For the last year or so, Nintendo fans have been waiting with bated breath for news on Nintendo’s next big console reveal. Finally, October 20th arrived, and with it came the official announcement of the Nintendo Switch.
What fans received wasn’t what was expected. But it wasn’t the hardware that surprised fans and viewers around the world. Like any new piece of technology, mockups and specs had been leaked months ago. What they did receive, however, was a teaser trailer that approached consumers at an angle departing from the marketing techniques of Nintendo’s more recent console generations.
Nintendo did not frame the Switch as a family device, nor a casual one. Instead, fans were treated to three minutes of idyllic millennial vignettes, on-the-go gaming, and the myriad of ways that players could utilize the console’s convertible capabilities. It featured the integration of the console into the user’s everyday life. Walking the dog, commuting, on a flight, hanging out with friends. It was all presented in a very relevant way, and directed very intentionally. By targeting this demographic, they are reaching fans who have grown up with nearly every Nintendo console and handheld device since release. And to keep up with the lifestyle of this group, it emphasized the Switch’s powerful portability, ready to go wherever the user chooses throughout their busy day. When it’s time for a relaxing moment at home, it is emphasized that the Switch can be just as capable as any traditional console.
Perhaps the most relevant point the trailer made was its display of multiple ways to play in nearly any situation. While some control schemes make more sense on paper than they do in practice, the Nintendo Switch wants to make sure the user experience is optimized for its context. The comfort of the user is a top priority, allowing them to play their games exactly the way they want to. There’s even multiple ways to control the device while it’s docked at home. By giving users the choice of using the joy-con controller or the Switch pro controller, Nintendo manages to successfully touch on every niche of the gaming community’s preferred methods.
Abandoning the family as its target demographic is a bold marketing move. Showing the console fit delightfully into the lives of busy millennials is a big shift in Nintendo’s image of the last decade. But catering to a different age and lifestyle group is a large but necessary move for Nintendo as a company. With a wide core and casual audience and a conventional control scheme, the Nintendo Switch should expect strong third and first party support.
A lack of third party releases to satiate players in the time between first party releases really hurt the brand of the Nintendo Wii U, and it’s a mistake Nintendo can’t afford to make a second time. However, combining the portable and home console gaming market into one device is probably the smartest move Nintendo could have made with their brand going forward. Nintendo is hitting the market fast with a conventionally controlled console-portable hybrid with the horsepower to run great first and third-party games. Pair that with the decision to ditch the splintered portable and home gaming market, and there’s no reason that the Switch couldn’t be the brand’s most successful and wide-reaching console since the Gamecube.