Back in the 1960s, Alka-Seltzer found an incredible way to double its sales volume. It involved no new products, no dramatic advertising campaigns, and no celebrity spokespeople or clever jingle. The company simply started showing two tablets dropping into water, rather than just one. This didn’t quite double sales, but it did send them soaring — and the rest, as they say, is history.
Nintendo seems to be betting that it can sell the Switch similarly, despite having previously forecast that supplies will remain constrained through the end of the year. In an investor Q&A session, Nintendo president Tatsumi Kimishima gave some additional information on what Nintendo plans to do through the end of the year and how it’s thinking about its new console property.
According to Kimishima, Nintendo is on track to build more than 10 million Switches this year, up from 2.74 million shipped in its last fiscal year (Nintendo’s fiscal year isn’t aligned to the calendar year). Interestingly, Kimishima states that the Switch is priced just high enough to keep Nintendo out of the red, and that the company has yet to recognize any volume-related cost reductions. This is a bit difficult to believe, given that Nvidia’s Tegra X1 SoC has been on the market for years, while none of the Switch’s other components are particularly difficult to manufacture.
Nintendo may be referring to other cost efficiencies over and above its mass market hardware strategy — the Switch doesn’t really push the envelope in any degree, and while that’s made some gamers unhappy with its overall performance, it’s a great way to keep costs low. One could argue that Nintendo is copying MS and Sony on this one, since both of those companies also elected to build more mainstream game consoles back in 2013 that could be sold for a profit immediately rather than focusing on pushing the envelope and eating the cost of doing so, hoping to make it all back on software.
Elsewhere in the Q&A, Kimishima states:
Plus, considering that Nintendo Switch is a home console video game system that you can take with you on the go so you can play anytime, anywhere, with anyone, we think there will be households that feel as though one is not really enough. This is another point that drives us to match the scale of Wii’s popularity with Nintendo Switch.
I’m sure there are households that will own more than one Switch, in the same way that there are households that own more than one Xbox One, PlayStation 4, or gaming PC. But there’s a fly in this particular ointment that Nintendo either overlooked or simply refuses to acknowledge.
Of Switches and Game Saves
As we’ve discussed before, the Switch has a real problem when it comes to saved games. In the event that your Switch fails or is damaged, there is no way to move saved games from one device to another. You can’t backup your saved games to a different device, upload them to a cloud-based solution, or copy them to a microSD card before you send the Switch in for an RMA. This is not a trivial issue when it comes to deciding whether to buy multiple consoles.
If you buy a PS4, Xbox One, or PC, you can back-up your save games and access them again from a different system. Obviously how well this works depends on the game in question, particularly on the PC. Some games save your progress in the cloud automatically, some will do it if you tell them to, and some saves may need to be copied to a USB thumb drive manually and restored in the same fashion. Regardless, there’s a method of doing it in each and every case.
Nintendo offers no such option and without one, the appeal of multiple consoles is more limited. You can’t really have a spare Switch, because you can’t swap between them. Each set of saved games is specific to the device itself. Granted, this might not matter if you’re buying them for multiple kids, each with their own device. But in any situation where you want any degree of cross-use, the Switch doesn’t qualify. Nintendo has not discussed bringing such options to Switch.
Interestingly, Kimishima did note that Nintendo managed to turn up the volume on its Switch manufacturing to ensure it could ship 10 million devices this year. According to him, Nintendo has significantly increased the number of devices it can build in a single month to keep up with demand — which tends to undermine earlier comments that Nintendo couldn’t build enough NES Classics to keep those on store shelves. Amazingly, when a company wants to ship a product, these types of problems tend to solve themselves.