Last week, Nintendo launched the Switch, the hotly anticipated hybrid console designed for both traditional TV play when plugged in, and on-the-go gaming in tablet form. Nintendo certainly isn’t playing by its old rules anymore.
Will the Switch cannibalize time from mobile apps? Is Zelda more engaging than any given mobile title?
Switching it Up
The Switch marks a moment for Nintendo where they’ve embraced the new consumer – the mobile consumer. It’s no secret that TV and desktop usage have begun to fall behind mobile recently, and that difference is even more pronounced amongst some of Nintendo’s key 24 and under demographics.
Mobility is key, and Nintendo has embraced that.
Instead of competing head-on with Microsoft and Sony in a war for graphical superiority on the big screen, Nintendo’s Switch lets players play wherever they want, literally unplugging from the TV and taking their Switch with them.
It’s working too. The Switch reportedly sold 330,673 units in its first few days for sale in Japan. That places it between the first two days of Wii sales at 371,936 consoles and Wii U’s 308,570 consoles in that country. It’s also broken Nintendo of America’s US sales records for a console.
That may sound huge, but the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 both managed to sell more than a million units in their first 24 hours, and short term success doesn’t necessarily indicate the same momentum long-term.
(Unless you’re talking about iPhones…)
The Switch also puts Nintendo more at odds with Apple and Google than before. Both the Apple TV and Google TV allow the use of phones as controllers, and Apple has continued to slowly move support for Apple TV apps closer and closer to true console games, with support for Bluetooth controllers, and multiple input methods added regularly.
The Switch has a dock that allows it to be played on the big screen, for an indefinite amount of time, and with better graphics. Nintendo has purposefully been cagey on which use case is the “default” for the Switch, instead implying that there’s no right or wrong way to play it – hence the name.
Provided, of course, the players only want to play for an hour.
The Battery Life Rub
The Switch, which can be played with or without being hooked up to an external display, only lasts about an hour when being used outside of the living room. That hardly makes it ideal for a long bus trip, or to entertain in the back of a car.
Contrast an hour of Switch battery life with more than ten hours on Apple’s latest phones, and it makes sense that Nintendo is playing both sides of the portable gaming ecosystem – mobile and handheld.
Nintendo’s continued support of mobile last week indicates that they know the limits of a portable console, as well as the difference in the audience.
Most users playing The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (because there isn’t much else worth playing so far) aren’t users who would have been using mobile apps for games in the first place.
Games closer to console-style titles have been available in handhelds like Nintendo and Sony’s Vita offerings for years, but compared to mobile’s raw numbers and growth, that niche has never really posed a threat to App Store and Google play’s on-the-go entertainment dominance.
Mobile games are a massive, huge part of the overall mobile picture, even if some might convert to a Switch for some of their time, the Switch only functions as a gaming device, and not something users will have on them 24/7.
It’s more likely that the Switch will cannibalize sales of Nintendo’s handheld consoles, the 3DS, 3DS XL, and 2DS in the long run.
Pushing Mobile and Portable
Last week, along with the Switch, Nintendo also released a companion app for Switch parental controls and updated Fire Emblem Heroes for iOS devices. It’s also still committed to releasing Super Mario Run on Android this month.
Big N knows there’s space in the world for portable consoles and mobile, and its commitment to both arenas is only good news for the industry a whole. It validates the idea that mobile and portable, instead of in front of a TV, is where the players are. Nintendo is taking both roads, rather than make users sit down and play.
For a big, classic, entrenched gaming hardware and software manufacturer to acknowledge that means mobile app developers and publishers won’t have much to fear from the Switch in the end, other than perhaps time lost exploring Hyrule.
Join the Conversation
Did you buy a Switch yet? How do you think Nintendo and others will continue to support mobile and balance other portable gaming solutions? Tweet your thoughts to @AdColony. For the latest AdColony mobile news and updates, follow @AdColony on Twitter, like us on Facebook, or connect on Linkedin.