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Analysis: Nintendo is running its new Switch console business according to an old set of rules

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Analysis: Nintendo is running its new Switch console business according to an old set of rules
The new OLED Switch. (Image from Nintendo)

What’s not in the new Nintendo Switch model is just as interesting as what it is, and it tells you a lot about Nintendo’s business strategy and how it sees people using the system.

Nintendo announced Tuesday that a new version of its console, the Change OLED, will be out in October. 8, along with the recently announced Metroid Dread.

The existence of a new model leaked months ago and consumer speculation has been rampant ever since. The Switch is currently the best-selling game console in the world and has been for more than two years, but it is not without its flaws.

It’s a low power system by design, for example, with a fraction of the power of the PlayStation 5 or Xbox Series X. Many consumers and analysts have openly fantasized about the possibility of a “Switch Pro”, an enhanced edition like Microsoft’s. Xbox One X, that would bring the Switch’s graphics closer to par with its console competitors.

More importantly, Nintendo has been inexplicably silent on the subject of “Joy-Con drift.” There is a flaw in the Switch’s built-in and multipurpose controllers that causes them to inexplicably wear out quickly, especially if they’re used to playing high-impact games like Super Smash Bros. Ultimate.

Nintendo said in a statement to GeekWire that the configuration and functionality of the Joy-Con controller did not change with the OLED model.

A hardware update would have been the perfect opportunity for Nintendo to address these issues.

Instead, the improvements to the OLED Switch are comparatively subtle.

It’s a clearly better piece of technology than the release version, 2019. revised model, or the Lite editions of the Switch, with a number of features that will provide a clearly better “quality of life” for users, but still the same old Switch under the hood.

A box mockup of the OLED Switch packaging. (Image from Nintendo)

Those features include a slightly larger and brighter OLED (organic light emitting diode) display for sharper graphics in laptop mode; more than double the built-in internal storage of the previous version; an adjustable bracket built into the back of the unit; and a built-in Ethernet port for wired online gaming.

The last feature is more significant than it sounds. Many multiplayer video games are very sensitive to lag, particularly the aforementioned Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, so trying to play them over a wireless connection is often frustrating.

The current model of the Switch only provides out-of-the-box WiFi, unless gamers invest in a $ 30 USB LAN adapter. The move to add a built-in Ethernet port is one of the friendliest online decisions Nintendo has made of late, particularly for the smash scene.

Again, however, it is just a quality of life bonus. The OLED edition of the Switch is a solid package for people who haven’t bought the system yet or who only own a Switch Lite. But for existing switch owners, the upgrade is not worth it.

In fairness to Nintendo, if there was ever a “Switch Pro” on the table, this would have been a bad year for it. The ongoing chip shortage continues to affect electronics manufacturing around the world, to the point where even the new OLED display for the switch is likely to be affected. Producing a new, higher wattage switch in today’s climate is likely to be a pipe dream.

So why bother with a new version of Switch?

For one thing, most of the bonuses in the OLED edition are specifically there to benefit the hardware’s portable mode. It’s easier to position, supports more games, has better sound, and features a slightly larger, better-looking screen. That suggests that as far as Nintendo is concerned, the Switch’s core audience treats it as a portable system.

More importantly, launching a new Switch now, at this point in the system’s life, is one of Nintendo’s oldest tricks. All of their older portable systems, such as the Game Boy, DS, and 3DS, went through multiple hardware revisions throughout their life cycle.

Nintendo handheld systems are notorious for going through multiple versions of their hardware throughout their lifespan. On the left, a 2004 release edition of the Nintendo DS; Right, a 2006 Nintendo DS Lite. (Photo by Thomas Wilde)

Sometimes the hardware would change drastically, like the change between the original Game Boy Advance and the backlit Game Boy Advance SP with clamshell design. Other times, it just downsized the existing unit, such as switching from the thick Nintendo DS to the thinner DS Lite.

It often seems ridiculous to Nintendo fans, but from a business perspective, there is a method to insanity here, as explained by Mat Piscatella of the NPD Group:

Existing Switch owners may be disappointed here, and with good reason, but the OLED Switch is not aimed at them. A handful of fans may take the opportunity to switch to the next model, but the OLED is aimed entirely at new buyers, as well as still justifying the current price of the switch.

However, it is interesting to see Nintendo following its model of its portable systems for the Switch, as opposed to its previous generations of console hardware. While there were new end-of-life models from the NES and SNES, as well as the Jumper Pak add-on for the Nintendo 64, Nintendo tended to approach its consoles in a more traditional way. What you got on a Nintendo console on launch day was about what you’d get if you bought one the day before they were discontinued.

However, with its portable systems, Nintendo freely used small hardware changes and cosmetic changes to try to attract new audiences to each system. By adopting a similar practice with the Switch, it suggests that Nintendo is adopting a similar strategy with all of its old handheld devices. These incremental improvements and new colors are not there to try and milk the existing audience; Nintendo is trying to attract new buyers here.

This also seems to indicate that, at least from Nintendo’s perspective, the portability of the Switch is a major factor in its success, if not the main reason for it, and is likely to continue to be a development priority going forward.

However, for the moment, the OLED Switch is that Nintendo is not trying to fix what really isn’t broken. While the switch has its problems, and the OLED doesn’t really address them, the new version is clearly the best switch yet. On paper, it’s easy to pick up for new fans, fence keepers, or folks who intend to start traveling again, especially as the 2021 holiday season kicks off. The OLED Switch is definitely not what the enthusiastic crowd was looking for. , but it is the latest use of a successful strategy that Nintendo has been using for almost 30 years.

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