“However, the question of whether we will be able to just as smoothly transition from the Nintendo Switch to the next generation of hardware is a major concern for us,” Furukawa admits. “Based on our experiences with the Wii, Nintendo DS, and other hardware, it is very clear that one of the major obstacles is how to easily transition from one hardware to the next.”
While Furukawa refrains from talking about the relative failures of the Wii U and 3DS in-depth, he manages to make a great point all the same. Nintendo has been able to follow up successful hardware in the past (who didn’t love the SNES), but they’ve also struggled to answer that dreaded “What’s next?” question. Mind you, that’s not uncommon. The PlayStation 3 was considered to be a somewhat weak successor to the PS2, and the Xbox One couldn’t quite live up to the Xbox 360. One generation’s success can be the next generation’s burden to bear.
The Switch situation is especially interesting, though. With the Wii U and 3DS, Nintendo tried to closely associate their new hardware releases with their most recent successes (just look at the names). While both of those devices had plenty of problems of their own, it seems that Nintendo is really trying to avoid a “Switch U” situation. They’d obviously love to capitalize on the Switch’s success but they no longer seem to believe that doing so is as simple as leading existing users into the next generation with help from a somewhat familiar name. If anything, they may be realizing that the Switch name carries those aforementioned burdens and expectations.
To that end, Furukawa suggests that the solution may involve ensuring that the next Nintendo console is designed to help welcome as many existing Switch users as possible.
“To help alleviate this risk, we’re focusing on building long-term relationships with our customers,” Furukawa says. “While we will continue launching new software on the Nintendo Switch, we will also provide services that also use Nintendo Accounts and other IP outside of gaming software. We intend for this to help build a lasting impact with our customers.”
It’s worth noting that Furukawa has previously hinted that the next Nintendo console could be backward compatible with the Switch, but his statement seems to be about more than that. It almost sounds like Nintendo is interested in creating a kind of ecosystem that isn’t tied to a specific piece of hardware. Whether that means expanding the Switch Online service, offering more cloud gaming options, or even exploring social possibilities that go beyond gaming, Nintendo (like Sony and Microsoft) seems to be open to the idea of thinking beyond the traditional hardware cycles.