Nintendo has existed for well over a century. The company has experience in a wide variety of different business ventures, but video games have been its bread and butter for the past three decades. It was one of the earliest companies to get into gaming and thus played a major role in not only forming the gaming industry but also carrying it along. Much of this is thanks to Nintendo’s hardware in both the home console and handheld sectors.
Many people’s first gaming systems were from Nintendo, myself included. I was introduced to gaming at the age of three with an N64, and the very first console I ever owned was a Wii back in 2010. That’s why the thought of having the industry without Nintendo consoles is rather unsettling. Yet, current president Furukawa just recently mentioned the likelihood of that happening at some point in the future. Unsurprisingly, this statement has stirred up quite a bit controversy.
Now, I must emphasize that Furukawa did not explicitly say that the Switch is Nintendo’s last system. All he said was that there’s a possibility that this could happen should a change in business strategies call for it. As mentioned before, Nintendo has a history in several different fields. Furthering his statement, Furukawa mentioned developing titles exclusively for mobile platforms as a possibility. Regardless of what path is taken, the main point is that Nintendo getting out of the hardware business would be quite a significant change.
Nintendo’s systems have consistently stood out generation after generation. The company has always had a unique air to it that none of its competitors over the years have been able to replicate. This has especially been true for the past three hardware generations, as the company has taken a very deliberate approach to crafting unconventional console designs.
The Switch is the best example of this concept so far, as it’s managed to successfully blend the worlds of home and handheld systems by having just enough power to run modern titles while also possessing a sleek form factor. Nintendo’s efforts have been rewarded with great system sales since it launched back in March 2017.
The success of the Switch has been notable
Should the Switch continue to sell well for the rest of its life cycle, then there is very little reason for Nintendo to consider stepping out of the hardware business anytime soon. If anything, the company may very well have already decided to keep running with the concept of a hybrid system for the next generation—which would be great, as far as I’m concerned. But at the same time, there’s an important detail to consider: Nintendo still stands out from the competition.
What I mean by that is that Nintendo plays by different rules than Sony and Microsoft. I’ve already mentioned hardware design, but even the type of games are different, along with what the company considers to be essential features in a console. For example, Nintendo Switch Online still sucks. The service has been going for over three months at this point and I’m still not a subscriber. Meanwhile, PlayStation Network and Xbox Live are doing as fine as ever.
This is a good example that shows the divide between the thinking of Nintendo and its competitors. For the most part, Nintendo just does at pleases and expects its consumers to follow along.
For the most part, this strategy has worked. But, we’ve already seen what can happen when things go wrong. Look no further than the Wii U. Almost every time I see it being brought up these days, it’s done so as either a harsh joke or as a point of criticism against Nintendo. That’s because the company did fall hard with that system. Its poor performance served as a real wake-up call for the Big N, hence why the Switch has ended up being such a better system.
But, I do genuinely wonder how much longer Nintendo can keep it up. The Switch is still relatively simple compared to the other consoles, and now its world is going to be rocked in a whole new way with the next set of consoles looming on the horizon.
Trouble on the horizon?
For the past several months, rumors surrounding the next PlayStation and Xbox systems have been swirling around. Talks of reveals happening this year have been quite plentiful, so I wouldn’t be surprised if that really does happen at either E3 or similar events. Should these new consoles launch anytime soon, such as next year, that could spell trouble for the Switch. Why? Well, despite the Switch being notably easy to work with, its power limitations are quite apparent even when compared to the base PS4 and Xbox One. So, imagine even more powerful systems than the PS4 Pro and Xbox One X? Chances are this would make the Switch a low priority, especially considering the fact that third-parties still generate far more revenue on those other platforms.
If Nintendo were to follow up a situation like this with a new system of its own, that could potentially shaft current Switch owners as the system is still relatively young. Perhaps I’m overthinking all of this, but for a while now I’ve been wondering if Nintendo has backed itself into a corner by releasing the Switch in 2017. But, what’s done is done.
Nevertheless, Nintendo’s ‘dare to be different’ attitude has still carried it rather far, no doubt. But, what will become of this in the future?
Ultimately, only time will tell. Spending time trying to spell out the future is essentially pointless at the end of the day, as literally, anything can happen. Going back to Furukawa’s statement, it seems that the one idea he’s holding to is that he wants to see Nintendo grow and he’s willing to do whatever he can to ensure that happens. So, if the day comes where that might involve ‘pulling the plug’ on hardware development, it seems that would only be done as a last resort. As for now, though, Nintendo is doing well and I look forward to seeing what it cooks up in the near future.