Nintendo’s brand-new console Switch will go on sale March 3, more than a decade after the debut of the blockbuster Wii gaming device, at a price of $300 with a new feature: an online gaming network.
While the connectivity is new for Nintendo, the Xbox One or PlayStation 4 console have had the feature for years. Still, the higher-than-anticipated price cast a cloud over the announcement: Wal-Mart Stores listed the new device on its Canadian website at a price that was above analysts’ estimates and slightly more than rival gadgets, and Nintendo shares fell as much as 3.9 per cent.
Nintendo is counting on the Switch to end years of pain at its console division, which released a successor to the popular Wii in 2012 that flopped. Not only was the Wii U the worst-selling major home console in history, Nintendo also shunned the smartphone market for years.
The Kyoto-based company’s long-awaited foray into mobile gaming got off to a rough start, with last month’s debut of Super Mario Run on iPhones disappointing fans and investors alike. That fuelled concerns it was losing its ability to deliver hit entertainment products.
At $300, the Switch would cost more than Sony’s $260 PlayStation 4 and Microsoft’s $240 Xbox One, based on current US retail pricing.
Nintendo had botched the launch of its 3DS handheld console in 2011 by overpricing it at $250. It slashed the price to $170 five months later following poor sales.
On Friday, Nintendo said the Switch’s battery will provide three hours with regular gameplay.
“Our biggest concern is battery life, which we think will remain an issue,” Macquarie Securities said.
The Switch is a tablet-sized device that can be used anywhere but also connects to TVs and can be played with a wireless controller. As a portable gadget, the device sports a screen, attachable joysticks and battery. Nintendo is betting that the ability to play the same titles indoors and outdoors will appeal to gamers who now play one set of games at home and a different collection on their smartphones when out and about.
Still, that means the Switch will have to compete with smartphones, which most people already own and use. It’s unclear if consumers will want to carry another bulky device when smartphones already fill their spare moments with millions of games, apps and videos.
“There is a possibility that this proposed new game playing experience will not immediately be understood,” Takeshi Koyama, an analyst at Mizuho Financial Group, wrote in a report last week.
Since its Wii peak about a decade ago, Nintendo shares have slumped by about two-thirds, losing more than $50 billion in market value.