The Nintendo Switch, the Netflix of gaming?

The Nintendo Switch has been the hot topic of discussion amongst gaming media since it was announced a couple of days ago. If you missed it, Nintendo announced their new console would be a hybrid device, with a docking station and traditional controller for the lounge room, and then a removable tablet like screen with smaller detachable controllers when you’re on the go.

The world lost its shit. Here’s Nintendo once again pushing the boundaries and doing something new and different. But are they really? Not only have they dabbled with this type of configuration before by merging their handheld devices with their consoles all the way back with the Super Game Boy cartridge for the SNES, or connectivity with their DS and Game Cube. Sure, not to this extent, but if you go back through their history, you can see there was a progression to what they’ve just announced with every single console or device they have released. Even the success of Pokemon Go this year showed the appetite for immersive mobile gaming was as strong with millennials and adults as it has traditionally been with kids; who Nintendo target better than anyone with their portable 3DS devices.

And I am not criticizing this at all, in fact I think it’s brilliant and shows real foresight and strategy from the brand. In a gaming world where everyone seems to be reactive (“Oh Microsoft has a Kinect, we’ll release some sort of ice cream cone looking device for our integrated experience.” – Sony. “Oh, Sony is developing a VR headset? We’ll partner with Oculus!” – Microsoft) Nintendo have always forged their own path.

What is most interesting to me about this development is its correlation with media consumption trends. We talk a lot about the second screen experience and mobile content, but I’ve seen very few publishers really leverage that insight to create a new platform or publishing strategy. One would argue that Netflix has been the closest, but this is the first time we have seen a hardware developer really go all in and realize that this is now the norm, and not a novelty.

Media consumers, and don’t be mistaken, video games are as much media as video or other content is, in fact I am baffled how little brand integration we see in video games, but that’s an article for another day. Media consumers want to be able to access their content where ever they are. In the case of gamers, they want to be able to have the same gaming experience, with the same graphics, the same saved games, rewards and fun, where ever they are.

We saw this last year with the huge backlash against the current generation’s console’s proposed DRM and digital only games, which pretty much meant that the days of bringing the latest NBA 2K game to your friend’s house to play were over. Games would now be restricted to the console they were installed on. People were pissed.

The lesson that Nintendo has learned from its own experiments and from the success of publishers like Netflix, and the lesson that Nintendo is teaching the rest of the gaming industry, is that consumers want their content, when they want it, in all of its glory, not watered down, not restricted, not dictated by the publisher, but dictated by when, where, and how the gamer wants to play it.

And that’s a lesson for the rest of the media industry too.

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