The Reggie Fils-Aimé book tour train just keeps on chugging away! Last week, the former president of Nintendo of America sat down with GamesIndustry.biz's James Batchelor for a chat following the release of his book, Disrupting the Game, to talk about not just the book but various industry issues and the future of Nintendo.
Towards the end of the podcast, James asks Reggie a question that's inspired by Nintendo's recent financial results and the current president of Nintendo's comments on transitioning to a new console generation. The Switch is one of Nintendo's best-selling consoles ever, even outselling the hugely successful Wii, and the company has often stumbled when following up some of its best systems — the Wii U, for example, tripped over the Wii's success.
When responding to the question of "what is it that Nintendo can do to capitalise on the Switch?", Reggie brought up how few and far between the transition from one successful console generation tot the next successful one have previously been very difficult, singling out two particular jumps:
First, I think it's important in looking at the overall history of this industry and recognise how rare it is for a company to move from one successful platform to the next. As I think about it, I can only point to two examples where this has been done over the last 30-plus years: Sony, moving from the original PlayStation to the PlayStation 2, from strength to strength. The other example I would point out is Nintendo moving from the Game Boy/Game Boy Advance generation to the Nintendo DS generation. So let’s just acknowledge that moving from one successful platform to the next is incredibly difficult and challenging to do.
The Nintendo DS alone is the best-selling handheld console ever at the time of writing this, with the PS2 being the best-selling home console to this day. Both the PlayStation and the Game Boy/GBA were also massively successful — The Game Boy/Color sits at third on the list of best-selling consoles, and the PlayStation has only just been outsold by the Switch — but Reggie acknowledges that these were a flash in the pan. The odds are stacked against Nintendo, essentially.
However, Reggie did reflect on previous comments that Nintendo has made on the lifecycle of the Switch, but that just because the company still has a way to go, it still needs to think ahead:
Specific to Nintendo and Nintendo Switch, the company has also said that in their view the Switch is still somewhat halfway through its lifecycle. So, if that’s true, the company needs to be thinking about what it’s going to do over the next four or five years or so to continue the core business momentum for the Switch. That's job one. And then job two is following the heels of that, to be thinking on what's next and what the future holds. It’s quite a heavy lift to be done.
I believe that, first and foremost, you need to be thinking about the content and what's going to be the content pipeline to keep players engaged. I do think you have to look at history and what are some of the historical tactics that have worked to maintain a lifecycle of a particular generation – and that includes everything from mid-cycle upgrades to looking at how you think about pricing and value. There are a number of different tactics you can play, but fundamentally the content pipeline needs to be there.
I continue to be very active in this industry, I’m active from an investor perspective, I'm active as an advisor, and I think that being aware of demographic changes, being aware of geographic opportunities, being aware about how technology is continuing to evolve — these are all things a company like Nintendo needs to be thinking about in order to successfully launch the system after Switch.
So while Nintendo needs to continue focus on the Switch, it also needs to start thinking about what went right with the console, as well as potentially what went right in its transition from the Game Boy era to the DS era. James Batchelor brings up the term "multi-household" earlier in the discussion, and the Switch has already released the Switch OLED last year. So if this is its mid-generation upgrade, then the company should — and is — looking at what it needs to do next.
Prices of video games have increased with this recent console generation, with many big blockbuster PlayStation 5 titles launching at $69.99 / £69.99, though pricing is different depending on the type of game, the publisher, and the budget. The Switch's library has stayed below this increase for the time being, but what the Switch's successor will do is yet to be seen.
The company will also need to have a line-up of games and projects to release for the system — which is no different from other launches — but with Zelda: Breath of the Wild as a Switch launch title, and a really strong starting year with Splatoon 2, Super Mario Odyssey, Xenoblade Chronicles 2, and a ton of excellent indie hits, there are some big shoes to fill there too.
Reggie acknowledges that the transition is not going to be easy, as the Switch continues to dominate console sales worldwide. Its huge success might be hard to top, though as hardware sales slow down due to chip shortages, how much longer does the console have, and how ready will Nintendo need to be? We've covered our thoughts on a 'Switch 2' numerous times, most recently a few weeks ago following the company's financial report:
- Further reading - Talking Point: As Switch Hardware Sales Slow, How Long Can Nintendo Delay 'Switch 2'?
We have to acknowledge James' sign-off with Reggie — a sweet reference to a famous Reggie meme around Animal Crossing: New Leaf — to which Reggie replies "Actually, I need to go back and play some Switch games." Well, there you go! Perhaps Animal Crossing: New Horizons?
You can listen to the full hour-long podcast on GamesIndustry.biz's by clicking the link below.