Now that I’ve had a few days to digest the recent Nintendo Switch presentation, I’d like to discuss its ups and downs as a core console gamer. One that grew up playing NES and SNES, felt a little burned by the Wii U, and wants nothing more than The Big N to return to form with the Switch.
What we saw was Nintendo continuing to display their innovation, crafting a hybrid home- and handheld console with detachable controllers, offering an accessible co-op experience straight out of the box. Their desire to push boundaries and create fun new experiences remains their core focus, and they were intent on selling the Switch as a brand new console, a new way to play games, to avoid a repeat of the Wii U’s disastrous reveal in 2011.
However, my main takeaway from the presentation is that Nintendo still remains out of touch with the rest of the console market. There are a lot of exciting games in the pipeline, but a weak launch line-up, overpriced accessories, a rather questionable social interface, a lackluster paid online service requirement, and utterly laughable third-party support out of the gate, has me worried that the Switch may be just as successful (or unsuccessful) as the Wii U.
First, let’s go over what we know about the Switch so far.
The Nintendo Switch will launch on March 3rd at $299.99 USD. I knew that March was their confirmed release window, but never in a million years would I have predicted a release that early in the month.
There are only 2 different SKUs for the Switch; one with standard grey Joy-Cons and another with a neon red and blue Joy-Con set. Both are the same price.
The Nintendo Switch is not backwards compatible with physical Wii U and 3DS titles, as it only supports a “single screen experience.”
It will, however, be a region free console.
There’s still no word on whether or not the Switch will adopt an achievement or trophy system, similar to those found on Xbox and PlayStation platforms.
Although many interesting games were confirmed and shown in some capacity, like the absolutely fabulous looking Super Mario Odyssey, Splatoon 2, Xenoblade Chronicles 2, Octopath Traveler, Shin Megami Tensei, Fire Emblem Warriors, Snipperclips, Arms, Ultra Street Fighter II: The Final Challengers, Super Bomberman R, Puyo Puyo Tetris, Disgaea 5, I am Setsuna, Dragon Quest X, Dragon Quest XI, Dragon Quest Heroes 1+2, Sonic Mania, and Mario Kart 8 Deluxe (most of which was shown after the presentation), the day-one launch line-up is a disappointing ghost town.
Remember when the Nintendo 64 launched with just Mario 64 and Pilotwings? This is a similar situation, because at least one of these games looks incredible. However, Mario 64 was not available elsewhere. You had to by an N64 to play it. That’s not the case with Breath of the Wild.
Outside of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, which will simultaneously release on the Wii U, the Switch launch will consist of Just Dance 2017 (which released elsewhere in October last year), Skylanders Imaginators (which also released elsewhere last October), and the new IP mini-game extravaganza, 1, 2, Switch.
Yes, that’s 1 brand new game, 1 simultaneous Wii U release (which, of course, is one of their biggest console game releases in the last decade), and 2 games that will be nearly 6 months old on March 3rd. If you already own a Wii U for Breath of the Wild, what will entice casual consumers to flock to Switch at launch? Pretty much nothing.
I’m also baffled how the Switch has been in the works for so long, yet Nintendo doesn’t even have their own Wii U ports ready for launch. How is Mario Kart 8 Deluxe not a launch game? How is The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, a version of the game based on its 2011 release (not the new Special Edition with mod support) a Q4 release?
I am Setsuna, a game that’s been available on PS4 and PC since July 2016, is not a launch game. Rayman Legends, which released in 2013 (!!!), is not a launch game. LEGO City Undercover, another 2013 Wii U release, will not be a launch game on Switch, despite it being ported over.
What. in. the. fuck. is. going. on. at. Nintendo?
Did they push the release date solely to coincide with Breath of the Wild, in hopes that it’d be enough to drive early console sales? With Splatoon 2 being the next big release, would it have been smarter to hold off on the Switch release until they had more to offer?
Keep in mind I’m typing these questions after I’ve already pre-ordered my console, because holy shit I love The Legend of Zelda and I can’t wait to play all of those beautiful RPGs mentioned above. I can still be excited and loving while being a critical consumer.
Oh, and I forgot to mention that Switch games are reverting back to cartridges. Now that MicroSD is extremely affordable and offers considerably more storage than a BluRay disc, this is a pretty smart move by Nintendo. The overall case size seems to resemble the PSP, and the shown box art for most of the games looks really, really good. Like, really good. Really, really, really good. It’s good. Good stuff.
The Switch will not release with a bundled-in game, making it the only other Nintendo home console alongside the N64 to do so. In regards to why Nintendo has opted against including a pack-in game, Reggie Fils-Aime said in an interview with Gamespot “The first decision that we make is, where do we want to be in terms of the hardware price point that’s going to be approachable and hit the marketplace we want? And from a US price point, we wanted to be at $299.”
So basically there’s no pack-in game because it would have made the $299 launch price impossible. I find this a little hard to believe, as the Switch is not only less powerful than the Xbox One and PS4, but has considerably less internal storage space at 32gb (in comparison to the competitors’ standard 500gb storage).
This meager offering can be expanded using MicroSD cards to provide up to 256gb of additional storage. In terms of pricing, a 200gb SanDisk Ultra currently runs $65.60 on Amazon.
Sure, Switch is a hybrid console that can be un-docked and played on the go. However, the battery life will average between 2.5-6.5 hours, with larger games like The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild being more taxing and only averaging 3 hours on a full charge. At that point, Switch is not considered a dedicated handheld console set to replace the 3DS, but rather features an on-the-go option with limited battery life.
Is that hard to believe? It shouldn’t be, because Nintendo themselves have already gone on record confirming the statement.
In an interview with VentureBeat, Nintendo’s assistant manager of public relations, David Young, not only confirmed the Switch’s absence of Miiverse and StreetPass features, but confirmed that the Nintendo Switch is a home console first and foremost. It just happens to offer a way of playing it away from your television for a limited amount of time.
I’m not saying that the handheld feature isn’t appealing, as I’m sure I’ll be spending half of my time un-docked from the Switch, but Nintendo does not see this as a replacement for the 3DS. Reggie Fils-Amie went on record in an interview with Wired stating that the Switch and 3DS will co-exist side-by-side, rather than pushing Switch as the best of both worlds and an overall replacement to both aging consoles. That’s disheartening.
But I’ve gotten sidetracked a bit, and I apologize, so let’s jump back in to the issue with pricing and the Switch’s lack of a bundled-in game.
Included with the console is a pair of new Joy-Con controllers that can be attached to both sides of the display screen for handheld gaming, or on to a Joy-Con Grip to be used as the Switch’s default controller option. Speaking on their quality, Switch Player’s Megan Read tweeted from Nintendo’s UK event “the JoyCon are a delight to hold and use, both in and out of their holder. They feel expensive, which is fantastic.” However, their price is a concern for her.
The Switch’s Joy-Con controllers are confirmed to have HD rumble feedback that runs a bit deeper than their competitors; feeling ice cubes clank around in a glass was the example used in the presentation. These Joy-Cons are expensive on their own (which I’ll get in to further down), and can be removed from the Switch display to be used as both motion controllers, or as two separate mini controllers for multi-player gaming.
But from a casual consumer standpoint, you can purchase one of the other more powerful consoles for the same price (or even less) and they come bundled in with games. Unless the Switch costs considerably more to manufacture than meets the eye, the price point seems like an odd excuse for the absence of a pack-in title. Especially when some of the games on display seemed like the perfect inclusions that could do for the Switch what Wii Sports did for the Wii.
For example, 1, 2, Switch is a local multi-player game similar to the WarioWare series. Multiple players use separate Joy-Con controls to compete in a variety of weirdly interesting mini-games, like a quick draw duel, or milking a cow. This seems like an ideal way to introduce new players, both casual and dedicated, to the intricacies of the Joy-Con, but what’s on display is not a game I feel consumers are used to paying $50 USD for (the MSRP according to Best Buy’s pre-order page). It’s like paying full price for the Wii U’s NintendoLand, but without the Nintendo-themed fanfare.
Another area where Nintendo caught me off guard is in the Switch’s accessory pricing.
- Pro Controller – $69.99
- Additional Docking Station – $89.99
- Joy-Con set – $79.99
- Individual L or R Joy-Con – $49.99
- Joy-Con Charging Grip – $29.99
- Joy-Con Wheel Add-on – $19.99 for a set of 2
The Pro Controller does not feature a headphone jack, but does have an internal IR reader for amiibo support built in to the controller itself. It seems like the most comfortable option for long gaming sessions, and with better rumble technology and the IR reader, the $10 price hike over the competitors’ standard controllers is a little easier to swallow. Though still questionable.
The thought of buying an additional Docking Station to effortlessly relocate my gaming session from the office to the living room is an attractive one, but not for $90. Especially considering the Dock does nothing more than redirect the imaging from the Switch’s display screen to the TV via HDMI. The only reason Switch displays in 720p on the display itself is because that’s how it’s programmed. Makes sense, right? Once docked, the output becomes 1080p, should your HDTV support it. That’s it. For $90.
Although they technically act as two independent controllers for local multi-player gaming, $80 for a pair of Joy-Con (yes, Joy-Con is the official plural term) seems pretty absurd. They’re tiny, look extremely uncomfortable to hold by anyone with normal-sized hands, and are still $20 cheaper than buying Joy-Con individually.
What also has me worried is Nintendo’s approach to online gaming. Nothing is done internally through the Switch’s UI or OS, but rather through a smartphone app. Use of this app will be required to create parties with your friends, queue for games together, and as a means of voice chat. Not only that, but while Nintendo will offer free online gaming at launch, it will begin charging a monthly fee later this fall, similar to what Xbox and PlayStation already have going on.
Pricing hasn’t been discussed yet, but I can’t imagine this is going to go over well. Nintendo isn’t known for being the place to play games online, so charging for that experience (and its unknown stability) has me cautious.
This means, not only will consumers be paying for their cellphone bill, their internet service, their Switch console, and their game, but also paying Nintendo to play it online with friends… and not even doing so through the Switch, but through a smartphone app.
Similar to Xbox and PlayStation, Nintendo has confirmed that they will be offering incentive games to go along with the subscription fee. However, rather than offering anything modern, they will grant access to a single NES or SNES game through the virtual console for one month. You don’t get to keep the game as long as you subscribe, like you do through PS Plus and Xbox Live Gold, but instead lose access entirely after its month is up.
Nintendo has absolutely no idea how the internet works. They already have the smallest online player-base of the current three console manufacturers, and they’re going to alienate even more users by charging to play games online with their friends. I get that this is commonplace on Xbox One and PS4, but their services are already more attractive (in terms of incentive games and sheer size of their playerbase) and offer these same exact features within their console’s operating system and UI.
Overall, I’m left with more questions than answers. It’s clear that Nintendo doesn’t see itself as a competitor or view PlayStation and Xbox as competition, and that’s bad news. Nintendo makes incredible games, there’s no doubt about that, but the Switch needs third-party support to supplement the eventual Nintendo exclusives.
I don’t see the Switch being attractive to bigger developers and publishers outside of Japan, despite titles like FIFA Switch and NBA 2K18 being confirmed for the console. It’s not as powerful as the Xbox One and PS4, now three years-old, and offers considerably less storage space for digital purchases, which is becoming more common within the console marketplace.
There are other concerns that weren’t addressed in the presentation at all.
To keep third parties around, Nintendo needs to make it quicker and easier for developers and publishers to issue updates to their games, create a better online marketplace that’s easier to navigate and discover new games, and continue to manufacture enough consoles to meet consumer demand.
I’d also like to know how they’re going to approach the virtual console this time around. I’m certainly hoping that I won’t have to pay (again) to transfer the ownership of my current purchases over to the games that will be supported on Switch. I also hope Nintendo makes a stronger push on the Switch’s virtual console than they did on the Wii U, which was fucking abysmal.
I remain cautious, yet slightly optimistic concerning the Switch’s future. On one hand, Nintendo displays innovation and creativity like none other, offering games and experiences that you can only find on the Switch. On the other, their accessory pricing, paid online service, weak launch line-up, and seemingly paltry third-party support shown thus far isn’t exactly promising.
The Wii U proved that unclear messaging can damage a console for its entire lifepan; a sentiment echoed currently by the Xbox One. The Wii U also proved that a console cannot survive off of Nintendo alone. They need help in the form of third parties and they need to do whatever is necessary to not only entice publishers to give the Switch a chance, but to remain there for the next 5 years.
Will the Switch elevate Nintendo back to the top of their game? That remains to be seen. But there’s clearly a lot of promise and potential buried underneath all of the questionable announcements thus far, and we’ll just have to wait and see how Nintendo manages to adapt on the fly.
I sit here in my office typing this editorial surrounded by Nintendo collectibles, consoles, and games, wearing a Ganon t-shirt, and revealing two Nintendo-themed tattoos that are permanently inked on to my fleshy exterior. I want Nintendo to succeed. I love them, and I’ll always love them, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t worried about their future.
I’m fortunate enough to own a PlayStation 4 and an Xbox One, so I’m never at a loss for things to play. For families and casual consumers who seldom buy a new gaming console, I’m not sure the Switch is attractive enough to warrant a purchase over the competition, at least not right away.
However, I do feel the Switch is the right move for Nintendo; or rather it can be the right move if they address its concerns after release, similar to the Xbox One. They’re manufacturing something innovative and very Nintendo-like, rather than releasing a standard console that’s on equal footing with their competition (a term they should get used to using sooner, rather than later).
I’m okay with the Switch being my “Nintendo box” that I go back to whenever a new exclusive releases, but I’d love to make a Nintendo console my primary home for gaming. And that’s just not happening without third-party support.
What are your thoughts on the Switch? Have you pre-ordered yours already?