The thirst for ANY news regarding Nintendo’s NX is at an all-time high among enthusiasts. So much so that almost any article about or by Nintendo is inundated with demands for NX news. But I believe Nintendo’s been right to NOT talk about it and I’d like to explain why. I’ll also include some of my hopes for the platform and launch and try to give a picture of what I think needs to happen.
Let’s Face Facts
Love it or hate it, Nintendo has essentially lost the console wars. A vast majority of gamers and non-gamers pay no attention to what Nintendo’s up to unless they’re shopping for their kids. Nintendo’s the safe bet, much like Mega Blocks, Fisher-Price or dare I say, Disney. If Disney’s name is attached to something, you can assume it’s safe for kids and that kids will eat it up. When new consoles are brought to market, the people who are very content to play the next Madden or Call of Duty are going to pick up an Xbox or PlayStation. And while some people swapped platforms at the launch of this generation (a number of avid Xbox fans I know picked up PS4s) many have already grabbed the other platform and gone back to their old groups or parties.
By that I mean almost everyone I know with an Xbox One also has a PS4, or is planning to get one… and vice-versa. Yet these same people had no interest in picking up a Wii U. “I got one for the kids” is a common thing I’ve heard — despite the existence of games like Bayonetta 2. Additionally, almost none of those people have any clue about the NX or any interest. It’s a Nintendo product, it’s for the kids. Xbox (or PlayStation) is their home, and they’re quite happy where they are, thanks. (A number of my Xbox-owning friends also grabbed Rare Replay for games like Battletoads… and really wish Rare could port Goldeneye 007 over. Interesting, right?)
Let’s Take a Step Back
So let’s take a step back here. Avid gamers, buying up games with multiplayer — games like Madden, Destiny, Call of Duty, Fallout 4 — are happy to buy special editions. They’re happy to buy expansion DLC and season passes. So they’ve got money, they’re engaged and active. But they have no interest in Nintendo and when asked about “the upcoming NX” they’re like, “That’s that Nintendo thing, right?”
I’d also like to point out that a lot of these people are also very into picking up their games at GameStop… …a place were, in my experience, the folks at the counter are quicker to suggest someone grab an Xbox or PlayStation product than mention Nintendo… *Ahem*
My Point Is
Anyway, my point is — the majority of the gaming audience are not actively engaged with the Nintendo brand. They’re not following Nintendo news. So unveiling the NX as a platform and then going 12, 24, 36 months until release is… frankly a bad idea. It’s going to be forgotten about, much like the Wii U was. Everything hinges on the marketing and messaging. Nintendo has to have the hardware ready and in a demonstrable state before unveiling the platform. This also means they have to have games ready. First, second, and third party. They’re going to need the big names. We already know Ubisoft’s on board. It’s a good chance SquareEnix is. Not a peep out of EA or Take-Two (2K) though. What about Bethesda? Bioware? Where are the big Western publishers? — Their support will be vital for the Western market, for better or worse.
There’s an argument made — and one I myself supported in the past — that with indie third-parties, the larger AAA games from third parties aren’t needed. And I suppose that’s true… if Nintendo is content with a niche market. But I’m sure that Nintendo as a whole isn’t. They want mainstream success. And to get that, they need to be ready.
Here’s What Needs to Happen
Nintendo needs to hold a Direct with massive traditional third party support. Unveil the NX as a product, give the release window (or reconfirm March 2017), give launch pricing. Unveil first and third party games. Then, they need to turn around and get the NX in shops. Playable demo units. Preferably within a couple of weeks of the Direct. Host a press event before or after the Direct, let people get their hands on it and write about their impressions. Open up pre-orders on Amazon, and at Gamestop, Best Buy, Toys R Us, Target. And secure a marketing partnership with Gamestop. Get the previews playing on the in-store TVs. Get their people at the counter to wear NX lanyards and talking about the NX.
Let’s see Mario. Zelda. Metroid. Pokémon. Let’s also see some big third parties. Can we see Final Fantasy? Kingdom Hearts? Madden? Mass Effect Andromeda? Skyrim? Nintendo also needs to get any third parties who are there in the launch window advertising the NX ports in their own trailers — and those launch period titles need to be timely. Not months after they’ve launched on Xbox or PlayStation. Not when they’ve hit the $40 price drop and now the NX version comes out at $60.
To sum up, Nintendo has a dedicated core audience they can count on to buy their hardware and first party games. That keeps them afloat, but also niche. But their latest products – Miiverse, Pokémon GO, the NES Classic Edition – show that they’re attempting to reach a wider base and convert them into buyers. More Nintendo merchandise is flooding the markets and reawakening the brand. Consider this a soft reboot. NX will, essentially, be the first console launch for this “New Nintendo”. I’m excited.