With the Nintendo Switch less than two whole months from launch, as hard as it is to believe, I believe we finally have a solid enough grasp of the console’s primary features and Nintendo’s priorities moving forward to really dig in and see what there is to see.
As it stands, I believe the Switch is certainly a console worth owning, assuming it can live up to the myriad of promises shown before the launch itself, and that Nintendo has learned more than a few lessons from their mistakes over the past 5 or so years, and avoiding some of the potential pitfalls that they could easily slip in.
Before the Nintendo Switch live press conference, which you can watch here, there were a lot of concerns I had about the new device, and most of them have actually been addressed, at least indirectly, in a really positive way.
One of the biggest points of the conference was on the unique controllers of the Switch, the Joy-Cons. Each one half of a proper traditional controller, each Joy-Con could be used separately akin to a Wii Remote, or attached to the sides of the console itself to create a proper handheld device.
These Joy-Cons are pretty small when used by themselves, and could easily be uncomfortable for certain players. Luckily, the console comes with a pair of wrist straps that can be attached to each Joy-Con, offering some much needed surface area and a Wii Remote-esque strap to boot.
What I was most impressed by, however, by exactly how versatile the little controllers are. They’re without a doubt the most important piece of hardware to the Switch, more so than the console itself. They seem incredibly flexible in their applications, between being able to be used as a traditional controller to a handheld device to what seems to be an improved version of the Wii Remote.
Nintendo also seems to have improved on a number of other failings from the life cycle of the Wii U, which they have publicly recognized was a huge misstep and apologized over. The Wii U’s biggest problems were in marketing the device and in establishing a large enough library of games with 3rd party developers and publishers.
The Switch seems to alleviate most of these problems. With confirmed titles like Ubisoft’s STEEP, previously available on PS4, Xbox One, and PC, it’s safe to assume that other developers won’t have too much trouble releasing many of their higher budget titles to the new console. Additionally, the Switch’s ability to be easily taken on the go might give it a true advantage in the multi-platform market, as it is something neither of Nintendo’s main competitors can claim.
As for marketing, that issue was proven solved with a single snappy animation and an even snappier sound effect. That logo, animation, and sound clearly communicates what the Switch brings to the table in the span of about one second. Compared to the last console, where many Wii owners believed the Wii U to merely be an accessory for the original, the Switch’s branding is strong and consistent from the word go.
The last major thing that is an improvement is honestly one the Wii U took steps towards, but is making much bigger strides with the Switch is the push towards bigger support for indie games. With the large number of smaller studios announcing support for the Switch, I doubt the new device will have a small library for too long.
While they were able to successfully solve many issues issues with the console, they certainly created a few with their announcements, and the being in their plans for their online play service.
Nintendo, which has historically offered free online services with previous consoles, will be moving to a paid subscription service, with a free beta starting from launch until fall 2017. This is a bit worrisome and I really hope Nintendo has more up their sleeves to make the service worth the cost of admission. Especially with the removal of features in previous consoles such as the Internet Browser and the Miiverse. Without them we have to hope there’s more features yet undisclosed to make the 60 USD a year worth it.
Another interesting, if a bit unconventional, feature is how the Switch will handle party chat and voice chat in their games. Through your smartphone. Which could be really interesting and could realistically work when you’re using the device outside of the home. Though with reports of the app required to use voice chat also going to be an additional charge, on top of the subscription service, one has to wonder how many will adopt it, much less use it regularly.
It’s entirely possible running the voice chat through an external device is meant to save on battery life of the console, which, at 2.5 hours up to a maximum of 6.5 hours. Not too many people are happy about that, but I personally believe won’t be too big a deal-breaker, especially with the Switch having a USB-C head for charging.
My last concern isn’t with the hardware itself, but with a launch title. “1-2 Switch” (Trailer Here) seems to be a bizarre mishmash of mini games meant to show off the new hardware’s features. I really don’t particularly understand the appeal of the game itself, as it seems to be an inherently social game about… milking cows?
With the title costing the full price of any other game on the Switch, and it’s horribly strange presentation and gameplay, I just cannot see myself picking the game up, and I doubt I’m the only one who feels that way. It seems so haphazard of Nintendo to not bundle it as a free piece of software, akin to Wii Sports, another title meant to show off a new piece of technology, but maybe Nintendo knows what they’re getting into.
On the whole, I am very looking forward to seeing the Switch in person, getting to play one myself and seeing what Nintendo has decided to hedge their bets on. While I think that the console itself will definitely be worth owning, I can’t help but have these niggling doubts about the company’s longer term plans for the device and their hardware development moving forward. But, I could always be wrong, right?