Nintendo Is Shipping More Switches, But Is It Too Late?
Nintendo took a big risk releasing the Switch outside the standard holiday rush. If the juggernaut’s decision to release ten million new Switches by the end of the 2018 fiscal year––up from 2.74 million units during 2016––is any indication, it seems the gamble paid off in spades. Should these units sell in their entirety, the Nintendo Switch will have sold roughly as many units in two years as the Wii U sold during its four-year life cycle. That being said, the Switch’s release has not been without its flaws. Similarly to the Amiibo shortage that has been plaguing fans since their release, the Switch has been nearly impossible to find at retail price, with scalpers running rampant on sites such as Amazon and eBay.
Seeing as restocking of the Switch is just now being put into production, the question becomes: “Did the shortage cause the demand to drop more than Nintendo has anticipated?” Certainly the numbers suggest a significant climb in sales for 2017, but there are still a few main issues with the Switch that, from day one, have not been fully address by Nintendo. If these are not quelled, the Switch risks becoming another great concept followed by poor execution.
#1: Lack of Games
Up to this point, the Switch’s sales have largely been carried by the overwhelming success that is Zelda: Breath of the Wild. Having sold well over 2.76 million units, the newest installment in the Zelda franchise is roughly half of the entire software sales for the platform. Furthermore, on release, there were five original titles available for purchase. Further still, after the release of ARMS in June and Splatoons 2 in July, the next major release will come around the holidays when Super Mario Odyssey becomes available for purchase. Although there are some third party and indie titles coming to the Switch, very few would be considered “major releases” by common standards, leaving investors in the console in a severe drought for months at a time. 2018 does not look promising either, with little to confirm for major releases during that year as well. Should Nintendo not continue to lock away major releases between their own titles, the Switch could easily lose its charm to late adopters: the same ones being targeted with their new shipping increase.
#2: Peripheral Shortages
The Switch is, compared to other consoles, a whole different animal when it comes to peripherals. Unlike normal platforms, where each user simply needs to invest in a controller or mouse and keyboard to enjoy the experience, the Switch has multiple titles that require users to be able to both play on a single Joycon or on the combined standard controller setup. However, much like the current iteration of Switch shortages, being able to buy a combination of Joycons can be a similar nightmare for large families who simply want to utilize the full potential of the system. Beyond simply being unable to find said Joycon pairs, Nintendo has been very close-to-the-chest about when they will restock these necessities, leaving consumers out to dry for the unforeseen future.
While Nintendo will be releasing ARMS-exclusive yellow Joycons, it remains to be seen how well these will be stocked and, if they do run out on release, how quickly the inventories for global retailers will be replaced. Nintendo has, for better or worse, been attempting to create a market shortage of their products for a while now, but I personally do not foresee this being a sustainable business model as consumers become fed up with this practice.
#3: Lack of Communication
This has been briefly touched upon above and is not necessarily Switch specific, but Nintendo has, for a long time, struggled to clearly communicate with its fans and players what its intentions and solutions to problems are. Should it not be solved in the near future, Nintendo might not be immediately affected, but it could quickly turn into an issue where consumers do not trust the company to do right by them, leading to an exodus away from Nintendo consoles and, since most Nintendo games are exclusive to their own platforms, Nintendo titles as a result.
This is not a Nintendo-specific problem either, as developers such as Valve and Ubisoft have been notorious for their poor handling of internal issues. For Nintendo, a rare blend of game publisher and hardware manufacturer, continuing the trend can hurt the company on a much grander scale.
In the end, Nintendo is a company that has more often than not, stuck to its vision and has ended up as one of the most recognizable brands in the world. However, sometimes even the best companies make poor decisions, and while the exceptional release numbers for the Nintendo Switch could signal a turnaround for a downward sloping corporation, poor game diversity, a lack of hardware supply, and poor communication could just as easily derail a stellar concept. It is up to Nintendo to move forward from here, doing what they feel is best in order to survive into their next big product’s life cycle.