Last week, we got our first proper introduction to the Nintendo Switch, a handheld/console hybrid that seemed to be heading in the right direction; its debut trailer in October had me hoping. Now, after an awkward, confusing mess of a conference, and a slew of harrowing announcements after-the-fact, I believe that Nintendo has reached its second minute to midnight. The company has leant nothing from the mistakes of the Wii U, and thus will not survive with the Switch, in the console market, or after this generation. What signs brought this assertion about, you may ask. The squid scientist and the master of puppets man at the conference were dead giveaways, but a more concerning list of points is necessary to hypothesise the Switch’s demise.
Zelda Doesn’t Look That Special
While many may consider The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild to be the second coming, I worry about its drawn-out development, and the impact that may have upon an obviously pushed-back open-world game in a market flooded with competitors. Initially conceived as a Wii U-only title, Zelda has been on the backburner for quite some time, giving its development team little leeway to make changes in order to modernise it. As an example of this, last E3, a demo was showcased that featured climbing, exploration, and – hold onto your balls – cooking. Fallout 4 had a similar problem, and was laden with features that felt obtuse or archaic when compared with 2015’s other open-world offerings.
I can make a soup in Zelda? I could do that in Skyrim 5 years ago, but more on that later.
Not only are its mechanics and foggy art style points of contention, but its retail price, £59.99, is far above the price of the Wii U version at £40, making this current-gen product far less appealing than its older counterpart.
Mario is Too Far Away, and First-Party Titles are too Scarce
Super Mario Odyssey may look… odd, with the main man’s cartoonish style not quite fitting in amongst the real-life citizens and buildings of New York, but its gameplay will probably be no less than sublime. The problem with this game is its distance from the release of the system itself.
Slated to come out in the fall, that will be around six or seven months without a huge first-party title. Not only that, the filler first-party releases are focusing on gimmicks, rather than the Switch’s main selling point: its portability and its many ways to play. Instead of having a multitude of console-quality games on the go, Nintendo is to release 1-2-Switch and Arms, at launch and shortly after. These can only be described as motion-control nonsense, and indicate that the company has learnt nothing from its forays into the party game/casual genre last generation. Being able to feel the movement of ice cubes through a rumble controller is something I’d expect to see scrawled in shit on design documents from actual mental patients; no one wants to milk a virtual cow with motions reminiscent of hardcore masturbation, either.
The wait between Zelda and Mario, and whatever may come after that, is going to be very long indeed.
The Console is Artificially Scarce Itself
To put this ridiculous scenario into context, I’ll share an anecdote from my previous experience with other consoles. The PlayStation 4 was announced in February 2013, it was priced in August 2013 at £349, and at that time I preordered the console promptly. For the Nintendo Switch, preorders were sold out the day of its full reveal, six weeks before release, on Amazon and at most American retailers.
A contact at EB Games stated to Power Up Gaming over the phone, after being asked if they are going to receive Nintendo Switches in store, “We’re not getting any consoles in store until a later date. How much later however, nobody knows. We still haven’t received any NES Classics.”
In 2017, console, or any other game-related scarcity, should not be a thing. Nintendo, in its own, twisted sense of self-worth, has used this facet of its business strategy for years to drive up interest. Well, perhaps giving consumers more options and less stress with regards to their purchasing decisions would go a long way in alleviating any bad feelings towards the company. This time, however, that isn’t the case.
Third-Party Faith is Lacking
Third-party support for Nintendo consoles has been abysmal for years, but now, the lack of outsider developers making games for the Switch has fallen even lower. It seems like companies that were once faithful to Nintendo through the dark times, Ubisoft in particular, is no longer taking them seriously.
Ubisoft is releasing a port of Rayman Legends, a game from 2013; EA is giving them Fifa, after providing the Wii U with Mass Effect 3 in 2013. Skyrim is the only real boon for the Switch. Having a huge world to explore on the go is an interesting prospect, but still, that game ran out of steam for many players five full years ago.
It seems that these developers are giving Nintendo meagre offerings as a test to see if the console can deliver the results that the Wii U never could. This is a catch 22, however, as you need hungry developers taking a chance on your system in order produce more games, and therefore interest.
Without games, there will be no intrigue, resulting a similar dearth of life on the Switch.
There is a Huge Pricing Discrepancy Between Regions
The price of the console is fair enough, but the huge discrepancy between regions is shocking. In the US, it stands at $299.99, but in the UK, it’s £280, a noticeably slight decrease; a quick Google search will put the pound equivalent at around £250. The price is even more harrowing in Australia and Canada, with it being $469.95 AUD and $399.99 CAD respectively.
If those prices don’t send the willies up you, the audacity of the Switch’s standalone peripherals surely will. A pro controller will set you back $69.99, almost $20 more than the controllers of its PlayStation and Xbox competitors; Joy Con controllers will cost $79.99 for a pair, or $49.99 individually. That’s $50 for half of a controller, which is absolutely scandalous, audacious and downright nonsensical.
Scaring away possible buyers with ridiculous price points is another sure-fire way to send your newest console the way of the Wii U, a system that still has not received an official price drop since its release in 2012.
$250 for a Fisher Price tablet? No sale.
The Online Platform Already Seems Ridiculous
Nintendo is going to charge for the use of its online programme, after a brief trial period where everyone will be able to use it for free. This may seem like a kind gesture but, to be honest, it’s probably because there’s nothing truly compelling in the Switch’s launch window to actually play online.
Furthermore, Nintendo is going to allow users to download one NES/SNES game for free each month. Another nice touch, but one that is stymied by the fact that you’re going to have to buy it after that month trial period ends. Charging users on top of online fees for the use of tiny ROM files that can be played on any PC or any other Nintendo console? This makes me want to laugh and laugh until I burst.
The Use of a Mobile App for Online Functionality is Counter-Intuitive
Hello there. Welcome to 2017. A place that requires you to use a paid mobile app to operate the online functionality on your Nintendo Switch console: the app will be used for both voice chat and matchmaking. To put this into context, the original Xbox had the option for voice chat in the early 2000s; the PlayStation Vita could do just the same, and that’s a handheld that has just become this year’s most fashionable paperweight.
Reggie Fils-Aime has justified this mobile app usage through one of the most ridiculous explanations I’ve ever heard. He has stated that it will be useful because everyone has both headphones and a Smartphone on them at all times. You know what else everyone is going to have on them at all times when playing their Nintendo Switch? The Nintendo Switch, a system that should therefore be used for voice chat and online functionality, not a separate, paid app.
Sometimes, even the ridiculousness of Nintendo’s easily confounded explanations outweighs the ridiculousness of their products.
The Launch Lineup is Not Compelling Enough
As it stands, the launch lineup is as follows: The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, 1-2-Switch, The Binding of Issac: Afterbirth + (what), Just Dance 2017, Skylanders: Imaginators and Super Bomberman R. Only one of these games is truly compelling, and not a single game will be bundled with the console.
Again, Nintendo’s lacklustre efforts at explication shine through: “There are no games being bundled with Nintendo Switch.
“Every launch is different, and with each one we try to make the best decision for the consumer, marketplace and our company. We believe the hardware configuration at the price point we’ve chosen is a great consumer value. The consumer will have their choice of great software for the system.”
We Still Have No Concrete Information About Much Sought-After Features
Features such as an achievement system or Virtual Console support are noticeably missing. As a fan of trophies, and as a gamer who has little-to-no experience with Nintendo’s backlog, the Switch could have been a place to explore these gaps in my gaming history. With no concrete information on whether Virtual Console titles will be available at launch or in the near future, it’s unlikely that these features will be available any time soon.
Even Kotaku failed to get an answer as to whether these features even exist, with Nintendo stating: “We have nothing to announce at this time.”
The Nintendo Switch is Not Ready
All-in-all, the Nintendo Switch feels unfinished. Its online functionality isn’t built into the console, the games aren’t ready, there are no trophies or virtual console titles, the launch titles are abysmal, you can’t even watch Netflix on the thing. Another year could have been beneficial to the development of the system, although, at this point, perhaps it would have been better for Nintendo to never broach this endeavour at all.