My Thoughts on the Nintendo Switch Announcement
We finally received more information about Nintendo’s latest console, the Switch. The name is rooted in the fact that you can switch from playing on your HDTV to playing as a portable. The console itself is a tablet. It includes a dock, and an elaborate control function where you have controls on either side of the tablet that you can remove and snap them together to use for when docking the tablet.
Last night Nintendo announced the price: $300. That stung a bit, as I was expecting $250. During the whole launch video, the power of the console itself was never a focal point. And this is a tablet, so we’re not expecting amazing specs, and as we saw with the Wii U, Nintendo’s art direction can make games look good without the highest-end hardware. With Ninty, it’s all about the experience anyway – they’ve got that down. So, we’ve got a lower-powered console and only 32GB of storage. That’s incredibly low. Sure, they can’t fit an HDD and larger solid-state storage would just be pricey – but sticking with 32GB on low-end hardware isn’t anything amazing. Let’s not forgot, no more disc drive. The Switch takes SD cards, which has to happen since we’re now dealing with a tablet.
Continuing with price, the Switch comes with the JoyCon: a left and right analog stick with buttons on a Wii remote-like controller that attaches to either side of the tablet, but then can snap onto a gamepad shell, creating a pro controller-like (real pro controller sold separately). They can be used separately for single player as well as 2-player! That’s pretty neat. This means multiplayer right out of the box. These things cost $80 alone, which is crazy, but let me get into why. Nintendo has gone back to the Wii, making each left and right JoyCon an advanced wiimote, with HD rumble (which sounds amazing) and the classic wrist-strap.
With the revelation of the JoyCon, does that then validate the price? The problem is, since the announcement, all the hype was centered around the tablet function and portability, not enhanced Wii-like functions. So while that may be the value proposition for the general market, I still need to soak this in.
With the price out of the way, what about games? The Switch plans to launch with the new Zelda on March 3rd. That’s cool. But the Wii U gets it shortly after, so not exactly a system seller. Then there are a few others, like a new Bomberman and 1 2 Switch, which is a Wii Sports-like game that makes use of the JoyCon. Other than that, the rest of the titles trickle out over the year. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe in April, which is not necessarily an exclusive title, Splatoon 2 over the summer, and – my most anticipated – Super Mario Odyssey, though that’s not coming out until the Holidays. So while Splatoon 2 is cool, there’s nothing exclusive that makes me want to play the Switch immediately within the first few months. I’d be surprised if the new Zelda happens to look much different on the Switch compared to the Wii U.
The biggest revelation is Nintendo’s Xbox Live/PSN-like service. Nintendo online. It will have a smart device app used to manage and provide auxiliary functions and is free for the first six months. But, then it will be a paid service. That’s where the Live/PSN comparison comes in. Then, what does that mean for value? It says for a month that NES/SNES games will be free with online play. But that still isn’t exactly clear. Also considering these are games that have been available for decades and most people already own (multiple times) – so what exactly is the value here?
For now, the Switch isn’t as compelling as I thought, and this is mainly due to the software. Especially since I can get Zelda on the Wii U. But, how successful will Nintendo be with the mainstream? Does it attract tablet users, kids, parents, and/or PS4/XB1 gamers? We still have a lot to learn from the Virtual Console library. Are games backwards compatible? Will we be buying them again? Discount?