On the Switch and console innovation.

I've been drafting a paper regarding the video game hardware industry and its role in advancing the larger computer industry as a whole, and I noticed that, almost as a rule, lower-selling consoles greatly lack in innovation. Consoles are an extremely competitive market, and ultimately I came to the conclusion that consumers generally buy consoles for three reasons.

  1. They offer exclusive games.

  2. They offer novel features. This is not limited to their gaming capabilities, as shown with the PS2's DVD player functionality.

  3. They offer competitive, high performance for their cost.

To be frank, the 8th generation has mostly failed on all of these fronts, and that's why hardware sales are less than half of what they were for the 7th generation. Furthermore, increased competition from smartphones and PCs has led to a consistent decrease in console sales ever since the 5th generation, with some notable exceptions to this rule.

For example, the PS4 is comparatively more powerful (and was cheaper at launch) than the Xbone, so it outsold it. Standard stuff. However, it's still largely a half-baked PC with tablet innards, and it's competing in a world where actual PCs are rapidly gaining the video game market share. At least until Sony released PSVR, the PS4 didn't have much going for it beyond exclusives when compared to PCs.

The PS3, by comparison, was a pretty cost-effective Blu-ray player for its time, which let it tap into the home theater market just like the PS2 did with DVDs, and was powerful and cheap enough that the US Air Force bought 1,760 of them for a supercomputer cluster, as a testament to its power (if not its architecture).

More relevantly to this sub, I believe that the biggest reason the Wii U failed was due to this lack of innovation, and less so due to the marketing snafu it experienced (which was still a big factor). It simply offered nothing we hadn't seen before. HD resolution? Every other home console in the 7th and 8th generation. Touchscreen? Nintendo's own DS, and smartphones. Dual screen play? You guessed it. Backwards compatibility? We're on a roll now. Nintendo's push to attract the "hardcore" crowd also didn't matter, since they were already playing the same games but on better hardware.

On the flip side, the Wii exploded due to motion controls being hyped up to hell and back (and being released with a comparatively cheaper price tag and right before Black Friday didn't hurt either), which hadn't seen widespread adoption until then. Now you can find gyroscopes and accelerometers in any respectable tech. The same can be said for innovations like the DS's touchscreen, the PSP's mobile performance, and the PS3's push for Blu-ray, all of which became technological standards later on.

This brings me to the Switch. I personally like the idea of taking console-tier games wherever I go. This is a concept that I think has potential to sell well enough in conjunction with Nintendo's typically good exclusives (and we're getting more of them in one place too, what with the home/handheld division merger) and the rumored $300 price tag. However, I'm not certain that it'll mean the return of the era where consoles could sell over 100 million units.

Unfortunately, the Switch technically doesn't do what other devices can't already do. You can mirror your phone's screen to your TV, you can attach controllers to your phone, you can (technically) play 3D games on your phone, you'll very soon be able to play Nintendo games on your phone, and so on. Given, smartphones and tablets are a ways off from getting high quality AAA 3D games and easy-to-use control schemes (both of which I believe are why the 3DS still has a place in the market, aside from its gimmicks which certainly helped), and you do need a Smart TV or casting device to mirror your screen, but again, the point is that these aren't necessarily new concepts that Nintendo is introducing here. Therefore, the Switch will mostly be relying on points 1 and 3. There's no hard-hitting, never-before-seen selling point here. It's just a combination of practical, safe console design choices, improved technology, and exclusive software offers for a reasonable price, and by those merits, I think it will do fine.

At least to some degree, I feel like you can gauge a console's success (at least Nintendo's consoles) by acting like a 12-year-old describing it on the playground.

"Oh man, the DS has two screens, and a touchscreen, and 3D graphics, and you can play GBA games on it, and you can play with people online, and it's gonna have MARIO 64 BUT BETTER, and it's gonna be SO. COOL." ~155 million units.

"Oh man, the Wii U has a touchscreen on its controller, and you can play games on the toilet, and…uh…CoD and Mario?" ~13.5 million units.

"Oh man, the 3DS lets you play games in 3D!!! and it has better graphics and you can, like, streetpass people and stuff and there's gonna be a 3D MARIO and SMASH BROS ON IT DUDE." ~61 million units.

"Oh man, the Switch lets you play CONSOLE games on the go or on your TV, and you can detach the controllers from it to get, like, TWO controllers so you can play with other people without another console and it'll have SKYRIM and ZELDA and MARIO and SPLATOON and DUUUUDE" ~??? million units?

So, do you guys think that the Switch's concept will differentiate it from smartphones and PCs well enough? Will we see a comfortable success like with the 3DS, or do you all think it'll break 100 million to rival the Wii?

Discussion started at here by Stolen_Goods

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