Watching today’s video, I’m sure you’ll agree that the Nintendo Switch is an intriguing piece of gaming kit. Above all the things we saw and all the possibilities that the Nintendo Switch holds there is one thing that has amazed me.
How little we knew beforehand.
Just consider Apple for one moment. Apple lives in an annual product cycle where no sooner has the September big reveal happened then the rumour mill goes into overdrive. The excitement that most of us had for Apple’s annual reveal has pretty much gone because nothing seems to get revealed anymore. By the time we get to September, virtually everything we think was going to happen has happened.
The same pretty much applies to Microsoft and PlayStation whose new 4K beefed up consoles were pretty much out of the bag by the time they were officially announced.
So why is Nintendo so different from Apple and the other players?
Unlike its console rivals, Nintendo continues to announce news on a need-to-know basis, with tight-knit operations – from R&D right the way through to official announcement. This is handled by only a set number of staff to not only protect the integrity of the Nintendo brand but to create intrigue for whatever that next revolutionary console may be.
This comes as no surprise to anyone who has been following Nintendo for the last two decades.
The culture within Nintendo has always been one of respect and passion, leading to massive staff affection for the company. This was never more obvious than when Satoru Iwata, then-President and CEO of Nintendo, infamously took a 50% pay-cut to ensure staff weren’t forced out of a job following the huge company losses after the fledgeling Wii U failed to reach forecasted sales targets.
Quite simply, if you’re watching your boss publically apologise for the failings of a console on your behalf, why the hell would you even want to consider jeopardising him or the company by leaking top secret information?
Widening the circle a little more, Nintendo continues to play its cards closed to its chest when it comes to its relationship with fans and developers. It’s no secret that barely any third parties develop for Nintendo platforms, and while Nintendo have had conversations with EA, Ubisoft, etc. about supporting the NX, it’s highly unlikely a AAA game is, or will ever be, in development for the system. This has lead to (likely) thousands of developers never having ever seen a prototype of the console, let alone its final form!
Not only that – but it also isolates fans. You only need to look at the plethora of fan playthroughs Nintendo has censored as evidence of this. They’re doing their best to right the wrongs, but the company hasn’t done nearly enough to heal those wounds.
The bottom line is this……
Developers, fans and media can’t speculate about the NX because nobody knows anything, made even more difficult by Nintendo’s continued offering of innovation with every iteration.
With the Playstation 4 and Xbox One, we could sort of guess what we were guessing. Fancy graphics, powerful processing power, and a super-slick OS was a given; It was just about how big those numbers were.
Nintendo made it clear this was not going to be the case with the Wii U. After all, if you’re following a console that was called the Wii because the ii’s “symbolise the image of people gathering to play” you can guess you’re not going to be buying the NX for high-end performance power.
On a simpler level, the main reason that Apple’s stuff leaks and Nintendo’s doesn’t is the timing of the announcement versus the production. For Apple, they make an announcement with the intention of having products on sale a couple of weeks later. This means that hardware has to have gone into production months beforehand. The prospect of these devices sitting in Foxconn factories and not suffering some kind of leak while being exposed to hundreds, even thousands of workers with smartphones is slim to none.
Nintendo mitigates this risk by only having a prototype and then a small run of production units for marketing purposes The announcement is made, and production commences weeks or even months later. In the case of the Switch, it has been announced in October 2016 but won’t be on the shelves until March 2017.
With Nintendo only just formally announcing the Switch, we’ll be sure to learn more about the console in the coming weeks and expect some hands-on previews very soon.
But only when Nintendo wants us to know more.