The Nintendo Switch is Nintendo at its best and its worst
Last night, Nintendo at long last revealed some of the most important details of its seventh major home console release, the Nintendo Switch. The presentation included the new system’s price, a closer look at the way the console can be played, some of the games coming to the system, and its release date.
And now that we now some firm details, it shows that the Switch is Nintendo at its best – and its worst.
The Best of the Switch: The Switch itself
The Switch presentation showed what we already knew – the Switch is a hybrid console, designed for versatility. You can play it on a TV with a standard controller like a traditional console, you can use it like a handheld system, and you can combine the two by having multiple people with Switches playing locally or online with others on the go or at home. It is the best of all worlds, with functionality that can make it like the Wii, portability that can make it like a Nintendo 3DS, and simplicity that makes it like a standard console.
It is the best of all worlds, with functionality that can make it like the Wii, portability that can make it like a Nintendo 3DS, and simplicity that makes it like a standard console.
Whatever else you think of Nintendo, you have to give them a huge amount of credit for trying something new. While Microsoft and Sony are locked in a cycle of trying to outdo each other with more powerful hardware, Nintendo decided to go in another direction. It looked at what people want, and it built on that.
Nintendo didn’t even bother to release the hardware specs because it didn’t have to. There’s nothing else like it on the market. Even if you are a traditional console gamer, who wouldn’t want to play a game at home, then just pick it up and take it with you on the go? Others have tried it (anyone remember the PS Vita promise of cross play?), but Nintendo actually made it work.
The Worst of the Switch: The price(s)
Nintendo has always stuck by its pricing principles when it comes to new hardware. Unlike its rivals, it doesn’t take a loss on new hardware, but it uses less powerful components so it can keep the cost below that of its competitors (or on par, at least). In other words, you expect a decent price from Nintendo, although not necessarily a cheap one.
With that said, the costs associated with the Switch quickly add up. Pricing the Switch bundle at $300 – the same as the much more powerful PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, which are also blu-ray players, media platforms, etc. – is a little painful ($250 would have been significantly more appealing). Still, that isn’t all that surprising and it isn’t in itself a deal breaker. The peripherals, however, are another story.
The Switch bundle comes with the following:
The system will include the main console, Joy-Con (L) and Joy-Con (R) controllers, a Joy-Con grip (to which two Joy-Con are attached and used as one controller), a set of Joy-Con wrist straps, a Nintendo Switch dock (which holds the main console and connects it to a TV), an HDMI cable and an AC adapter. Two stylish versions of the system will be released: a version with a set of gray Joy-Con, and a version with one neon blue and one neon red Joy-Con. Both versions will be the same price.
That’s a respectable bundle, but Nintendo is really pushing the idea that you can use up to eight Joy-Cons on one unit. That means you’ll have to buy them separately, and they aren’t cheap. Each individual Joy-Con is $50, but the right controller is the only one with an IR sensor. If you want to buy a set, it will cost you $80.
That’s pricey, but so are most controllers, so maybe it’s understandable. It’s also not the only peripheral though. Not even close.
One of the things that makes the Switch so unique is that it is modular. It makes sense to purchase multiple pieces of the system, including things like a secondary dock. That would allow you to take the Switch from one dock, play on the go, then reconnect to another dock elsewhere. It’s $90.
If you want the Switch Pro Controller, the traditional style of controller, it costs $70. If you want an additional Charging Grip – the piece that connects two Joy-Cons into one controller and can charge them – it will run $30. Nintendo also sells a set of two wheels for $15, although they are totally optional.
On top of it all, for the first time ever, Nintendo is going to charge a fee for you to connect online for multiplayer. It didn’t reveal how much it will be, but PlayStation Plus and Xbox Live are both $60, so that seems like a logical price for Nintendo.
While a lot of these costs are optional, Nintendo is marketing them all as nearly essential if you really want to get the most out of the Switch. For a system presented as a high-tech toy, that’s a hefty price tag.
The Best of the Switch: The games
The Switch presentation had a few intriguing titles, including Arms, the Switch exclusive 1-2-Switch, and third party ports like Steep. But those all pale in comparison next to Nintendo’s first-party titles announced for the Switch: The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and Super Mario Odyssey.
Both titles are potentially system sellers. Breath of the Wild has been on pretty much every “most anticipated” gaming list in existence for a while now. It’s a Zelda game, it’s made for a new console (although it was originally developed for the Wii U and will also release on that system), and the early looks have been stunning. If anyone buys a Switch and doesn’t buy Breath of the Wild, it’s fair to worry about them.
Nintendo also revealed its next Super Mario game, Super Mario Odyssey. It’s not even remotely surprising that Nintendo has a new Mario game on the way, nor is it surprising that it is ready to show off for the Switch (even if it won’t come out until “Holiday 2017”). What is surprising is how good it looks.
The new Mario is partially set in the real world. It offers some open world, sandbox gameplay, and it features all the jumping puzzles you could ever hope from a Zelda game. A new Nintendo system deserves a new Mario, and Odyssey is enough to sell several Switches.
The Worst of the Switch: The games
While Zelda and Super Mario Odyssey both looked like they could win over skeptics, the rest of the Switch’s launch library is anemic.
At the moment, there are only four launch titles confirmed for the system’s launch day: 1-2-Switch, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Skylanders Imaginators, and Just Dance 2017. Six more are confirmed during the “launch window,” including Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, Splatoon 2, and Super Bomberman R. More will hopefully be added to that list, but with the console just seven weeks away, that isn’t a great lineup.
So far there are just under 40 games unofficially expected for the Switch, but only 21 are scheduled for 2017 (that number may go up), and only a few of them are what you’d consider a major release. Plus, only five are console exclusives.
Where are the legendary Nintendo titles? Where’s a new Kid Icarus? Why haven’t we seen a new Metroid in years? What’s the latest on Donkey Kong?
These franchises may all be on the way, but Nintendo is in a hole thanks to the Wii U, and an impressive launch packed full of proven franchises with a healthy foundation of nostalgia would have made a much bigger splash than yet another port of Shovel Knight and Minecraft: Story Mode.
For the Switch to succeed and avoid the same problems that the Wii U faced, it desperately needs third-party support. It would be cool to play the Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim on the go, but technically that game is more than five years old (not counting the recent remaster). FIFA is also a good addition to the library, but it won’t make people go buy the Switch. Both also raise the question of how much support Nintendo can expect.
The Switch does offer expandable storage, something that we’ve repeatedly pointed out was a major failing of the Wii U. Developers and publishers love DLC. It requires much lest of an investment than a full game, and it can be incredibly lucrative. The Wii U didn’t have enough storage to allow any DLC, which was a huge turn off for devs (and not the only one).
The onus is on Nintendo to prove that it can build a library for the Switch that will appeal to all gamers. It might be able to do that, but it won’t be at launch.
The Best of Nintendo and Worst of the Switch: The release date
On one hand, Nintendo’s March 3 release date is brilliant. It’s coming at a time where there traditionally aren’t a lot of major releases. It also won’t be competing with Microsoft and Sony’s marketing machines like it would if it released during the holiday season. It owns the gaming news cycle at the moment, and it probably won’t let go of that attention until after the system is released.
On the other hand, it is coming out in March.
There’s a reason that consoles tend to drop right before the holidays, and getting them under Christmas trees is just one part of it. People tend to have more disposable cash at the end of the year. Maybe they have been saving all year, maybe they budgeted extra for the holidays, but March isn’t traditionally a huge month for commerce. In the U.S., for kids it is right around Spring Break – a time of year families that do have an extra $300 or so tend to use it for a vacation – while for adults it is nearing tax day.
The Switch will also face a little stiffer competition than it may have initially planned on, with Mass Effect: Andromeda headlining a slate of high-profile PS4 and Xbox One releases, that also included Tom Clancy Ghost Recon Wildlands, Star Trek: Bridge Crew, and two Kingdom Hearts HD remixes. April, by comparison, is wide open at the moment. The release will also coincide with GDC 2017, which means that the Switch will be competing for headlines against a dozen other stories. It should still be the biggest story, but it won’t own the spotlight like it might a week or two later.
It’s also just an odd time of year to release a console, and it’s hard not to wonder if the Wii U’s dismal performance forced Nintendo to move up its timetable (even more than it already had) in order to hit a specific quarter.
Nintendo’s fiscal year matches the calendar, so having the Switch on shelves during its Q1 would probably make investors happy – especially if it’s a hit. If it isn’t, the company can change tactics, lower the price, offer bundles, and do one of a dozen other things to increase sales leading up to Q4. It also has E3 and the Tokyo Game Show to make announcements on upcoming games, which could further spur sales.
It makes sense on paper. Whether or not it makes sense to consumers is another question entirely.
Nintendo is accepting pre-orders now. You can check out the presentation below for yourself (skip to the 15 minute mark), then look for the Switch on March 3, 2017.