Why Nintendo Switch might be tough to get in North America

It’s almost here after nearly two years of waiting. From 8 p.m. PST to 11 p.m. EST (that’s 10 o’ clock Texas time, y’all) on Jan. 12 — also goes by the name “tomorrow” — Nintendo will host the Nintendo Switch Presentation 2017, an event that reveals all of the details for their next system. Catch up with the Nintendo Switch’s debut trailer that’s up top if you haven’t seen it yet.

To catch you up to speed, the Nintendo Switch fuses the graphical power home console (NES, Super Nintendo, Wii, etc.) with the portability of their handheld systems (Game Boy, DS, 3DS, etc.). Although it’s a home console first thanks to the dock that lets you play it on your TV, you can take it with you outside your home. The controls on both sides of system — which is the screen itself, not the dock —can come off and be used as separate controllers. It will also use cartridges similar to either SD cards on 3DS games for software, though the games graphically won’t be quite as good as Xbox One or PlayStation 4 titles.

The presentation will likely answer the most important questions: how much is it, what’s the battery life, the launch date (currently with a March 2017 window), which games we are getting when it releases, etc.

I’m excited as HELL for the Switch and its potential. I desperately want one at launch because I know Nintendo doesn’t release a product if it hasn’t been extensively tested, but here’s what I’m most worried about going into the presentation: just how freakin’ hard is it going to be to get your hands on one? These are some of the signs that have me thinking it’s going do be harder to get than a likable Kanye West.

Nintendo might only ship 2 million units at launch

Nintendo Switch pic 1
This isn’t a number pulled out of the moist and un-showered butt of a bored internet troll. Wall Street Journal reported that during Nintendo’s final quarterly financial meeting of 2016 Nintendo CEO Tatsumi Kimishima himself said financial guides point to shipping 2 million units by the end of March, the same month the system is launching.

That’s presumably worldwide, and while 2 million may sound like a lot, it’s not.

Here’s some perspective on console launches to show you why it’s not very much:

Other major territories can pre-order Switch right now

Nintendo Switch pic 2
Like, wut? Why can’t North Americans at least put something down on one right now? As silly as this ultimately is, back when the Switch was first announced as codename NX about two years ago pre-orders were made available at EB Games in Australia.

Sure, core gamers and Nintendo fans are probably the only ones pre-ordering and paying attention to it right now, but the availability of 2 million units around the WORLD can dwindle fast.

I’m also in IGN’s Nintendo Voice Chat Facebook group, and recently I’ve seen multiple people from different parts of the world, including the UK, pre-ordering it, which has kind of acted like a window that lets me see just how available this thing already is outside the U.S. It’s not like I’m jealous. YOU’RE JEALOUS!!

Amiibo and NES Classic woes

NES Classic Edition pic 1
Perhaps the only other things harder to get than a likable Kanye West were some amiibo when they first launched and currently the NES Classic edition.

Some amiibo, like Smash Bros. characters Wii Fit Trainer, Villager and Marth, were ridiculously hard to find when they first came out over two years ago. It seemingly took forever for it to dawn on Nintendo to finally meet demands so people didn’t have to wait six-plus hours in line to get one.

Fast forward to now during the NES Classic debacle. What was Nintendo thinking? Why would you not allow people to pre-order what was obviously going to at least be a somewhat popular item? And since they didn’t do that, why send stores a laughable number of units — and by laughable, I mean I can count on one hand the amount many stores got.

This could be Nintendo trying to be cautious since the Wii U’s lifetime sales are pretty terrible at a mere 13.67 million (even that’s below the PlayStation Vita), but these two sets of products show Nintendo may as well be in the dark on learning the lessons of meeting demand. That, or they create artificial scarcity to drive hype. Either way, it’s frustrating when these things happen as someone like me who loves video games, has been a lifelong Nintendo fan and a consumer.

Unlike Wii U, there’s hype for Switch

Remember that time when everyone got excited at the reveal of the Wii U’s name? You don’t? That’s because it never happened.

The Wii U had many things to overcome but never conquered. My main theory behind the Wii U not doing so well in sales is because of its awful name. I mean, if we’re going back further Wii is kind of a dumb name in itself, but at least Wii didn’t immediately make me think of Kung Pow.

Anyway, simply adding “U” to the name made things confusing as hell. People had no idea what it was, and that can also be attributed to the major lack of marketing from Nintendo. Rarely did I see Nintendo try anything to effectively ingrain in people’s heads that this was their newest system and simply not an add-on to the Wii. About two years ago when I worked at Fry’s Electronics for a few months, I had to explain it to people like this: “You know how there’s PlayStation 3 and then PlayStation 4? The PlayStation 3 is to PlayStation 4 as the Wii is to the Wii U.” Even then people I helped were still confused.

Even Jimmy Fallon, a celebrity who is a known gamer and keeps up with the industry, didn’t know what it was when they had the Wii U ON HIS OWN SHOW.

If you’re hungry for numbers, I’ll put it in perspective. That Switch debut trailer I put at the beginning of the post released on Oct. 20, 2016. Not even three months later, it already has more than 23 million views on Nintendo’s YouTube channel. About five and a half years later, the Wii U’s debut trailer on IGN, which had the highest number of views for this particular trailer, has only been watched about 11.6 million times.

The Switch’s debut trailer did a great job of showcasing what it is: a console and handheld hybrid that for now appears to have the best third-party support Nintendo has had in years, and that — along with a name that also explains what this console is trying to accomplish — is getting people excited. More interested people will only make getting a Switch harder.

Say bye bye to separate markets

Wii U 3DS
The Switch basically is erasing the days of having a home console market and a portable market. They even combined their handheld and home console divisions nearly four years ago to “come up with next-generation game systems that will turn heads.” Even if this wasn’t necessarily referring to the Wii U, our heads our certainly at 180 degrees by this point.

No longer will people have to decide to shut their kids up by deciding to get something they want to play on the go or on the couch. The Switch is essentially a one-and-done purchase. That means the focus of every consumer, whether you’re part of the core gaming crowd, casual crowd or — God forbid — a scalper, is going to be on the Switch instead of debating between system. That will bring some serious potential competition among shoppers.

Although this is a whole other discussion, this ultimately is more of a good thing than bad. Here’s just one way to think about: Pokemon fans will FINALLY, after over 20 years of waiting, get a proper home console game. We can’t count games like Pokemon Stadium, especially when the best part of the game is splashing with Magikarp.


Bottom line

Nintendo, you have to play this right. You’ve pretty much got the entire gaming community looking at your next system, and perhaps after tomorrow the rest of the world. With a good battery life — five hours, in my opinion — a $249.99 or $299.99 console that perhaps comes with a game, a healthy launch lineup and having ample units available for consumers, you can make gamers make a switch of their own and bring back the glory days of Nintendo. I can’t wait to see what you show us tomorrow. Good luck Big N!

And if you’re going to watch the Switch presentation tomorrow after reading this amazing article I wrote, you can watch it at: Nintendo’s Switch website, Twitch, Nintendo’s YouTube channel, and I know IGN will have it on pretty much all of their apps.

P.S. I can’t promise anything, but I’m hoping that in 2017 I can contribute a lot more to my blog. You know, kinda like that new-year-new-me crap. So be sure to check back here frequently!

Robbie Key is the chief warden of robbiekeyv.wordpress.com. He is also the assistant news editor for The Daily Sentinel newspaper of Nacogdoches, Texas, former Nintendo editor for Analog Addiction and occasionally makes videos for his YouTube channel. If you happen to stumble upon this page and are looking for new media members/writers, check out my LinkedIn profile or my professional works on my blog.


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