Nintendo has announced their next console and it is called the Nintendo Switch.

The defining feature of the Nintendo Switch is that it comes with a tablet like device that can be used as a tablet display when the player wants to continue their game away from their TV. Unlike the Wii U there is no double screen experience, which I’m sure is a relief to developers.

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The controller has two pieces with face buttons called Joy Cons, which is no doubt short for Joystick Controllers and these can be removed and attached to the tablet piece. There is a pro style controller that can be used instead of the Joy Cons.

Nintendo Switch is cartridge based and while people will of course criticize this, this means load times will be much shorter, or nonexistent compared to discs. The trade off would be that they will be a little more costly than a disc based media. Nintendo has said that, as it lacks a disc reader of any kind it will not have physical backward compatibility with the Wii and Wii U. It wouldn’t be unlikely that eShop games will at least carry over like they did with the Wii and Wii U. Hopefully Nintendo will resolve a comprehensive eShop account system by then.

Nintendo released a video called the “First Look at Nintendo Switch” which wasn’t a lot more than a promotional commercial but it show some bits of information

The video starts by showing us that Legend of Zelda Breath of the Wild will be on the Nintendo Switch.

At 1:07 seconds the video shows Skyrim, presumably remastered on the Nintendo Switch. Though Bethesda has not confirmed it will be on the Switch, this is likely just an announcement oversight.

1:36 – Shows some guys playing Mario Kart in a van but this time King Boo is a playable character and the player has the ability to carry two power ups, which reminds me of Double Dash.

2:11 – The video shows an actor playing a new Mario game. The actor then takes it with her to a party where she removes the left and right joycon and plays it with one of the party attendees.

2:46 – Splatoon is being played by some MLG types. Notable is that they are in a never before seen level with new fashions for the inklings. The inklings are also holding weapons I don’t recognize so there might also be new weapons but they look oddly plain. Is this a mock up video? Or are these standardized tournament weapons?

3:27 – System is out March 2017

It’s unclear if the games shown are just speculative mock ups or actual software that is in production. There could be sequels or add ons to Mario Kart and Splatoon in the works but Nintendo has been tight lipped on just about everything and anything related to the Switch.

It is a safe bet to say there will be a new Mario game and Mario running through desert theme Mexican styled level could be part of a new game. Maybe he heads back to Sarasaland? Daisy Fanboys would no doubt like that.

Now I won’t say that Nintendo is going to fail or come out on top in this leg of the endless console race. Definitely not with how little information there is currently available. People who are eager to shout NintenDOOM too often end up looking foolish and while saying unnecessarily outrageous things on YouTube might drive clicks that ultimately devalues rapport with the audience.

So instead let’s try to understand why Nintendo chose to make their next console the Nintendo Switch.

For this last several years, Reggie Fils-Aime has said that Nintendo is pursuing a “Blue Ocean Strategy”  For those not familiar, imagine the marketplace is an ocean and you, as a producer are a hunter. To survive you need to hunt and kill prey, thus making the water around you red. The more you hunt in one space, rival hunters will come and compete. The water then becomes a bloody frenzy. As we all saw with the Wii, Nintendo turned their attention to the casual audience and once they tapped that short lived market, Sony and Microsoft who rushed in to try and “feed” from that same market found there was no interest left for their PlayStation Move and Kinect.

A Blue Ocean strategy is risky in comparison to the typical market mindset that says making incremental improvements on existing technology is a matter of using the current consumer interest, rather than spending funds on a product people may not want. It could be said that this was the case with the Wii U, that there was not enough interest to warrant more people purchasing it. Whether it be a lack of third party support, a format that’s too different to Sony or Microsoft or whatever opinion you may have; Nintendo’s perceived losses with the Wii U were typical for the Blue Ocean Strategy. While investors might whip into a panic about the Wii U’s less than stellar performance, it is another example of Nintendo using each handheld or home console to test the water for their successors.

And I while I won’t claim to be an expert in understanding the Blue Ocean Strategy, their website outlines 8 points. Point two is “Pursue differentiation and low cost.” Nintendo would pass the lowered cost to the consumer in retail price points and reduce potential for loss. This was the case with the Wii and Wii U when Nintendo opted for less expensive hardware compared to Sony and Microsoft’s offerings.

So why did Nintendo choose to make the Nintendo Switch a tablet based console? How is this a blue ocean strategy?

As I said in my Pokemon GO video the mobile app market can be highly competitive, not really a “blue ocean” but what if it was a matter of scale?

Imagine a vast tank habitat rich with resources filled with fish. Some of those fish eat and grow and even become larger fish, with varying levels of success.

Now what if that large tank wasn’t really a tank but actually an ocean. A market that has yet to be truly capitalized on by these smaller fish who have been living in a chaotic hunt. In a market the limit of the metaphorical ocean is only a matter of market saturation.

With tablet and app games, the consumer has plenty of options for entertainment but the overall quality in those games is lacking that the market is far from saturated. With so many developers and publishers, engaging in that chaotic hunt in a wide open market, this would mean that a larger, more experienced publisher or developer might easily dominate and even expand the market.

I believe that Nintendo views the tablet and app games market as a blue ocean in the scale for what they want to achieve. The abundance of Apple’s iPads means that tablets will be tied to gaming, at least for the foreseeable future, and while the core gamer still spends most of its time on PC and console, younger generations are finding themselves more familiar with the irritatingly abundant tablets. While the gaming media ideologues would have loved to say that console and PC gamers were becoming quickly irrelevant, those declarations were premature and the rate is much slower than they would have hoped, I’m sure.

If the core gamer is only getting older, these players will eventually age out. This is a problem the Comic Book Industry is currently coming to  grips with. Nintendo’s Consoles leading to this point have been an evolution of touch screens, motion controls, portable screen formats. While the Nintendo Switch commercial never showed any children, tablets aren’t marketed to children despite the fact children use them. It seems Nintendo realizes they do not need to market to a younger audience to appeal to a younger audience.

I’m sure you see now, User, what Nintendo must be planning to do. Rather than fight the current battle with Sony and Microsoft for whatever scraps they might win, they might be looking toward the long game. If games are going to also be played on tablets, why not be the better tablet developer? They can co-opt the convenience and any other association that comes with tablet gaming while directly pushing back against the ill-informed conceptions of what consumers can expect with tablet games, whether that be the quality of the game, the length of game development or cost.

Nintendo can’t beat the price point that app games offer but, what if, Nintendo does not need to? Nintendo is already viewed as a family friendly company and any family with the disposable income to buy an additional tablet for a child probably would already own a Nintendo console.

So now consider a hypothetical. A parent on a road trip or commute might want to give their child something to entertain themselves with. They could give the child their own tablet, but then that means their tablet might end up a sticky mess or they might run up charges since there are no applied parental controls. They could spend as much as 600 dollars to get their child their own iPad.

But if the family already owned a Nintendo Switch, as Nintendo’s current home console offer, well, that resolves that dilemma quickly. Why buy a second iPad or forfeit their own if they can just take that Switch tablet with them? Before I give my final thoughts on whether I think the Nintendo Switch might be a real success I want to offer a historical story.

In the early 1800’s, along with the help and finance of his brother William, Frederic Tudor purchased his first ship with which to ship ice to the Caribbean. After enjoying the luxury of ice cream and chilled drinks he took to heart a joke from his brother, that they could make a business exporting ice from Massachusetts to the “West Indies”.

This began what we know as the ice trade and the venture for Frederic was not only long but difficult. Ice was free but labor, ships and property for ice houses as well as injury from hazards to the trade made it all difficult to keep up. It became so costly that his brother eventually backed out. Even his family’s wealth was beginning to fail and Frederic spent three years in a debtor’s prison.

He was regarded as a fool or eccentric but remained determined to show people they wanted ice. He would go as far as give demonstrations, allowing people to try ice chilled drinks for free. He taught restaurants how to make ice cream, showed other merchants ice could be used to transport produce and that hospitals could use ice to relieve feverish patients. His biggest obstacle was overcoming the hurdle of what people felt was an unnecessary luxury. This is of course a highly summarized version, that does Frederic’s story little justice but after thirty years Frederic regained his wealth and became known as the Ice King. Despite a lack of electronic refrigeration ice had become less of a luxury enjoyed only by the wealthy but something commonly used and enjoyed.

You can no doubt imagine having a drink without ice. Some people might even prefer a drink without ice, but could you imagine a lifetime, let alone a summer without a chilled drink?  How about ice cream? Maybe frozen food?

It wasn’t long ago when tablet computing or data pads seemed like science fiction but their wide use now has shown us that they are not only practical but useful. So what if… just what if seeing tablets as a practical for games is just a matter of some “eccentric” showing us. Or maybe showing those who are already used to tablets what they have been missing out on.

As goofy as the Joy Cons might look, let’s be honest, it’s going to be a lot better virtual tablet controllers. Those are generally pretty lousy. From the looks of it the Joy Cons won’t be required and in that case people can just buy a pro style controller.

My best guess is this, the Nintendo Switch will not be a roaring success but a step into an ultimately profitable direction. If it does see a dramatic profit it will be either because of that younger demographic getting behind it in a big way or the release of  a game that really drives the console.

That is why people buy consoles after all, for games.

Take care.

Until next time.