Nintendo's long-awaited unveiling of its next-generation gaming system generated a lot of excitement in the gaming community this week, with both the company's loyal fans and even some of the curmudgeonly jaded hardcore gamer audience celebrating the unveiling of Switch.
Some analysts, though, were underwhelmed by what they've seen so far.
"Unfortunately the ongoing gimmicky nature of their hardware configurations seems only to detract," said Mike Hickey of The Benchmark Co. "At the moment, the Switch platform does not feel disruptive or desirable and way too gimmicky for a millennial to embrace."
There are still a lot of unknowns about Switch. Besides the obvious gaps like pricing, exact release data and game launch lineup, one of the biggest questions centers around the battery life of the device. If the Switch is unable to run independently for more than three to four hours, those people cheering the system now could be howling in protest come March 2017, when it's released.
It was concerns about battery life, in fact, that forced Nintendo to not offer Switch-like functionality with the Wii U, something the company debated as early as 2007, when it first began planning the follow-up to the Wii.
"During the roundtable discussions there were such arguments about should we make [the Wii U controller] capable of being a stand-alone system or should we make it work only with the [base console] system," then-President Satoru Iwata said in 2011.
"We came to the conclusion that this controller is only going to show the images generated and processed by this hardware unit — and sent from the hardware unit wirelessly. That means sharper graphics. A battery couldn't do that," he said at the time.
It would seem Nintendo believes today's batteries are, in fact, capable of doing that. But the world has changed dramatically in the past nine years. Mobile phones are omnipresent in society — and games are the most popular apps for those devices.
Demand for Nintendo's 3DS handheld system (which launched in 2011), meanwhile, basically flatlined at the end of 2014. And Hickey said asking people to carry another gaming gadget with them could be a hard sell.
"They are fighting two combative smartphone-related player migrations: a casual console or 'in-home' gamer and/or a dedicated handheld gamer — both are under the gravitational pull to the smartphone/tablet," said Hickey. "The value proposition for a dedicated casual console or a portable game device feel antiquated, so perhaps the idea of combining both markets was a compelling competitive positioning for Nintendo to follow."
Billy Pidgeon, an independent analyst who covers the video game industry, is bullish on Switch, though. Ultimately, he said, it all comes down to the quality of the games — and with Nintendo's rich history of titles that are fan and critical successes and the long list of publishers who have committed to support the system, Nintendo could have a compelling argument for Switch's portability.
"Phone games have been pretty disappointing," he said. "That's not necessarily because of the processing capability, but because of the marketplace. People largely choose free-to-play games — and free to play is shackled creatively. ... It's not necessarily a satisfying experience.[Switch] is a different gaming experience and therefore it's worth carrying around."