What is it with major games companies giving their flagship home consoles awful names? The name of the Xbox Series X was so confusing that on the day the console became available to pre-order, sales of the previous generation model Xbox One X skyrocketed. Many consumers will have been surprised when they ended up with the wrong machine!
Nintendo is no stranger to awful names. After the success of the Wii in the late 2000s, Nintendo wanted to keep the brand name going and launched the Wii U. But due to a combination of poor marketing and the confusing name, many consumers didn’t even realise that the Wii U was a new console, instead assuming that its tablet-controller was some kind of overpriced accessory for the original Wii.
Having been in this position once before, and having seen the reaction to Microsoft’s awful naming schemes, you’d think Nintendo would know better than to release a new console called the “Switch Pro.” But if rumours are to be believed, that is exactly what they plan to do.
Here’s the fundamental flaw in that approach: it’s the Wii U problem all over again. What is a Switch Pro? Is it like a PlayStation 4 Pro or iPhone 12 Pro – the same basic machine, running the same software and games, but with a bit of extra power to make those games look better? Or is it a whole new system which will run its own exclusive software that won’t work on the original Switch? Can you figure it out? Because I can’t.
I used to work in the video games industry. I spent several years with a large games company and I’ve done freelance work for a few others. If I, as a former industry insider and someone who knows a fair amount about gaming, can’t tell what a Switch Pro is supposed to be, what hope does the average consumer have?
Not only are Nintendo potentially risking a repeat of the Wii U fiasco, with the console failing to sell due to its confusing name, but they also risk upsetting existing Switch owners if there are going to be Switch Pro-exclusive titles. Imagine the disappointment of buying a game you believe will work on your Switch only to find the console you paid £200-300 for won’t run the game. Cue angry letters from members of the public, parents, and irate gamers.
The name “Switch” is no more of a brand than “Wii” was in 2012. What people look for are the big names: Xbox, PlayStation, and of course Nintendo. The Nintendo Switch is its own thing, and Nintendo’s next console will need a new name to give itself a new identity – it can’t recycle the “Switch” branding because that’s inextricably tied to the current console and lineup of games. When there has already been the handheld-only Switch Lite, there will be an expectation from the public that a “Switch Pro” will simply be another variant – not a wholly new console.
That’s before we even get into the frankly rather troubling idea of Nintendo talking about launching a new console while the current machine is less than four years old. The past couple of console generations have been twice as long, and there’s a reasonable expectation when buying a new console that it will have a decent lifespan. Especially in the current climate, with all kinds of uncertainty hanging over people’s jobs and economic futures, it isn’t a great time to launch a new console.
Nintendo screwed up with the Wii U in 2012, and the release of the Switch less than five years later was a response to that colossal mistake. But with the Switch doing phenomenally well and with plenty of games either already out or coming up in the next few months, there’s no need for another machine at this stage. Some newer titles that are popular on other platforms – like Cyberpunk 2077, for example – won’t be able to be ported to the Switch because it’s a less-powerful device. But that didn’t stop people continuing to enjoy the Wii, and even when the Switch launched it wasn’t going toe-to-toe with the Xbox One or PlayStation 4, yet it outsold the Xbox One in less than four years and is on course to catch up to the PlayStation 4.
There’s a lot to be said for being patient and reaping the rewards of the incredibly-successful Switch. Players of all ages and skill levels have responded very positively to this hybrid machine, and while any company in the games industry needs to have an eye on the future, I’d argue that now is not the time. Even Xbox and PlayStation could’ve squeezed another year or two out of their last-gen machines instead of rushing ahead with the Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5 launches a couple of months ago.
But we’ve drifted off-topic. The “Switch Pro” is a terrible name for a new console, one which will confuse a lot of parents and players, and end up upsetting people when they don’t get what they expected. If the Switch is coming to the end of its life – which it shouldn’t be, but we all know that Nintendo loves to artificially mess with these things – then a new console needs a new name.
Let’s not repeat the mistakes made by the Wii U and Xbox Series X!
Switch, Wii, Wii U, and other properties mentioned above are the copyright of Nintendo. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.