Nintendo has shocked everyone with its new Switch OLED model, which was launched without any of the hype or fanfare new gadgets are usually used to. Nintendo limited the launch to a product video on YouTube and a press release as its page went live.
Why would Nintendo want to do a silent launch, you might wonder? For one this gives it complete control over the communication and no chance for unnecessary speculation over the product. For months there had been speculation of the “supercharged” Nintendo Switch — some called it the “Switch Pro” and others called it “Super Nintendo Switch”. But what Nintendo released is a slightly upgraded version from the original 2017 model — no new processor, boosted graphics, or the ability to support “4K ultra-high-definition graphics” when docked, even the battery remains the same.
But Nintendo had never acknowledged the ‘Switch Pro’. Not surprising, as the company behind the biggest gaming franchises in the world, including Mario, Zelda and Pokemon, is not dependent on speculative reports or what consumers want to see in a product. Nintendo doesn’t care about what the competition is up to, and whether or not its product decisions are centered around the next big thing in tech.
What really matters to Nintendo, like with Apple, is what consumers will do with a product and how it changes their lives. The Switch isn’t the most powerful game console in the market; it’s just a tablet with a 720p screen but its ability to transform from a home console to a portable gaming system in a snap makes it so unique. On top of that, Nintendo’s tight control over both hardware and software alongside the rich first-party titles makes it a must-have gaming device for diverse users and not just hardcore gamers. You won’t find Call of Duty and Grand Theft Auto games or PUBG on the Switch and it shows how strict Nintendo is over which titles appear on its platform.
Also read: Nintendo Switch OLED FAQ: Your biggest questions, answered
The success of the Switch and the company’s past consoles and games have a lot to do with how Nintendo markets itself — as an entertainment company and not a gaming company. Over the years, it has branched out beyond video games and ventured into theme parks and Hollywood too. Not to forget Nintendo has a stake in the Pokémon Company responsible for managing the Pokémon brand and Niantic, which is best known for the popular AR game Pokemon Go.
From the beginning, Nintendo has targeted families rather than individuals with its hit consoles and video games. This can be seen in the way the company promotes its games to consumers through advertisements. The latest product video of the Switch OLED not only shows young individuals but also how families come together and start playing games on the hybrid console.
For smartphone brands, the craze people have for Nintendo products is something to admire. The euphoria for Nintendo hardware and games and fan base the brand has cultivated over the years show why so many consumers love Nintendo. And it’s all in the messaging. In terms of functionality, Nintendo knows how to create a product that’s really easy to use. Pick up the Switch or 3DS XL and you can use it without taking the help of another person.
The ease of use has always been at the center of any Nintendo experience when designing a product, and which is why its devices are extremely popular among kids and seniors. The fact that a lot of retirement communities and municipal senior centers in the US got the Wii is proof that Nintendo always had everyone in mind while making its home console. The “brain age” game on the Nintendo DS, which stimulates cognitive abilities, resonated more with senior citizens in Japan.
The point is, the entire product strategy of Nintendo is based on how it taps different users who previously never played video games. The social simulation game ‘Animal Crossing: New Horizons’ on the Switch is popular because it is one of the most relaxing games on the market, and consumers needed stress-buster during the ongoing pandemic. What also worked in Nintendo’s favour is the appeal of the game– the social nature of the ‘Animal Crossing’ that brought in all kinds of people.
Another thing about Nintendo that makes this famous toy company so unique is that it never focuses on the specification of the hardware. The dedicated page for the Switch OLED lacks any info on the processor, how much RAM this device has, the battery capacity, and the software it is running. Instead, Nintendo highlights how the new Switch model changes your gaming experience with a 7-inch OLED screen and a wide adjustable kickstand.
Simply put, Nintendo isn’t interested in telling you the internal specifications of the hardware, because it thinks they don’t matter to the end consumers. What really matters is how this handheld/TV hybrid approach and its modularity factor transform your gaming experience, something you only find in a Nintendo system. This approach gives Nintendo a lot of competitive advantage and builds a narrative around its product that experience decides the fate of a device and not specifications.
This is also evident in Nintendo’s advertisements that majorly focus on how the Switch is the ideal platform to play games on the go or at home with friends and family. Smartphone brands need to move away from communicating about product specifications and instead focus on what a 5nm processor or a 108MP camera really means to consumers.
It’s time all the smartphone brands stopped bragging. Taking consumer feedback is important but that shouldn’t be the basis on how a product is designed. The Switch is so successful because no one thought we needed a gaming device like this. Instead of relying on market data and trend reports by analysts, listen to designers and engineers that work for you. They are the ones who will tell you whether or not they need to use a hybrid gaming device like the Switch. Apple, too, follows the same approach. The iPhone would have not been made, had the company’s engineers not need a singular handheld device that would include an iPod, a phone and an internet communicator.
Nintendo likes to keep tight control over its unannounced hardware and games and that’s a fact. But not many people know that Nintendo takes a slow approach when it comes to launching new hardware. Smartphone companies rush by launching identical SKUs of the same model thinking it would increase the average selling price (ASP) of a device, but this approach doesn’t really help consumers. It, in fact, confuses consumers and complicates their buying decision
Nintendo’s product strategy is a bit different. They take years to develop the product and launch it when they think the time is right. In the case of the Switch, Nintendo would have gone for several iterations of the same product and flood the market with multiple SKUs. That didn’t happen; the Switch is now available in three models and that should help the company sell the devices in millions. Nintendo can sell a supercharged version of the Switch that plays games at 4K resolution and charge a much higher price but that’s not the philosophy of the company.