Handicapping the Switch's chances: Industry analysts weigh in
Gamasutra staffers have already weighed in on what we learned from Thursday night's Nintendo event, in which many new details about the pricing, launch date, and tech specs of the Switch were revealed.
We reached out to several games industry analysts to get their take as well.
What do you think of the pricing?
I think the price is definitely on the high end of expectations and surely not "ideal". For instance, the Switch is 330 Euros in Germany: this isn't what I would call a competitive price, especially given how inexpensive PS4 and Xbox One have become now. In addition, the prices for the accessories and games (Zelda is 60 pounds in the UK) are pretty bold. -Serkan Toto, Kantan Games Inc.
Clearly, any console will sell better at lower prices and worse at higher prices. I think the Switch is worth $299, but it may struggle a bit because the other two consoles in the marketplace are also nominally priced at $299, and recently have included games at that price. If Switch had ALL of the same games PLUS first party content, it would be no contest, and the Switch would dominate. However, it doesn’t have all of the same games. It appears to me that it has attracted only ports from PS3 and Xbox 360. The Western games named all were available for a legacy console (FIFA and Skylanders both were on PS3 and 360), so it’s not clear if it will ever attract Red Dead Redemption or Call of Duty in the future. If not, it will have to depend on largely first party and Japanese third party content, and that could be a challenge, particularly if the console is priced on par with the other two. - Michael Pachter, Wedbush Securities
$300 makes sense to me given the hardware and the state of TV-based competition. Wii U had 2 sku's with a substantive difference between them, and so I think Nintendo wanted Switch to be a straightforward and affordable system out of the gate. -Lewis Ward, research director for gaming at IDC
Pricing on the Switch is a little high given no game included. But I still think it is a good value overall. Hopefully come fall, they will add some games in the bundle. - David Cole, DFC Intelligence
The current pricing is on the high range of the acceptable point for what the console offers. It is not pushing itself to the point where the price will ruin the console's chances, and I suspect that the limited number of launch titles will mean that it initially targets early adopters anyway, a demographic that has a higher tolerance for higher prices. To be fair, more than the price being too high in itself, I find the content of the core bundle lacking. If it had 1-2 Switch included for instance, the offer would be much more compelling. - Thomas Bidaux, Ico Partners
At $299.99 and £279 in the UK including VAT, the pricing of the Switch is as predicted. This is not an impulse purchase or as cheap as other recent Nintendo consoles and at this price point Nintendo will be competing with existing consoles and tablets. As a result, communicating the unique aspects of the Switch – particularly the capabilities of the Joy-Con controllers - and its exclusive content through marketing spend will be key to gaining market traction. Unlike the Wii, this is not a product that will necessarily sell itself through word of mouth as its proposition is still relatively complex. _ Piers Harding-Rolls, IHS Technology
What do you think about the device itself, now that we know more about specs and controllers?
I personally like the concept and the fact that we don't get another boxy home console. Personally, I don't care that much about the specs, we already have 2 high-spec'd machines from Sony and Microsoft, plus we can upgrade our PCs as we want. That's enough. The Joycon controllers in particular are cool. It's great to see Nintendo innovating on the user interface front. My question is whether this is all enough to really capture enough buyers who are not already die-hard Nintendo fans. Good for Nintendo: they have Zelda at launch, and that title looks like a text-book system seller. - Serkan Toto
I very much liked the demo, and the controls seem fun and versatile. The battery life is enough for in-home play, somewhat challenging for taking it on the go. - Michael Pachter
I think overall the device has a lot of potential to fulfill with a very large audience that wants more than what tablets can provide, but don't need the complexity of PS4/Xbox one games. - David Cole
Well, we know more about general system performance and the Joy-Con twist on UI, but many key questions remain unanswered. I don't know how much storage is on board or if we'll be able to use plug-and-play external storage over USB if we download a lot of content. But the system seems to be on par with, or at least close to, PS4 or Xbox One from a hardware performance angle at least. I think the Joy-Con controls will make it a great family and local co-op gaming platform, and one that will have some of that distinctive Nintendo magic. - Lewis Ward
Now that the details of the controllers have been revealed, I have to say I find them very attractive. They certainly pack a lot of features and open up a lot of interesting gameplay experiences for Nintendo and anyhow brave enough to consider an exclusive game for the Switch. They show that Nintendo has learned a lot of the right lessons from the Wii and the WiiU and it seems to me that is a significant innovation and improvement. I am looking forward getting my hands on them. The specs of the machine are not very impressive, but that's not what anyone was expecting from Nintendo. I also don't understand the reasoning behind having the screen being touch-sensitive. It goes against having a single control scheme for the games for all the "modes" the console offers. It might be Nintendo over-engineering here. And where I think over-engineering the controllers is exciting, I am confused by that multi touch screen. - Thomas Bidaux
Nintendo’s new hybrid console reflects a company that is in cultural flux as it seeks to find a balance of approach between its traditional console games business and to cater for a new population of smart device gamers. The Switch’s form factor literally embodies the tensions at play here as it seeks to satisfy traditional Nintendo console gamers and also engage a new set of consumers that routinely want to use smart devices – and more specifically tablets – for gaming. A hybrid device strategy such as this is unproven in the market - previous gaming tablets that can dock to TVs have found very little sales traction but significantly have not had the backing of a company such as Nintendo. Is this a device for the mobile gamer that plays on the move? To a segment of the mobile gamer population yes, but the Switch is more naturally a direct challenge to the use of tablets in the home or perhaps on family holidays. As such, Switch will need to provide a compelling alternative or enhancement to other tablets already used by this audience. Nintendo is seeking to do this in a number of ways. Through its exclusive games IP, through its local multiplayer gaming capabilities over local Wi-Fi and through the sensor technology included in the proprietary Joy-Con controllers which allows it to bring new gaming experiences to the tablet gaming audience. - Piers Harding-Rolls
While the Switch lacks much of the high-end hardware horsepower and specs present on the PS4/XB1 (see Figure 1), the console will still support high-fidelity gameplay in a "sit-back" environment, while also facilitating more casual gameplay (active/social gameplay with titles such as Arms, Mario Kart 8, and 1-2-Switch). As such, we believe the success of Switch will depend more on the appeal of portability and simplicity in the living room. - Colin Sebastian, Robert W. Baird & Co. Incorporated
What do you think about the softening position on region codes?
The region-free policy on software is long overdue. I think Nintendo just catches up with Sony and Microsoft here and finally provides a user-friendly solution. The vast majority of the user base will not care, but the move is a nod to people calling for region-free Nintendo software for years now - Serkan Toto
I never understood region codes, so am glad they’re going away. I have no idea what they mean by “in general”, and suppose that there may be a recalcitrant publisher out there. - Michael Pachter
As far as region lock is concerned, the devil is in the details and I guess we will have to see how it is executed. In 2017, it would have seemed very backward to try to impose a region lock. But at the same time, game cartridges are not the most modern concept either. Where I find Nintendo really lagging behind is with their online service offering. Offering free games, but having them be free only for a month is very bad value compared to what Sony and Microsoft have been doing for years now. Offering these games free for ever would not lead to much missed revenue and would provide much more goodwill. - Thomas Bidaux
How do you think this device will fare? Will it outsell the WiiU?
Absolutely not doubt about it. Even with an initial line-up that is very small, I believe Nintendo have a product year that they can build on and have a lot more success with than they had with the WiiU. - Thomas Bidaux
We still think this device needs more content and much will depend on if it can be successfully marketed. But we fully anticipate it doing significantly better than WiiU - David Cole
Seeing that the Wii U was a horrible failure with 14 million units sold and Nintendo came up with a much better concept this time, it will not a big problem for the Switch to fare better. The Wii was a mega hit that transformed the video game industry and how people perceive gaming, but I think there is no way the Switch will get to the 101 million unit sales threshold the Wii has reached. - Serkan Toto
The device looks fun, and I think Nintendo will sell a bunch of them to their fans. If it takes off (like the Wii did), publishers will figure out how to support it. However, with only limited content and a relatively high price, I’m not optimistic that it will sell more than 7 – 8 million in 2017. It will sell double the Wii U the first year, then we will see what kind of third party support it attracts. - Michael Pachter
Yes, I think it'll outsell Wii U but that's kind of damning with faint praise. It really comes down to the games, and more than that, the evolving online service lineup over time. If Nintendo brings the heat with titles like Splatoon 2 and Super Mario Odyssey consistently over the next year or 18 months I think Switch will be in good shape from a sales perspective. I don't think it'll be Wii-like sales but it it should be closer to that than Wii U sales over the first 2 years. - Lewis Ward
The Switch is an evolution of the Wii U, but eminently simpler in form factor and broadens the use case for a home and portable console hybrid. As a result Nintendo’s Switch is likely to banish the painful memories of the poorly selling Wii U, which to date has only sold 13.4 million units since its launch in 2012. We currently forecast 4 million Switch sales in 2017 although this may be revised in the coming days based on the earlier than expected launch date and likely stock availability through the year. IHS Markit expects Switch to comfortably outsell the Wii U but Nintendo faces an uphill task to translate its product vision into mainstream adoption although it will be aided in this ambition through its deep portfolio of games franchises. - Piers Harding-Rolls
With one recent massive console success (Wii, >100M units sold), and one commercial failure (Wii U), the best opportunity for Switch, in our view, is the contrast with "hard core" gaming experiences that are central to the Microsoft and Sony platforms. At this point, Nintendo's early demand expectations seem reasonable (2M unit shipments in launch window vs. Wii U's 3M units in holiday 2012 time frame) although it would not be unusual for Nintendo to constrain initial supply (see NES Classic, Wii launches.) We also note that both Amazon and GameStop have sold their initial Switch allotments in the two days following Friday's unveiling, a positive sign for initial demand. - Colin Sebastian