I’m not sure if I can really call myself a Nintendo fan at the moment. The me of the past was certainly a Nintendo fan, and I still love all of my Nintendo games. My opinion of the company is a little different though; deteriorating further and further with each passing year until they became a little more than a joke in my eyes. I don’t want to dislike them. I was really hoping I’d see something incredible at their recent Switch presentation. I wanted to see something that would bring them back from the brink and show me a hint of the games maker they used to be. Instead, all I got was the same thing I’ve been getting from Nintendo for at least 6 years now: disappointment.
Let me just preface this by saying that I don’t want to see the Switch fail. It’s actually quite the opposite. I’ve been waiting and hoping to see Nintendo pull itself out of its console nose-dive for these last 6 years, and the Switch may very well do just that. For all I know, the Switch will be wildly successful and we’ll all be able to enjoy fun games and cool hardware from Nintendo for years to come. Right now though, I just don’t see that as being very likely.
The aspect of the Switch that seems to have most people up in arms are the prices of its various accessories: $70 for a Pro controller, $50 each for extra Joy-Cons, $90 for and extra dock. Those prices certainly are steep and they’re definitely and issue, but I feel that the larger problem lies with what Nintendo is actually offering with this system. First and foremost, where are the games? In the months leading up to the Switch’s reveal, we were told repeatedly that the Switch (then the “NX”) would have many desirable games at launch. Nintendo President Tatsumi Kimishima even promised “a solid lineup of software“. So where are the games? Sure they’ve got The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, but it’s debatable whether or not it’ll be system seller (especially with the Wii U version selling at $40 to the Switch version’s $60). Beyond that, it’ll have the 1-2 Switch tech demo available for $50, Just Dance 2017, Super Bomberman R, and a Skylanders game available for launch…and that’s it. This is all they could muster for a console which they absolutely need to succeed? One mildly interesting game, a tech demo, 2 games only a few people will care to buy and a shaky killer app? It’s not a lineup that inspires much confidence, not to mention that two of the other major games announced for the console a the almost 6-years-old Skyrim and the 3-year-old Mario Kart 8, both of which are being sold for full price. Still, if a weak launch library was the system’s only issue, then I’d still be hopeful. Unfortunately, it’s only the most prominent one.
Nintendo has created at least two more hurdles for the Switch to clear: a weak paid online service and the inherent shortcomings of a hybrid system. Of the two, the online service is the most mind-boggling since it should not be an issue at this point. Nintendo has had 10 years to learn from both the success of their competitors and the failures of their own online offerings. It appears as though they’ve refused to learn anything though. They could have studied what Sony and Microsoft have done with their services and offered us something that we’d really want to be a part of, something that we wouldn’t mind paying money for. It wouldn’t even be that hard. After all, they’ve got literal decades of games they could offer as part of some sort of free monthly game program, and Miiverse is a genuinely fun and interesting online social offering. So what do they do? They tell us that we’re going to have to pay for online access, scrap Miiverse, and in return we can have privilege of borrowing a single ROM version of a classic Nintendo game for all of one month. That’s it. It’s baffling! Nintendo is in a position to offer the best, most valuable online service out there and instead they decide to trot out something that is absolutely worse than their competition. What could have been a major asset to their new system is instead going to be a liability, and that just…sad. This is especially true for a system with built-in limitations.
By going for a hybrid experience, Nintendo has probably crafted their coolest hardware yet. However who exactly is this hybrid system for? It’s not really for home console gamers; it’s severely limited storage space and under-powered hardware have made that clear. It’s not really for mobile gamers either though, as its paltry battery life will ensure that players never take it too far away from its dock. This is something that will barely last long enough for a single flight, not to mention a long drive or a day at a convention. Its ability to quickly and easily set up local multiplayer is commendable and a genuinely attractive feature. Its something I would love to have with me at a show like PAX where there are plenty of people to play with while waiting in line. However, that’s undermined by everything else about it. So again, who is this for and why did it need to be a hybrid experience in the first place?
Again, despite all this I do genuinely want to see the Switch, and by extension Nintendo, succeed. I want to see Nintendo stick with it through what will almost certainly be a tough launch year and really bring the games in 2018. I want to see them release new improved versions that will improve its storage and portability, and I want to see them seriously reconsider their online service and make it the incredible thing I know it can be. With this system, Nintendo really can get back on track. I know they can do it. All they’d have to do is try. Unfortunately though, making an effort just hasn’t been a very Nintendo thing to do these past few years.
What do you think of the Switch? Are you excited for it? If not, what do you see as the biggest problems facing it?
Lede image is official promotional art