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Will the Nintendo Switch struggle to find its voice?


With Nintendo's release date looming, is there really that much to celebrate?

It used to be that the major three console companies (Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo) would release their latest machines once every decade or so. But as we move towards affordable HDR and 4k televisions (as well as cheaper consumer VR units), the Big Three are now squeezing out new consoles at a faster rate in order to remain relevant.

And so it is with the Nintendo Switch - with the marketing dollars being made available to ram home the point.

The Switch is a mash-up of everything Nintendo has done in the last twenty years or more which, for some, is reason enough to get excited. However, the general response to the Switch from analysts and those in the gaming community has been a touch lukewarm, to say the least.

Things aren't looking good so far…

But why? Well, from a strictly technical point of view, the problem is that it's a portable device that's not really a handheld (which is problematic when it comes to marketing - one of the many reasons why the Wii U was considered a bit of a failure), and also it's not quite as powerful or as loaded with features as any of it's competitors.

To top it off, you might not even be able to get your hands on one on it's release date due to limited supplies, and there are still some pressing unanswered questions and issues regarding the Nintendo Switch's paid online service and voice-chat capabilities.

The Switch's chat function

So it seems that for the Switch, Nintendo are favoring using an accompanying app for the user's mobile device that will take care of all on-the-go voice communication and chat between gamers.

In conversation with IGN, when asked why voice chat will be tied to a mobile app instead of the typical hardware approach, Nintendo of America president Reggie Fils-Aime had this to say:

[We] want to reinforce the capability to take your experience with you on the go.... The ability to do matchmaking, voice chat through your phone, it's a hell of a lot more convenient than having a gamer headset stuck into your backpack trying to do that. That's why we're doing it the way we are. We see the convenience, we see the ease of delivery. We think it's going to lead to a better experience.

Supposedly, having voice chat being routed through the Nintendo Online service will save the company the production costs that would otherwise go towards developing dedicated headsets.

However, it could also be argued that it's decidedly less convenient to have to juggle two separate devices for mobile gaming, not taking into account the battery life of the user's mobile device.

Despite the doubts, there are reasons to get excited

Piers Harding-Rolls, analyst at HIS Markit spoke with MVC and pointed out "a hybrid device strategy such as this is unproven in the market," however, if you're going to push new ground it's good to have a brand as strong as Nintendo. Additionally, there are a number of strong release titles that may prove to attract fans of the series and end up selling well.

And finally, let's not forget, the Nintendo Wii was met with the same trepidation, and went on to become one of the best selling consoles of all time.

The Nintendo Switch retails at $299.99 and is set for release Friday 3 March, with preorders being taken.

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