The Nintendo Switch is recess for adults.
Nintendo itself has always been recess. Now that all of its most devoted fans are adults, Nintendo is recess for adults. It's freedom to run and play with your buddies, to gab and chuckle, to speculate and imagine.
The Nintendo Switch is a portable console that hooks up to your big-ass adult-television set.
There's magic in there. Nintendo is taking video games out of the greasy basements they built and giving games to the sunshine.
\\\ Video games are still marketed to non-adults.
Examine the video game landscape. Take a glance at the million-dollar ad budgets splayed out across TV's during Thanksgiving. What do you see?
You see exciting action mimicking the hot combat of gigantic Hollywood movies. Gears of War 4, Battlefield 1, Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare, and Final Fantasy XV are everywhere. I promise you, I'd have a heck of a time playing any one of those games. I'd love every second of blasting monsters, Germans, or idiot space freaks with any of those games.
This is an example to make a point—games are sold on WHAT they are. To somebody that doesn't have thirty years of eyeball and game-feel training pre-conditioned, WHAT do these games look like? Nonsense.
This is both a problem with games' marketing and with their central conceit. What are they? Video games. What's a video game? Games for the penis-obsessed and tasteless nephews entertained by blasting endless idiot space freaks.
My dad nudges me during one ad before halftime of the Cowboys Thanksgiving football game.
"That looks like a really stupid game."
I look up to catch the Assassin's Creed movie trailer conclude for the billionth time. "That's the Assassin's Creed movie," I say. "It's based on a game."
"Oh." He waits for a second to pretend he's thinking. "Why does it look like a video game?"
"All movie trailers look like video games because video games have better shorthand than films to reach their intended market," I say. "Stupid movies reach for the same audience as video games."
It's easier to sell video games to younger audiences because younger audiences often lack subtler critical nuance. It's easier to make a game to appeal to them. It's easier to market something simpler. Even Cliff Bleszinski, director and driving force on Unreal Tournament and Gears of War, has admitted that with our current technology, the easiest way for a user to feel they are interacting with a game world is to "reach out and touch someone with your gun." He makes games about shooting morons because it's what we have. We don't possess superior means to elicit a less adolescent emotion in video games.
\\ The Nintendo Switch could reclaim video game culture for the people.
The most powerful appendages of video game culture are toxic and cruel. They're exclusionary and isolationist. They fancy themselves a special-people's club that ritualizes and fetishizes deliberately bad jokes. It's a fucking laugh riot because they know it's not good or correct to laugh at such cruelty, especially over a game or hobby.
When a hobby spills over into the sunlight and becomes the most financially successful pop culture event every year, I'm talking about a Call of Duty game launch, it's no longer special and it's no longer a club. To counteract this eyeball influx and retain its specialness, the players do their best to close it off, to possess it. It's possible because players are anonymous. When you grow up anonymous in a video game echo chamber without consequence, you do not grow.
The Nintendo Switch appears to be bringing video games back into the open. The evidence? Look at the Switch's very first ad, excerpted above. All of the featured product users are adults. All of them have well-decorated homes. Except for the guy with the dog, all of them are using the system within sight of another human being.
There is a holistic self-worth in each example. It doesn't zoom in hard on the games themselves, or honk out hardware specifications. The reason why is clear: it starts with a reason for being, it's "why?"
\ Why does the Nintendo Switch function the way it does?
The Nintendo Switch doesn't flop out WHAT its software looks like. It doesn't lead with big-money Hollywood action. It doesn't gibber about how many terraflops its hardware can achieve.
The Nintendo Switch leads with WHY it is what it is. Why is it a portable / home console hybrid? It's portable because you want to have fun while you go places. It's a home console because adults need recess. Its intended user base is sensible and multi-interested adults that get up and get around in life, whether they have friends or not. The ads don't raise up stock footage of loner morons gasping from their couches while pretending to duck the asteroids so real they might jump off your TV. There's no footage of families brought together, smiling, by video game night.
The Nintendo Switch is being marketed to adults. It's a break from life.