Can Nintendo save the Switch?

It’s a great time to be a gamer.  We’re getting outstanding original IP in games like Horizon: Zero Dawn and the brutal but beautiful Nioh.  We at the Dojo are enjoying the hell out of the slow motion bone smashing fatalities in the vastly improved Sniper Elite 4 right now (review and impressions soon).  Somehow even the new Resident Evil proved to not only be playable but actually completely revitalized the tired franchise.  Yes, it’s good to be a gamer right now.

And then there’s Nintendo’s Switch.

Clearly the Wii U’s marketing didn’t include enough homoeroticism

How weird is that we are two weeks away from a launch of a massive new Nintendo console yet the hype is almost nonexistent?  Many sites are posting early impressions this week which fail to impress.  The mobile functionality apparently runs out of battery in three hours making it’s on-the-go strategy limited to brief flights or as a secondary option when I’m tired playing FTL on my tablet (never!).  The virtual console won’t be available at launch meaning the early adopters are really only going to be playing Zelda which will undoubtedly be good but we’re skeptical if it’s $300 good.  Polygon went a step further saying the lack of any online component at launch is exactly why the Wii U failed and Nintendo seems to be forgetting its recent painful history. Yes, the biggest endorsement we can see so far is the excellent Erik Kain at Forbes who called it a “sexy beast” for its satisfying snaps and pops it makes as you transition the device from TV to mobile mode – not excellent a raving compliment of the overall strategy but it’s all we can get right now.

Clearly there’s little to be excited about so far.  There’s little software to play, the mobile functionality is limited, online presence is completely absent; so it’s a $300 mystery box at the moment.  So let’s play a game.  What would it take to make the Switch a day 1 purchase for us now?  Here are 3 not so crazy things Nintendo could do or commit to do right now that would get us to open our wallets come March 3rd.

Far warning, videos of you playing this will haunt your professional and social life for years”

Take the mulligan

The Wii U was a failure.  It was marketed poorly as consumers confused it with the Wii, it had little to no software advantage over its predecessor, and Nintendo failed to capitalize on the one unique component it had with the extended tablet-enabled gameplay.  We enjoyed Mario Kart 8 and the Mario games that came with the Wii U, but the console quickly faded into media cabinet obscurity behind the PS4 and Xbox One which dominated our nights ever since.

As a Nintendo fan, this is frustrating.  We’ve owned every console Nintendo has ever made (and no, Virtual Boy doesn’t count!) so to see Nintendo botch the Wii U so badly makes me less eager to invest in them again.

Well, looks like the Mario movie will no longer be the weirdest entry into the Mario universe

If Nintendo acknowledged this and committed to regaining our trust with the Switch I’d be interested.  Perhaps Wii U owners get a discounted purchase price or some other exclusive offers to join the Switch bandwagon.  Fool me once and all of that.

Open up the license

I get it, Nintendo’s Seal of Quality means something.  These games are doing be just better than the average title.  It’s a significant moment whenever an original Nintendo-developed game is launched.  But the tradeoff is they are few and far between.

These are desperate times though for Nintendo.  It’s time for Nintendo to begin licensing out its IP to new or innovative developers at a more frequent cadence.  We know this goes against the very core of Nintendo’s being but ideas like Gearbox producing a Metroid, or Stardew Valley mod leveraging Earthbound’s characters, or fan produced Zelda incarnations that aren’t DMCAed to death by Nintendo’s attorneys are interesting.

NIntendo’s IP attorneys spot a group of indie dev working on a spinoff of their favorite NES game

Mario Maker left the guardrails too high.  Open up the library or provide indies a chance to bid on making a new experience with these proven characters.  Maybe sponsor a Ludum Dare game jam using Nintendo’s IP just to see what people can come up with and sponsor the best to make it to the Switch.

Nintendo Now online service

We’ve written about this often but Sony’s PS Now service is incredibly interesting in the context of Nintendo’s library.  Remove the need for virtualization locally on my console, instead render the game in a cloud environment and live stream it to me with minimal lag time that it’s playable – that’s a compelling service.

Imagine, having access to every Nintendo game (for which they can secure rights) ever.  No more micro transactions to rebuy games again and again, just give me a service fee of $5 – $10/mo.  Hell, you can tier it based on complexity.  NES games are $3/mo, SNES $5/mo, etc.

If Nintendo could offer an all-you-can eat Netflix buffet of games at a reasonable monthly fee that is playable on the new console, they’d have my membership fees for life.

Seriously, if I could pick up, say, SNES’s Cybernator right now through my NES Now service, my Friday night would be booked up!
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