Before Nintendo officially unveiled its next console product, the Nintendo Switch, rumors and speculation ran rampant as to exactly what the mysterious "Project NX" would actually be. Now that we've gotten our first (and thus far, only) official look at the Switch... rumors and speculation are still running rampant. With Nintendo refusing to divulge any more details about the handheld/console hybrid device until the beginning of the year, fans are left with nothing but third-party comments and rumors to fill the void.
One of the biggest rumors of recent revolves around a game called Pokémon Stars. A third entry in the Pokémon generation that started with Pokémon Sun and Pokémon Moon, the game will reportedly debut on the Switch sometime next year instead of the 2DS/3DS where the first two games released. This would be the first time that Nintendo has released a "real" (read: game that's part of the main franchise) Pokémon game on a home console, even if the hybrid nature of the Switch blurs that line a little bit. If the rumor turns out to be true, then it also might shed some light on Nintendo's larger plans for its new product.
Switching Things Up
A lot of people aren't quite sure what to make of the Switch, and not just because Nintendo's only given us around three minutes of commercial footage to go on. Game consoles are traditionally released in the fall, ideally to major acclaim and "must buy!" status during the holiday shopping season. The PS4 Pro just came out, Project Scorpio is slated to drop next fall and the next Xbox and PlayStation consoles will also likely enjoy a fall release. Even Nintendo's consoles are typically fall releases, because that's how the console game is played. For the Switch, though, the release date comes sometime in March.
Nintendo reportedly set the March date to ensure that the Switch will have a strong launch lineup (which isn't a bad reason, given how horrible the game variety at launch has been for some recent consoles). If you believe the rumors, this means that we'll see a new Mario game at launch and several Wii U ports; it's possible that we'll get some near-launch third-party titles as well, though nothing's been officially announced. This could work out to be a decent launch lineup, even if it's largely made up of ports... but given the low sales that plagued the Wii U, exposing some of its all-star games to a potentially larger audience isn't necessarily a bad thing.
That March release still stands out as odd, though, even if there will be some decent games to play right off the bat. Some claim that it's a sign that Nintendo is horribly out of touch, or that it's the company trying to launch in between the latest PS4 and Xbox One models since it can't compete with them head-to-head. There may be a bit more strategy at work here than it first appears, though... especially if Pokémon Stars is a real Switch release.
Looking Beyond March
So far, the March release of the Switch is what stands out to most people. Some of the rumored launch titles are good games, but as ports they aren't that much to get excited about. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild was long thought to be a launch title, but that game's been pushed back to sometime later in the year. Other rumored launch titles may wind up being nothing more than rumors since there's been no supporting evidence ever since their rumors first broke. If Nintendo was launching the Switch with the current rumored lineup during the holiday season, it would look pretty sparse indeed... but a March release gives the company plenty of time to ramp things up before the holidays get here.
If we assume that Pokémon Stars is really coming to the Switch, then we have two non-launch titles coming sometime in 2017 that are all but guaranteed to make a splash. If Nintendo aims those releases at the second half of the year, then we could see a surge in demand heading into the Christmas season. Add in a few more games that are rumored to come to the Switch and we could see Nintendo have a really solid first year for the new console. The March release would give people most of the year to pick one up, and then a holiday surge could be built around software sales and additional console units as the software library grows. By the holiday season there'd be a console at a (rumored) reasonable price point that had Mario, Zelda and Pokémon ready to go along with some of the Wii U's best titles and possibly even some decent third-party support.
As far as sales strategies go, it's certainly not the worst one. Just how feasible is it, though?
A Clearer Picture Come January?
If we see a Mario launch title followed by Breath of the Wild and Pokémon Stars later in the year like rumors suggest, Nintendo will likely enjoy a decent first year with the Switch. If we see some of the rumored third-party games we've heard about like Final Fantasy 7 Remake then it could be even bigger. For now, though, we're just playing a waiting game until January with hopes that more about the Switch's first year will be revealed.
There's a good chance that when Switch details are revealed in January, they'll focus largely on the hardware and what it can do. This may not be a massive stats dump like Microsoft and Sony are prone to, but will instead focus on what makes the Switch unique; still, after the reveal we should have a good idea of what we can and can't do with the hybrid console. Even if the reveal is mostly hardware focused, though, we'll almost certainly see some of the launch lineup as well.
With any luck, the software reveal will contain more than just what's available at launch. If Nintendo's really going for a year-long rollout strategy to capitalize on software during the holiday season, the company should preview its launch titles as well as bits and pieces of what we'll get during the first year. Expect the name-dropping of a few third-party partners if not a showcase of some of the third-party titles that will hit Switch too, since that would help the company show that it's overcoming the third-party drought that plagued the Wii U.
There's a lot that we don't know about the Switch, but the picture will get a lot clearer after the holidays. If some of the current rumors turn out to be more than just that, then Nintendo might have stumbled on to a winning strategy for the Switch after all.