On March 3, video gamers can finally get their hands on the new Nintendo Switch. Its big selling point is that it’s the first home gaming console that’s also portable. However, the company’s last console—Wii U—flopped. Can the folks at Nintendo of America in Redmond learn a lesson or two from the product failures of other Seattle tech giants (and their own spotty history)?
Microsoft Zune (2006–11)
Released years after the iPod, the Zune merely came off as an alternative portable music player that didn’t surpass its Apple predecessor in any definable way, earning it a crushingly unhip reputation.
Lesson to Learn: It may go against brand, Nintendo, but just try to advertise the Switch as cool, sleek technology, instead of an expensive toy for kids.
Nintendo Wii U (2012–Present)
The Wii U GamePad (i.e., a controller with a screen) was both unwieldly and self-defeating: We want to look at our HDTVs when gaming, not tablets in our laps. Releasing zero marquee games was also a tiny issue.
Lesson to Learn: While Switch launches with The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and Super Mario Odyssey arrives later in 2017, two worthwhile games won’t cut it. How about a new Metroid too?
Amazon Fire Phone (2014–15)
Amazon doesn’t often misfire, but its 2014 foray into the smartphone market busted. Instead of following its typical approach—cheap but efficient—the company went high end and consumers balked. Additionally the Fire Phone’s operating system didn’t support popular Google applications.
Lessons to Learn: Don’t overshoot your price point (the Switch’s $299 price tag straddles the line), and give people their damn Netflix app.
Valve Steam Machine (2015–Present)
After the overwhelming success of Valve Corporation’s digital marketplace for PC games, Steam, the Bellevue company decided to dip its toes into the home console market with the Steam Machine. But PC gamers prefer their customizable CPUs, so Steam Machines sales figures have been abysmal.
Lesson to Learn: Know what hardcore gamers actually want. In Nintendo’s case, that means legitimate third-party game developer support.
Nintendo Virtual Boy (1995-96)
Virtual reality technology is a buggy work in progress in 2016, so how did Nintendo think the Virtual Boy could succeed in 1995? The clunky nausea-inducing head-mounted console came and went in a matter of months.
Lesson Learned: Unless Nintendo decides to return to only hideous monochromatic red graphics, the Switch should be safe.