you look at the big picture they really have.  This would be a very strong-argument to use towards investors ad stockholders if Nintendo ever wants to make that imminent decision to leave home consoles alone for good.  Also, it’s not advantageous for them to even remain in the home console market.  It hurts their image and brand looking so inept to Microsoft and Sony.  They don’t want to play by the rules.  They keep trying to use “trick plays” to get that big 70-yard TD pass instead of just running the offense methodically to get into the end-zone.

We already know that the Switch without some external-upgrades cannot compete against ANY devices that are on the market now or on the horizon.  However, it is THE most powerful handheld ever created.  As a home console the Switch is under-powered.  As a portable-console the Switch is OVER-powered.  As I stated earlier, Tegra is state-of-the-art in terms of mobile technology.  If Nintendo markets the Switch as a powerful portable console, that solves most of their problems.

The whole “power” debate dissipates immediately and completely because if this is a portable console then it is not in competition with the PS4 and XB1 and Nintendo’s rhetoric about “not being in competition with Sony or Microsoft” isn’t necessarily made true but has far more substance than it does now.

3rd parties have a reason to put the time into down-scaling their AAA titles onto the Switch because that is a market that they have not been able to breach largely since the PSP because of the lack of power with portable consoles in the past 7-8 years.  I’m sure companies like Bethesda, EA, Ubisoft, T2, etc. are looking to get some of that 3DS install-base money (because you know 3DS owners are going to buy the Switch.)

So I think that the best bet for Nintendo is to market this machine as a powerful portable-device with the OPTION of playing on your TV if you wish to do that.  By doing this they can slowly transition out of the dedicated home console industry into a market they dominated from day one and have remained in the black for a long, long time.  They don’t need to change the video game culture for the Switch to be successful, just change the narrative of the Switch.

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