The predictions on the success of Nintendo’s (TYO:7974) newest game platform, the Nintendo Switch, have varied over the last six months. According to interactive media and digital gaming research firm SuperData Research, Nintendo took a big hit on console sales of Wii U in 2012 when it sold only 15 million copies and reaped criticism from investors. Despite that, Takashi Mochizuki, a Wall Street Journal technology reporter stationed in Tokyo, tweeted in October that Nintendo President Tatsumi Kimishima expected two million units to be shipped within the first month of Nintendo Switch’s release in March 2017.
That prediction is more optimistic than a guest post published in early March by Forbes which said that the company would only sell 5 million units for the entire year of 2017. The writer argues that these low sales will be a result of the Switch being a second-console option for the 79 million gamers who already have a PS4 or Xbox One. As it stands now, the company has shipped 2 million of its units to stores and assures the public that there will not be a shortage as constant production has commenced. However, in the short time since its launch, retailers such as Amazon have sold out of the unit. New York Times reporter Nick Wingfield tweeted that Nintendo has broken its own record for first 2-day sales which was formerly held by the Nintendo Wii.
One interesting point noted by SuperData Research is that Nintendo is de-emphasizing cartridge sales and emphasizing digital distribution, or downloading games directly from an eShop, which is already available on Nintendo’s 3DS. This can be accomplished through a wireless connection within the console of the Nintendo Switch.
Unlike consoles such as the PS4 or Xbox One which don’t provide their own display screen, the Switch’s console is a 9.4-inch by 4-inch tablet which holds all the technology that makes the platform possible. The tablet can be plugged into a dock which is a recharge station and enables a wired connection with a television screen if a wireless connection isn’t possible. When connected to a television, the Switch can achieve 1080p, 1920-pixels by 1080-pixels. As a mobile screen, its top resolution is 720p, 1280-pixels by 720-pixels. Against the resolution of other major consumer mobile devices, like an iPad Air 2 (2048-pixels by 1536-pixels), it doesn’t size up at all. However, the Switch also features touch screen capability and 32 gigabytes (GB) of internal storage, the same as the iPad Air 2.
The controller is made up of two separate rectangular halves called Joy-Cons and can be attached to a Joy-Con Grip or the console itself. In some games, each half can act as an individual controller so two gamers can play head to head or cooperatively on the same console. These controllers are wireless through Bluetooth 3.0 and include an accelerometer, a gyroscope, and a motion infrared (IR) camera which senses how far away and what shape objects are for games such as rock, paper, scissors. The camera can detect the distance of a user’s hand and also whether it is closed or open.
One Nintendo patent covering a technology utilized by the Switch, U.S. Patent No. 8409004, entitled System and Method for Using Accelerometer Outputs to Control an Object Rotating on a Display, describes a technology used in the Nintendo Switch’s Joy-Cons.
With this technology, the image on the screen can be controlled not only by buttons on the controller, but also by certain movements and orientations of the controller itself. This makes rotating the video image of a steering wheel turn right or left as easy as pointing the controller either to the left or right of the screen. Diagrams attached to the patent show that this system was first conceived for the Nintendo Wii, and was used in the popular game, Mario Kart.
U.S. Patent No. 8005892, titled Method and Apparatus for Distributing Data to a Plurality of Game Devices, describes a function growing increasingly valuable as game developers move away from physical cartridges and towards streaming games over the Internet. This patent protects a method in which a server sends out small packets of data to each of the game devices simultaneously, correctly syncing their devices so that game-play can resume smoothly.
With multi-player capable devices such as the Nintendo Switch the use of external servers ensures quality play-time as it reduces the processing burden on the device itself. However, even when using a server, data can bottleneck if the server has to send files to a large number of requesting devices. By sending pieces of the file requested in packets of data the problem is alleviated.
An improvement to online game shops is reflected in Nintendo’s U.S. Patent No. 9352233, entitled Recommendation Engine for Electronic Game Shopping Channel. This patent describes a process in which a profile is created for each shopper and uses that information to pick out games that they might want to play. While data collection technologies pose privacy concerns, this patent describes an ‘opt in’ option which allows players to keep certain data private. Other features such as parental control settings can also be taken into account before suggesting games for the gamer.