You probably saw the Nintendo Switch last week. You probably hated it for the shabby launch line-up or the admittedly high price of accessories or paid online service. However you look at it, you’re probably in one rage camp or another but hot damn does Zelda look good.
However, an interesting point of discussion came up during the presentation. It was an old point – would the Switch replace the 3DS, especially given its power and improved portability? This has been discussed to death and had Nintendo priced the Switch at $249, I would have been more inclined to agree.
"However, Nintendo’s pricing strategy for the Switch is pretty smart in the handheld context."
With the $299 announcement, it’s now become an entirely different topic of discussion. We could have argued about Nintendo bringing all of its video games, from console to handheld, under one common umbrella. The Nintendo 3DS is still selling well even if it won’t ever soar to the same heights the DS or Gameboy Advance did. Lo and behold though, the Switch is a different platform with its own high profile exclusives.
However, Nintendo’s pricing strategy for the Switch is pretty smart in the handheld context. Do you want to spend $200 on a New 3DS with a touch-screen, stylus and solid selection of games? Or do you want to invest in a Nintendo Switch with its hybrid functionality, HD Rumble, party game functionality, two controllers and so on for just $100 more?
You could also consider that many top-tier series on the Switch are shared by the 3DS. Xenoblade Chronicles 3D players will be interested in Xenoblade Chronicles 2 (as they should because the franchise is one of the best JRPGs of this generation). Shin Megami Tensei IV players can look forward to the next big chapter in the franchise. Anyone who’s enjoyed a Zelda title will be amazed (hopefully) by Breath of the Wild.
"It wouldn’t be all that far-fetched to think that it will try and appeal to all kinds of audiences as well"
Granted, many of Nintendo’s franchises like Zelda, Mario and Mario Kart are common among home systems. For instance, it’s easy to see that Super Mario Odyssey appeals to the Mario 64 and Super Mario Sunshine crowd than the New Super Mario Bros. or Super Mario 3D World crowd with its huge open environments and less linear platforming. Then there’s Mario Kart 8 Deluxe which is meant to appeal to the Wii U fan base with its extra content.
But when you consider that the Switch is meant to combine all of Nintendo’s past designs, it wouldn’t be all that far-fetched to think that it will try and appeal to all kinds of audiences as well. That’s obvious with the motion controller mini-games and hardcore releases but offering a more premium option for its established handheld player base isn’t a bad way to go either. It has been one of Nintendo’s most consistent sources of revenue after all.
Of course, there are plenty of problems with this theory. Despite the 3DS launching with a fairly average line-up of titles in 2011 for North America, it still received games like The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D, Super Mario 3D Land, Super Street Fighter IV: 3D Edition, Mario Kart 7 and Star Fox 64 3D before the year was up. Meanwhile, the Nintendo Switch has The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild at launch, 1-2 Switch, Has Been Heroes, ARMS and a bunch of ports for when it’s out on March 3rd.
If Nintendo can’t even sell the assurance that the Switch will be receiving regular amounts of content, then its 3DS players are unlikely to rally around it.
Super Mario Odyssey is due for Holiday 2017 and there are no release dates for Shin Megami Tensei 5, the next No More Heroes, Fire Emblem Warriors and so on. How many handheld players are going to hop on board with this other portable option when there aren’t all that many new high-profile releases to justify their purchase? There’s also the worry that Nintendo will try too hard to space out its bigger exclusives, replicating its biggest failing with the Wii U.
You could make the argument that many of the big 3DS games were ports as well with a fairly unreasonable price tag of $249.99 at launch. Aside from the fact that it was the first time that handheld fans would get to experience legitimate Nintendo console experiences on the small screen, it was still building off of a very strong DS fan base and it received a hefty price cut three months after launch. The Nintendo Switch will be trying to appeal to several different audiences at once but is positioned as a home console. A price cut in the first three months doesn’t seem likely.
At the end of the day, it’s hard to say what Nintendo’s plan is for the Switch. We have some idea of who the platform could truly be for and it’s not all dismal. The question is whether this level of support and pricing will be enough to lure arguably Nintendo’s biggest ally, the handheld crowd, to the fold. Maybe acting a premium option isn’t all that bad but just like with many other big console launches, it’s all about the games at the end of the day. If Nintendo can’t even sell the assurance that the Switch will be receiving regular amounts of content, as the company’s handhelds have done in the past, then its 3DS players are unlikely to rally around it. Yes, even if Shin Megami Tensei, Zelda and Xenoblade Chronicles 2 look really sweet.
Note: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, GamingBolt as an organization.