Nintendo's new console, the Switch, is out in the wild and flying off shelves. The Switch has become Nintendo's
fastest-selling console in the United States, outpacing the record-selling Wii in its first two days of sales, the company said, although it did not give exact numbers. I got a chance to talk to Nintendo America's chief operating officer, Reggie Fils-Aime, about the Switch, which I liked overall, but had some gripes to share. I particularly wanted to know why I would buy the Switch when I have Nintendo games on my 3DS, how they're going to deliver on their game promises and whether this tablet-like device has nongaming functions. This conversation has been edited for content and clarity.
Hayley Tsukayama: How should people look at the Switch as compared to the 3DS?
Reggie Fils-Aime: The 3DS is a fantastic machine with more than 1,000 games. Its key differentiator is the 3D immersive experience without need for glasses.
But as good as that machine is, you can’t play a game like “Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild” on it. The power required — not only the computing power, but the graphics required for that game are just not available on a Nintendo 3DS. That makes it a different type of experience. That is how I would separate out those two systems. Certainly we see consumers wanting and needing both of the platforms.
So you see it as different in the types of games you can play?
It’s the types of games. And, with a Nintendo 3DS, you can’t plug it in and display it out on your 50-plus inch big-screen TV. That home experience that you can take anywhere is the defining proposition of Nintendo Switch. The concept of never having to put a game down that you can play anywhere, anytime, as a gamer, is something you think about and want to have that experience.
Many reviewers, including me, would have liked more games at launch. How do you respond to that?
When you think about a new platform, what will define it as a long-term success are the ongoing range of games and experiences that come to the platform — not what’s available on Day One. For the Nintendo Switch, we were very deliberate in wanting to make sure, from a Nintendo publish standpoint, that we had a steady cadence of great games in addition to strong titles at launch.
My answer is to look at the games that have been announced and are in development, and that should drive your purchase decision.
I’m glad you talked about games in development. How should we look at third-party developers, indie developers and the Switch?
Let’s start with third-party developers, and further define that as the big third-party developers and publishers. We’re thrilled that companies like Bethesda are bringing content to Nintendo Switch, sometimes for the first time on a Nintendo platform.
I'm excited about sports content that’s coming — FIFA, NBA2K from Take Two. What that tell us is that we have a platform that the big third-party developers see a lot of promise in and looking to bring their best content on platform.
Then, let's talk about our independent developers, our Nindies. These companies have a long-standing relationship with us. Yacht Club Games, the studio that brought out Shovel Knight, we've been working with this company since there were a total of six employees in that group.
We love that we make it easy for independent developers like these to create content with our platform and we think that will help make Nintendo Switch into a long-term success.
How should people look at the Switch as being different from a PlayStation or Xbox?
I think first the biggest differentiator is that our platform is the only place you can experience our IP: Zelda, Mario, Fire Emblem. [Note: IP or “intellectual property” is industry-speak for a game or franchise.] You’re not going to see that on the competing home platforms.
From a multiplatform standpoint, you're able to play a different way than you can with our home competitors. They're only on that big screen TV, but with the Switch you can then take it with you, have it on the subway. That differentiated experience, we believe, is compelling.
And lastly ours will be the place for this independent content — sometimes showing up on competing platforms but often on Nintendo platform first.
Another thing I wanted to see on the Switch were some tablet functions such as streaming services or a Web browser. Is that something you’d look into down the line?
What I would say is this: We built the Nintendo Switch to be a world-class gaming device, meaning we want you first and foremost to play games on the system and have an incredibly fun experience.
We’re talking to a range of companies about other services, companies like Netflix, Hulu, Amazon — things that will come in time. In our view, these are not differentiators. What differentiates us is the way you play with the Nintendo Switch and what you can play. And that will continue to be our focus into the future as we continue driving this platform.