A reader points out that Nintendo has never had two consoles be massive hits two generations in a row and that bodes poorly for Switch 2.
Nintendo is renowned for many things but the quality of their sequels more than anything else. Whereas Sonic The Hedgehog, and other long-running series, only lasted a few years before going downhill, most Nintendo franchises have been top of their game for decades and many of them have never been better than right now on the Switch. But sequels to their consoles? That’s another story.
The NES may be the most important console ever made, and the foundation of the modern games industry, but its follow-up was the SNES and for a lot of the 16-bit generation it was getting beaten by the Mega Drive. Technically Nintendo did come out on top, thanks to Donkey Kong Country, but after that came the N64, which did nowhere near as well as either its predecessor or the PlayStation.
The GameCube did even worse again, so Nintendo rethought their approach and released the Wii, which was a huge success. And its sequel? The Wii U was a complete disaster. Nintendo has never had two consecutive home consoles be uncontested winners of their generation and I don’t see any reason to think it will be different with the Switch 2.
The reasons for the failures, or relative failures, of each console is different, particularly the older ones, but the one that seems the most relevant here is the Wii U. The Wii was Nintendo’s biggest console before the Switch and a massive, global success. But the follow-up was so undercooked it’s literally unbelievable how badly Nintendo fumbled the ball.
The Wii U felt like something Sega would’ve released after the Dreamcast, not in terms of its physical design but the fact that it was underpowered, got released with so few games, and had zero marketing. Suddenly Nintendo went from the third biggest company in Japan to acting like some down-on-their-luck start-up that had run out of money.
I don’t think anyone knows why they did it that way, I can only imagine they knew it was a non-starter and yet couldn’t bring themselves to cancel it. But perhaps it was because they also knew the Wii had been so massive and it wasn’t obvious what they could do next. Especially as they were still constrained by the need to make it cheap and as mass market as possible.
This will certainly be a problem for the Switch 2, as given the current post-pandemic situation people have no money and components are very expensive, which is why Microsoft and Sony are increasing their prices. Making a Switch 2 that is both more powerful and not much more expensive may be impossible and that could lead to a very similar situation to the Wii U.
The game situation, obviously I don’t know, but remember that Nintendo was particularly badly hit by the pandemic, because of the way they work, and they may not have as much in reserve, in terms of big new games, as some people think.
You’ve also got the problem that there’s nowhere obvious to take the design of the Switch in terms of its form factor and I’m sure that bothers Nintendo. Which means there’s a good chance they could decide to do something wacky with it, which always has a 50/50 chance of success. Miyamoto has already hinted that the new console is something new and weird and that’s no surprise to hear.
I’m just saying that the Switch 2 is not a guaranteed hit and has several major conceptual and practical problems before it even starts. If Nintendo does manage to make it as big a hit as its predecessor, it’ll be the first time they ever have and that says it all. Now roll on the official announcement!
By reader Gannet
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