The Nintendo Switch finally got a more detailed reveal after a seemingly eternal wait since its introduction back in October. Now that we’ve seen more of what it is, what it can do, and what games we can expect in the coming year, does it stand a chance in 2017?
It’s no secret that there’s a lot riding on the success of the Nintendo Switch. The Wii U was a relative failure, especially when compared to its competition. What’s more, the competition is upgrading to be able to render better graphics and larger games. That means Nintendo can’t just rest on its laurels (which have long since expired) and do what it has always done. While going for style over power is charming, more is needed to survive in the current generation, at least from the hardware side.
The Nintendo Switch Event was a chance for the company to show exactly what they have in store, but all may not have been what was expected. Let’s break it down.
Surprisingly enough, the event didn’t focus very much on the hardware. After a quick recap of what we learned back in October, we got a look at some configurations of the console itself. You could use it on your TV like a traditional console, take the Switch on the go like a handheld, make the Switch itself a screen on a counter as you use the Joy-Cons, and even link with up to seven other Nintendo Switches. They briefly mentioned the touch-screen and battery life (which ranges from 2-6 hours depending on the game). And, the console will have 32GB of storage (some of which is reserved for the system) that can be upgraded.
A lot of attention was given to the Joy-Con controllers themselves. Aside from launching with two brightly colored versions (Neon Blue and Neon Red), it turns out that they’re also very accurate motion controllers. They’re so accurate that you can shake a virtual cup of ice and feel each individual ice-cube clinking and clanking as if you were really holding the cup.
To be completely honest, the lack of any stronger details concerning the hardware is… well, concerning. We don’t know what kind of power to expect, which means we don’t know what kind of games to expect. That will put the Switch in a rocky position, as consumers tend to go off of hard information unless they’re just die-hard fans (something that the company seems to be light on in recent years). The concept is different, but maybe not different enough to stand out against rock solid competition, and a superpowered Project Scorpio due later this year.
Power has become more important in recent years, even when style takes the front seat. It supports the larger worlds that developers are more often creating, as well as more capabilities for gameplay and immersion. You can get but so far on just colors alone, especially if some of those colorful games rely too heavily on gimmicks. Power will prove to be a serious hurdle for Nintendo, one they stumbled over with the Wii U’s release.
Online is going to prove to be an interesting arena for Nintendo and the Switch. None of the most recent consoles in the family really had an online focus, nor did they cater to parties and competitive play. This time, the company seems to finally be taking a page from its competitors’ books. The Switch will have a paid online service that provides online play, access to a smart device app (phone, tablet) that allows for chatting and party management, discounts, and free NES and SNES games each month. Oh, and you’ll be able to take screenshots with the push of a button, and be able to share them on social media.
While there’s still some confusion on whether or not you absolutely need the mobile app to use all the features or not, this is still a big step for the company. Unfortunately, like with the hardware, there are still some details that aren’t exactly known. Are there dedicated servers? What kind of features do we get for online play? How much will we be able to share? These are important to know, but thankfully the service will be introduced in a trial. While the service won’t be free, the subscription fee won’t go live until the fall of this year. That means we’ll get to try it out, share our thoughts and concerns with Nintendo, and hopefully help them reach a reasonable price-point for this Switch service.
So far, it’s sounding like it falls right in line with what is offered by Sony and Microsoft, although how reliable it is remains to be seen.
This is where the Nintendo Switch both soars and stutters. The event was a mix of games showing off gimmicks as well as some Nintendo properties fans were hoping to see. Splatoon 2 was certainly a moment of brightness, with the messy mayhem taking center stage along with new abilities and weapons. Super Mario Odyssey was odd, yet intriguing. Seeing our favorite mustachioed plumber in the same space as normally proportioned humans is a bit strange to say the least, but it was clear that impressive platforming and new abilities will shine in the upcoming exclusive. Of course, The Legend of Zelda was there to close out the show, with plenty of new action and a set release date right alongside the launch of the console.
Third-party offerings were also interesting, though a bit more mixed. Standouts were easily Fire Emblem Warriors (which is a first and third party collaboration) and a Shin Megami Tensei title. Outside of that it was sort of hit and miss. Suda51 got up to share that a new No More Heroes game is in the works, but it was an awkward moment that didn’t convey much. There were also some weird motion controlled games, and quick glimpses at other titles that didn’t stay on screen long enough to leave a lasting impression.
Still, when looking at the lineup, it seems to have more big exclusives than at least one of its competitors, the Xbox One. Microsoft has a rough go ahead of it with the console lineup. But, the Xbox One is at least getting many of the third-party blockbusters slated for the year, none of which have been confirmed for the Switch. There was no mention of Mass Effect or Star Wars from EA, no Assassin’s Creed or Watch Dogs from Ubisoft, and Activision didn’t even bother to show up. Red Dead Redemption 2 wasn’t even whispered.
Right now, it’s looking like the Switch is in a similar predicament as the Wii U. Strong Nintendo titles, but not much else, which is not how you attract the general gaming community. Meanwhile, Sony has an extraordinary lineup for the PS4 and the PSVR headset, and is set to make waves with some big exclusives as well as third-party juggernauts.
How’s it Looking?
To be honest, it’s looking pretty rough for the Nintendo Switch in 2017. Yes, the console has yet to be released, and we won’t get the full picture until that date arrives, but it’s easy to see the console’s looming shortcomings already. While the hardware is unique thanks to the ability to go mobile, motion controls are nothing new and not very exciting. On top of that, a lack of any real power in an age when a vast majority of major releases are getting bigger and bigger is troubling.
To be a console in 2017 and be unable to play Mass Effect Andromeda or possibly even Red Dead Redemption 2 is not a good position to be in. Yes, the first-party lineup is strong, but that only attracts existing fans. That plan didn’t fare so well with the Wii U, which is why we’re already moving on to the next big thing. Nintendo has time to still wow the public, but it needs to do so quickly if it hopes to stand any chance this year.
Microsoft is already rumbling, and details about Project Scorpio along with some new games are on the horizon. Sony just has to do what it’s been doing. A bit more uniformity across Pro Enhanced titles will go a long way in making the console a star, and VR is still chugging. If Nintendo is to survive this year, it’s going to have to push, and even then it may only make it by the skin of its teeth. We’ll see just how the Switch can fare in the coming months.