Many people out there do not understand how the gaming market works (which is why there are so many corpses of dead consoles and destroyed companies). To these people, they actually think hardware is what sells game consoles (it isn’t, games are what sells game consoles). But even among those who do understand the game market fundamentals, Nintendo is an odd duck. Nintendo is famous for being mysterious and hard to predict. It is like young men saying women are ‘mysterious and hard to predict’. In order to understand women, you have to not think with the assumptions a man does. In the same way, in order to understand Nintendo, you must not think with the assumption of a typical consumer electronics maker.
Nintendo’s product announcements revolve around two main thoughts: the first is to surprise and entertain its audience. Nintendo is in the entertainment business after all. The second is to hold back its technological cards as far back before competitors have a chance to copy them.
In 1982, Gunpei made the D-pad to work on the Game and Watch series of Donkey Kong. D-pad, with its cross design, became popular with the NES and became standard.
The Super Nintendo’s shoulder buttons were immensely popular and are on every controller since. The SNES design was so good, it is the basis of the modern controller.
Nintendo re-invents the analog stick and creates rumble technology. Both are copied by competitors.
Gamecube Wavebird’s wireless would be copied by competitors. At the time, Xbox controllers were trying to incorporate ‘breakable lines’ in case someone tripped over them. They were not thinking wireless until Nintendo did it.
Nintendo popularizes motion controllers and detachments onto the controller.
Sony rushed to put in motion controls into the Dual Shock 3 before it launched the PS3.
Nintendo doesn’t like to announce things that can be stolen by competitors. If Nintendo had their way, they probably wouldn’t mention anything until the last minute. However, Nintendo has to give its fans something to look forward to.
Nintendo also has a habit of not utilizing or talking about hardware features in hardware they have already released. The DS could play games online but that was not initiated until one year after the DS had been released. Sometimes, Nintendo may not have any plans at all for the hardware feature if software development doesn’t pan out. The Wii’s 24/7 Connect feature was largely forgotten as Nintendo didn’t seem interested in putting out software that utilized it. But with the Wii, why did it have to?
Nintendo looks at its hardware in terms of VALUES. What VALUE does this hardware have? Take the DS. At first, Nintendo showed the clamshell design. “Why do we need two screens?” people asked. There is a VALUE in having two screens. Nintendo was trying to communicate that. Only until the E3 with playable demos did Nintendo drop the bombshell that the DS had a touch screen. What value does having a touch screen have in gaming? Nintendo showed us. What value does the DS connecting to other DS systems wirelessly have? Or to have DS connecting to the Internet?
Unlike other companies such as Apple, Nintendo does not unveil the entire value of their hardware offerings. They do it in piecemeal. Most of the reason for this is to guard against competitors. Only months before launch did Nintendo reveal the Wii-mote had a speaker in it.
My point: any veteran Nintendo observer knows that not all of the Switch’s value has been revealed. More is to come.
What has been shown is of interest to core gamers. The games shown were suspected titles. There was no truly new game shown except for 3d Mario which was an expected title anyway.
Nintendo will have another Switch preview. It will likely have…
-Details on the Switch’s touch capacity (multi-touch probable)
-Nintendo’s efforts to translate mobile gamers into Switch gamers (mobile games will be available on Switch)
-Switch OS and how it interacts with the world
-Further details on the dock (IGN had a Nintendo rep say things about this. But keep in mind, the Nintendo rep was emphasizing that the dock was just a dock, it was not the main unit. The dock was not the console. There is no denial that the dock could be doing something more, a type of enhancement to the home playing experience).
The Switch has not been fully revealed. More is to come!