If only launch­ing a con­sole was like click­ing your fin­gers


Of all the moun­tains scaled by peo­ple work­ing in the videogame in­dus­try, the tough­est one to crack is in­tro­duc­ing a new con­sole plat­form. When you pull the process apart and lay out all of the sep­a­rate pieces, in fact, it’s a won­der that there are three ma­jor play­ers still at it to­day.

Pro­posed specs and functionality come first. Clearly this new con­sole has to do some­thing peo­ple haven’t seen be­fore. Then comes trans­lat­ing those con­cepts into a plan for sil­i­con that can be pro­duced af­ford­ably at scale. We need to en­gi­neer a cas­ing to put it in, of course. And we can’t very well launch a new con­sole with old con­trollers, so we’ll need to ei­ther adapt an ex­ist­ing design or, much more prob­lem­at­i­cally, come up with some­thing al­to­gether new. What about sourc­ing man­u­fac­tur­ing for all this?

On the less tan­gi­ble side, an en­tirely new UI has to be de­signed, built and tested. Then there’s on­line functionality to con­sider, in­clud­ing mul­ti­player sup­port and dig­i­tal stores. And all this needs lo­cal­is­ing for mul­ti­ple re­gions. That ap­plies to parts of the pack­ag­ing, too, which also needs de­sign­ing and man­u­fac­tur­ing, not just for the con­sole but for all of the re­lated pieces of hard­ware we need to be on shelves and with on­line re­tail­ers at launch. And get­ting those things out there means nail­ing down com­plex dis­tri­bu­tion plans, in as many ter­ri­to­ries as budgets al­low.

But we’re get­ting ahead of our­selves. What about mar­ket­ing? Pre­order pro­grammes? And the pric­ing strat­egy! Quite an im­por­tant one, that. On and on we go, all of it in­volv­ing thou­sands of peo­ple col­lab­o­rat­ing across the world – and ide­ally in se­cret, an in­creas­ingly tall or­der in an age when leaks are such hot cur­rency across all cor­ners of the In­ter­net.

And still we haven’t even talked about the most im­por­tant as­pect: the games. How many do we need at launch? Which third­party pub­lish­ers are on board? Are we cer­tain we have the all-im­por­tant killer app?

With Switch, then, Nin­tendo has been a lit­tle bit busy lately. On p56 we look at how well its in­tri­cate propo­si­tion is fi­nally com­ing to­gether.

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