When Nintendo unveiled the Wii U at E3 2011, some were confused about whether it was a Wii add-on or a new system. By the time it was unveiled at E3 2012, it felt like even getting a broader audience to look at and consider the system was an issue. We suspect many have encountered the following scenario since the console arrived in late 2012 - knowing people that barely realise the Wii U exists as a separate entity from Wii. Practically everyone knows what a Wii is; the Wii U? Not so much.
An early challenge for any new product, first of all, is getting noticed. The good news for Nintendo Switch, right off the bat? It's been noticed.
For a number of hours Nintendo Switch was trending high on Twitter. On YouTube, as we type this, it's still number one in this writer's 'Trending' list, racking up over eleven million views on the Nintendo of America official channel in a little over 24 hours. Looking back at videos on that channel from E3 2011 and even 2012, related to Wii U, they were lucky to hit one million views.
Then there's been media coverage - Nintendo is still a big enough name for newspapers and broader 'mainstream media' to feel compelled to produce at least one article on the Switch, often with decent positioning on websites. Recent buzz from Pokémon GO (even though that's not even a Nintendo game, but let's not get into that again) and the announcement of Super Mario Run for iOS have also helped Nintendo to get back on the media's radar in recent weeks and months. There's been a mix of opinions, many positive but also a fair share of reservations. That's to be expected considering Nintendo's approach - a short trailer and (apparently) little else before the start of 2017. Questions and mysteries are inevitable.
First of all, let's consider the public reception. This writer went to sleep hours after the reveal feeling optimistic. On social media, our own polls, and more importantly in conversations with gamers of different kinds with no fixed loyalty to Nintendo, there was positivity. The concept, which combines simplicity with an interestingly diverse set of possibilities, was immediately recognisable to most who saw it. To many eyes, it seemed, it also looked like a cool device.
The trailer, too, has clocked up some positive reactions, where YouTube's 'Like' system at least provides a form of data. After all, we've seen Nintendo suffer from these thumbs up and down in the past, with notable examples being trailers for the likes of Metroid Prime: Federation Force being down-voted into oblivion. At the time of writing those 11 million+ views have translated to over 370,000 Likes, and just under 15,000 Dislikes. That's a favourable reaction from YouTube viewers on the most widely viewed copy of the trailer, which is pleasing to see.
As we say though, the reaction is mixed. For example Nintendo had a shocking day in the Tokyo stock market, as investor response to the reveal delivered a 6.5% drop in share value, wiping out pre-reveal gains and then some. Investors didn't get what they wanted, though frankly that's hardly surprising. As many have correctly said, investors probably wanted a smartphone, or a gaming powerhouse to make Sony and Microsoft weep, or a robot that talks like Mario and brings you breakfast in bed. Just as Nintendo enjoys irrational gains in share value (hello again, Pokémon GO), it also suffers from equally irrational drops.
Let's not pretend, though, that all concerns are irrational. Various well paid and experienced industry analysts have highlighted issues that will need to be addressed, and plenty of online commenters have also been entirely fair in highlighting areas where Switch may have weaknesses. That's the thing with new products and technology - when arguments are constructed sensibly, both for and against sides are equally valid, as no-one truly has a crystal ball to declare that the Switch will definitely be a success.
Personally, this writer isn't concerned - as some are - that Nintendo is obsessed with targeting the so-called 'Millennial' generation at the expense of other demographics. The trailer may have featured photogenic actors in that category, but that's rather typical for brief technology showcases. Was it a casting misstep to have no kids or 'older' gamers in the video? Probably, yes. Does that mean Nintendo is forgetting those audiences? Unlikely. We suspect that when marketing goes into overdrive in 2017 you'll see plenty of smiling kids playing with their parents when having a picnic, or something along those lines.
Plenty, of course, worry about details we don't have. Some of our queries in the Nintendo Life team are as follows. Does the console have a touchscreen, and why is there no clear answer on that? Is it because the touchscreen is only used with parts of the system not yet shown, like the user interface or 'touch only' games? After all, to play on the TV you put the console in the dock, so 'TV' games can't have touchscreen support anyway, right?
What about storage? How much internal memory is there, what external memory can be added, maybe micro-SD cards? What about the eShop? Is there a StreetPass equivalent? Is that mystery button on the left Joy-Con the rumoured 'social' button? What games are actually coming?
Questions, lots of them. But let's be real, short of running a video with nothing but tech-specs and a list of games, Nintendo was never going to satisfy the most eager of enthusiasts. Some vague answers in a small number of follow-up statements and interviews haven't helped matters, but it's typical of Nintendo to take simple enquiries and make them into mysterious sagas. It keeps things interesting, anyway...
Yet around all of the questions and debates over the concept, some key points are self-evident. A lot of people have read about Switch, seen it and become interested in it. Certainly, various members of our team have shared stories about work colleagues and friends talking excitedly about it, having lasted bought a Nintendo system in the Wii era. One example was someone who said the Mario game looked great, commenting that they didn't know there'd been any since Super Mario Galaxy. That may make the toes curl of eager fans like many reading this page, but on the positive side it's this lost Wii and DS audience that Nintendo wants to win back. So from that perspective, stories like that are a positive.
Examples like that show that Nintendo will need to get various factors right with Switch - pricing, games, and a strong marketing campaign, to mention a few. The first test, though, that of getting noticed and having people talk about the Nintendo Switch, has been passed.