Nintendo Switch: Thoughts and Concerns

Nintendo’s new games console, the Nintendo Switch has been attracting some serious buzz in the media, but does this hybrid device have the potential to succeed in an already crowded gaming market? For better or for worse, Nintendo has always enjoyed putting gimmicks and unique features on their consoles, and the Switch’s ability to detach from its TV dock and be taken on the go sets it apart from just about every other device on the market right now.

The switch has received criticism for being underpowered and overpriced, but Nintendo seems to have learned some lessons from its previous offering, the Wii U, which floundered due to bad marketing and an overreliance on an expensive, underused gimmick. With the Switch, Nintendo seems to have clearly set forward WHAT the console is and what it does. If media buzz alone is anything to go by, a lot of people are going to end up buying this thing, but there are a number of issues that could potentially stand in the way of the Switch’s continued success. First, I should acknowledge my Bias: I love Nintendo. I’ve always maintained that the best course of action for the consumer is to own a high-end PC and to get a Nintendo console for local, on-the-couch multiplayer. In my opinion, nothing beats Mario Kart and Smash Brothers for a nice couple of hours on the couch with some old friends.

In my opinion, making the Switch a hybrid console was a smart decision on Nintendo’s behalf. Tablets are awful for gaming, so creating a device in a similar form factor with physical controls allows it to fill a pretty empty niche in the market. Its multiple form factors and ways to play give it wide appeal, making it easily adaptable for casual and hardcore audiences alike. Its 3-6 hour battery is a little on the low side, but the fact that it has USB-C charging means you can just buy a cheap battery pack and extend its life by hours. The Joy-Cons are pricey, but they’re loaded with some pretty cutting-edge haptic feedback that can simulate a wide range of physical sensations – something game developers have already been getting excited about. The Switch really combines the best of both worlds for Nintendo, with the Switch, it looks like they’ve created a solid handheld that can play epic games on the go, that seamlessly docks with your TV for a familiar console experience. Sure, it’s a little underpowered – but the games look GOOD, and the best place to play them will be on the Switch.

Speaking of the Games, the Switch isn’t going to launch with very many of them. Zelda Breath of the Wild looks amazing, but there’s not much else on the same scope launching alongside it on the Switch – Snipperclips, a co-op puzzle game looks fun, but it doesn’t quite have the draw of Zelda. Thankfully, despite a semi-weak launch lineup, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe will be coming out around April – this was a great game on the Wii U, which will be coming out with all the DLC add-on content and the ability to play it on the bus. Further down the line is also Arms, which takes advantage of the JoyCons’ motion tracking abilities which, according to early reports, are surprisingly good. After that comes Splatoon 2 and a new Mario Game, which are already looking great.

Nintendo have made a smart decision by engineering the Switch to be open – it includes support for both the Unreal and Unity game engines, which means that several games that are already on PCs, Consoles and Phones can be ported to the Switch with minimal effort, so we might be seeing games like Kerbal Space Program and Rocket League on the Switch sooner than you think. $300 (£279.99, ¥29,980, ~€350) is a reasonable price for this device, but a little more expensive than a lot of people (myself included) were hoping for. Spare controllers are sticker-shock inducingly priced, but Nintendo have crammed the little controllers with more features than a lot of people expected. The fact that the system basically ships with 2 mini controllers is a pretty neat selling point.

Like I said before, the JoyCon controllers are expensive, but the extra features Nintendo’s crammed into them make the price a bit more palatable – as does the fact that they can function as 2 mini-controllers as well. The game prices are pretty standard, ranging from sub-20 dollars for e-shop downloads and up to 60 for the AAA games. However, the fact that the system doesn’t come with a game included makes the system considerably more expensive to buy, and the closest thing the Switch has to a Wii Sports is 1-2 Switch, which is priced at an expensive $50.

Oh yeah, there’s one more thing you have to pay for… The Switch’s online service is paid, but pretty reasonably priced at about $30 a year. However- Nintendo’s online support has been pretty poor historically, and the fact that you apparently need a smartphone app to use voice chat seems… disappointingly out of touch. Like XBox Live and the PlayStation Network, Nintendo has decided to offer some perks with the service, but you get an NES or SNES game that you get to play for a month before you have to buy it. But, Nintendo is Nintendo. They occupy a special place in the home console market BECAUSE they refuse to follow industry conventions that are accepted as givens by some of the other players. Also, what might seem like obtuse design choices to hardcore gamers are pretty attractive to parents, who are still a hugely important target demographic for this console to be successful – and I think this thing is gonna end up under a lot of tress this Christmas.

Nintendo is striking something of a niche market that lies somewhere in between handhelds, like the 3DS and PlayStation Vita and Tablets – its big screen and modular design set it apart from the former, but its lower price, and lack of support for services like Netflix, not to mention a Web Browser at launch set it apart from Tablets. This is explicitly a device for gaming. An iPad might be a more technically powerful device, but the Switch has better games (not to mention physical controls) – it has Zelda. It has Mario Kart. It’ll have Pokemon. And people are talking about it – way more than they were with the Wii U, which people just thought was a new controller for the Wii (Good Job Nintendo). The Switch might feel a bit bare at launch, but with time I think this thing might really be worth getting. I don’t think there will be a portable gaming system as good as this for a while – sure, Sony might put out a competitor with better graphics and more features, but Nintendo consoles have always felt well-designed.

They have a lot of polish, unparalleled ease of use, and the most fun games out of any system. That doesn’t look likely to change with the Switch.

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