It’s Dae here! I promised to write up a bit on my opinion on the Switch reveal, but it turned out to be longer than I expected. Therefore I’ll take this opportunity to publish my first article in a couple of years. Enjoy!
Let’s get the conference out of the way first; it was a poor showing. Live shows are usually a hit or a miss and this one was definitely a miss. Awkward, stiff translations as well as weird presentation of games and holding out on information that would entice customers are among my major gripes. The nice thing is that the Zelda trailer was absolutely amazing and Mario and Xenoblade 2 had a good showings too. But Zelda shouldn’t have been the final ‘one more thing’ surprise, everybody expected it to be a launch title already. Rather, I’d have liked a Metroid tease or something along those lines as a finisher for the show.
The lack of distinct games was also apparent. I guess they didn’t want to show games that weren’t prepared for release, but it didn’t show any confidence that they could produce a steady lineup of games for the Switch. People fear a repeat of the Wii U now, and that could really damage the sales of the console. I also wonder what makes the games so sparse at launch. Nintendo hasn’t released a lot of games in the past two years so I would have assumed they were working on new ones. If that isn’t the case, what were they doing all the time? I guess we’ll have to take a wait and see approach here and time will tell if they announce more games.
The games that have been announced do look pretty good though. Zelda is, of course, breathtaking and had one of the best trailers for a game I’ve ever seen. It really hit all the marks on a checklist of ‘how to make the perfect trailer’. Odyssey looks refreshing and can set itself apart from Galaxy so it won’t have the trouble of being compared to its shadow. The real life city may feel a bit uncanny valley, but I actually like the effect it brings out and luckily there’s a whole slew of different environments. Really looking forward to a more sandbox-style Mario again after the more linear games we’ve had in the past ten years. Splatoon 2 looks fresh, although it looks more like an upgraded port instead of a actual sequel, but then again what is a shooter sequel actually? You can’t innovate a lot except for new weapons, new maps, new strategies and a better online infrastructure. I don’t know if it was confirmed or denied, but I hope for online co-op possibility. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is also more of a luxury port, but the base game was great and this one will still be lots of fun for parties. I liked the new style of Xenoblade 2 too; it’s a bit different from the previous two but that’s OK in my opinion. Looking forward to hear about those games. 1 2 Switch looks like a fun mini-game collection, but I understand people saying they wanted this to be a pack in title. I don’t expect many people to cough up $50 for it, and I do believe they should have made it a $30 game, but I wouldn’t count on Nintendo rethinking it as a pack-in. I feel like they want to give the impression of it being a top-quality title.
The Switch will launch with only a couple of games, the sparsest it’s ever been for a launch of a console. I think there are a couple of reasons for this. First, you have Nintendo releasing Zelda: BotW. Most who picks up a Switch will pick up Zelda too. That makes for a tough competition from the get-go and games like Skyrim really could suffer from it. That’s why I think some high profile games got delayed last minute when they heard Zelda was making launch. And on the third party side, there a few ports of older games. But then I think, who buys all those ports anyway? Yes, they can make the ports and show ‘confidence’ in the Switch, but neither customers want old ports of uninteresting games they already bought and the publisher won’t make their money back too. It’s sadly a bit of self fulfilling prophecy, as few ports don’t entice customers to buy the console which leads to even fewer ports. But the Switch will all-in-all be a Nintendo and Japanese gaming system, and we just have to have faith in the usual companies to bring over their franchises. In this way I see Switch more as 3DS, with it getting the 3DS like library. With this I mean stuff like Phoenix Wright, Zero Escape… To be successful I think Nintendo just have to push through with being an alternative system, there’s no point to go compete with PS4 and XB1 without bringing some new stuff on the table.
And that brings me to the hardware. I haven’t used the actual hardware itself, but I read many positive impressions. The build quality is great and the looks are top notch. I even find it to have a bit of ‘sex-appeal’. If you search for direct comparison shots between the Switch and Wii U Gamepad, you’ll realize how bad the Gamepad looked and feel like it was made by Fisher-Price. But they did a great job with the Switch. The concept is appealing, and can be demonstrated easily to someone unfamiliar with the console. As a power engineer with some electronics background, I can also tell from all the technical stuff I read that this is the best console they could have built. The processor and graphics card is the most modern one that can power the console for continuous use. Processors in a iPhone 7 or upcoming Galaxy S8 may be faster, but they clock down due to power and heat concerns. The battery is also rather large and takes up a lot of space already, so saying they skimped out on battery is untrue. The battery life might not be a lot, but it’s actually comparable to phones running at 100% load. They also use a lot of modern application like USB C fast charging, Wifi AC, multitouch… Maybe you don’t believe it, but it’s really an impressive piece of tech that is competitive with stuff released today.
We can’t forget about the best parts of the console too: the Joy-Cons. I feel like they are the heart of the console, they are so well designed that the concept of the Switch really shines. Some vendors do have some detachable controllers for a generic tablet, but the from factor, build quality and ease of use are so far ahead that you can really see the ‘Nintendo magic’. Switching (haha, get it?) between docked, portable and table mode is so easy that it gets this wow factor when showing it off to friends. Being able to share a Joy-Con for two players is also nice, even though it doesn’t seem to be the most comfortable thing. But I can assure you, I can pop out my Switch and have some great fun with friends playing Mario Kart 8. The HD Rumble works well too apparently, and I think Nintendo can find some good applications for its use in games. Having some motions controls built in while functioning as traditional controllers is what makes this console combine the best of both worlds. A 20 hour battery life isn’t too shabby either, and you can easily recharge the battery when you dock the console.
This all reflects on the price too, which is indeed a bit expensive. $80 for a pair of Joy-Cons is steep, and far above a regular PS4 or Xbox One controller. Yes, you technically get two, but you’ll be buying them in pairs, because who wants a single lonely Joy-Con? I suspect many games to require a pair of Joy-Cons too, even though I don’t know if it’s possible to connect four pairs of Joy-Con if some game featured four player local multiplayer (Smash Bros?). They feature lots of tech and game companies always want to make money on accesories, but I think it would have been better if they priced it $10 to $15 lowers to reduce the sticker shock effect. The other accessories are expensive too, the Pro Controller is the definitive controller for couch gaming, but it comes with a definitive price as well. Buying extra Joy-Cons don’t even give the same colour straps, which can be bought for $8 seperately. And if you want an extra grip and be able to charge your controllers, which you can’t do with the included grip, it’ll cost you an extra $30. Granted, including it in the box would have upped the box price with another $15. If you want a ‘starters pack’ for new Switch users, you can feel nickel-and-dimed due to the high accessory costs. I wish Nintendo can first address those prices if it seems that it is a barrier to entry.
As for the box itself, I feel the $299 is still a fair price. Based on what I read, I already expected that $249 would be a tough target to reach. $299 is actually reasonable if you know what’s inside and how much things cost in manufacturing, R&D costs, distribution, retail and not to mention bad exchange rate and taxes in Europe. I believe that Nintendo still makes less profit in Europe per console sold, since people always forget that doing business in general is more expensive here due to wages, business taxes and buildings. The real question is actually value sided. It’s not: ‘Is this a fair price to charge’, but: ‘Do I feel like this is a fair price to me’. Nintendo will have to do a good job in selling value to the consumer and needs a clear messaging what it’s actually selling. In that I feel that a comparison with PS4 and generic tablets is not the way to go. Yes, the PS4 is comparable in price and more powerful, but as long as the Switch offers distinctly different features, people may still get enticed to buy. We’ll see if this works out, but I’m not the one who is calling this out as a flop already.
As for myself, I still believe in the Switch and even did save up enough the past two years to go on a crazy shopping splurge. I pre-ordered the Grey console, got the Pro Controllers, the Red/Blue Joy-Cons, the Charging Grip and an extra case. I really felt like that at some point in the future, I would have bought it anyway to play my favorite Nintendo games and therefore it doesn’t matter to me if I buy it sooner. I also want the definitive edition of Zelda, and being able to transport it between my dorm and home is a really big plus to me. I really look forward to most of the first party games that are announced, even though not many details have come out already. The conference damped my enthusiasm a bit, but I think it will be on full fire again closer to March 3rd. I’ll do a technical review of the Switch in six weeks when I get my hands on one, so look forward to reading it here!
This thing has gotten really long now, and I didn’t even touch on all the aspects of the Switch, but I need to wrap up here. If you’d like to have my opinion on an untouched subject, just ask in the comments. I’ll still check them regularly, even though I may not be an active writer anymore 🙂 I’d love to hear your opinion on the Switch too. Are you buying at launch? Holding out a bit? Or have even become uninterested? What do you think of the price? What games can entice you to buy? Tell me in the comments!
Enjoy and you’ll hear back from me when I get my Switch!