The Nintendo Switch: 2017 – 2018
Did you know (TM) that on this day back in 2017 Nintendo unveiled their last ever piece of console hardware, the Nintendo Switch? The console was designed to consolidate their home console audience and their portable audience into one unified market, and they did this by taking all of their post millennial blunders and combining it into one product: the Nintendo Switch. It featured the terrible VR of the Virtual Boy, the insuffient storage of the GameCube [game cards and internal storage are both smaller than a dual-layer Blu-Ray], the motion controls of the Wii, the terrible launch pricing of the 3DS, and the threadbare game line-up of the Wii U. In fact the Wii U had a far better launch line-up with New Super Mario Bros. U, while the jewel in the Switch’s launch window crown was Zelda: Breath of the Wild – a Wii U game.
The console debuted for a price of $300 in the US, which was $50 more expensive than the 3DS’ disastrous launch price, and the same price as Nintendo’s ill-fated Wii U. $300 also made the console the same price as PS4 and Xbox One bundles which contained pack-in games and represented far better value in terms of power, features, and third party gaming library. The situation was even bleaker in other markets, with the Nintendo Switch costing Australians $470; $120 more than both the Australian Wii U launch price and Australian PS4 and Xbox One bundles of the day. This, combined with the extremely sparse offering of titles got the Switch off to the very worst possible start, as simply put there was no reason for consumers to pay such an unpalatable price for a system with no games.
Perhaps most perplexing was the way that Nintendo displayed such a categorical lack of self-awareness about why gamers rejected the Wii U. Once again Nintendo had failed to produce a desirable line-up of launch software, and worse still they behaved as though they were delivering a celestial gift to the world of gaming – as though their overpriced hardware with no games was actually over-delivering on value. At the time of the Nintendo Switch’s initial unveiling Nintendo president Reggie Fils-Aime even scoffed at the idea of including a pack-in game to soften the blow of the expensive system pricing, as that would apparently raise the RRP to $350:
“We look at every launch uniquely as to what’s the right thing to do for that launch. And I’ve been involved in launches dating back to the Nintendo DS. Each one is a little different. For this launch, what we found is that with the range of software that’s coming–not only available day one but through April and into the summer, and including the holiday timeframe with Super Mario Odyssey–that we wanted to enable the consumer to buy the software they want, to look to get to the most approachable price point we could get to. That led us to a $299 price point, and let the consumer decide what games they want to buy.
The first decision that we make is, where do we want to be in terms of the hardware price point that’s going to be approachable and hit the marketplace we want? And from a US price point, we wanted to be at $299. Certainly, lower is always better, but at a $349 or $399 price point, we just didn’t feel that was the right place to be. So we start there. And then it’s all about, what’s going to be included? Obviously the inclusion of the two Joy-Con, critically important; all the right cables, the dock, critically important. We also have to do this from a financial perspective as well. Once we got to that bundle, it really needed to be at $299 without a piece of software.”
The inclusion of a dpad was not critically important.
“You make the comment about Wii Sports, and certainly, the analogy that it’s a great utilization of the Joy-Con and shows off the capabilities of the system, that is absolutely true. I would say, though, that 1, 2, Switch has many more experiences–it’s a wider pallet of experiences, potentially more akin to Wii Play than to Wii Sports. And, again, from that standpoint, Wii Play was a standalone piece of software both with a controller at the time and without, so that’s probably the better analogy.”
Ultimately, the biggest problem with Nintendo’s swansong to video game hardware was the fact that one had to wonder who it was even for. For console gamers it was an extremely underpowered and overpriced console with no games, and for handheld gamers it was ridiculously priced and very poorly designed for portable use. The system had 2.5 hours of battery life while taking 3 hours to charge, meaning that the Switch consumed power faster than it could be replenished. Moreover, the system was the same size and shape as a Wii U gamepad, making it far too big to fit into an individual’s pocket. Who were Nintendo designing the system for? Ultimately, the system was designed for nobody, which resulted in it selling like the Wii U. After the disastrous performance of the Wii U Nintendo’s investors felt disinclined to throw good money after bad, which inevitably led to Nintendo being pressured into the abandonment of hardware development in favour of smartphone development – and historians agree that it was probably for the best.
Switch Pricing: The Extras Are Where It Will Bite
Straight off the bat consumers were hit with the information that they would now have to pay in order to play their games online. If one accepts [which this author does not] that it is legitimate for Sony to charge for online play on the PS4 then it stands to reason that it would be just as justifiable for Nintendo to do the same. That being said, just because it is justifiable for a company to charge for something, that does not mean that they actually should.
The Nintendo Switch console is a product that stands to appeal to two groups: i) children and ii) adult gamers who use it as a secondary platform to play exclusives. Parents are not going to want to spend $60 a year simply so that their child can play online. Meanwhile, adult gamers who already pay $60 a year for PSN or XBL are not going to want to pay an additional $60 just to play Splatoon 2, and ports of Mario Kart 8 and Smash. This boneheaded move is going to absolutely kill Splatoon 2, given that it does not have much of a single player focus. The people who are going to be paying online are children with overindulgent parents and adults who game exclusively on Nintendo products [fanboys] – and the system’s online scene will definitely suffer for it.
It gets worse though, Playstation Plus and Games with Gold at least offer consumers some software titles to sweeten the deal in exchange for paid online subscription, and they are free to keep these games for as long as they remain subscribed. On the other hand, Nintendo Switch will offer owners one emulated NES or SNES ROM per month, and they are only available for that month, after which they will be promptly deleted. They are essentially demos for games that can be subsequently purchased, which is nonetheless a slap in the face that Nintendo fanboys have been able to reinterpret as a positive boon, and an indication of Nintendo-senpai’s great benevolence.
If Nintendo’s move towards paid online was not bad enough, the Switch is also calibrated to bleed customers dry through the pricing of peripherals. The Pro controller, which is an essential purchase for anybody who wants to play Virtual Console or Ultra Street Fighter II since the Joycon lacks a dpad, will cost owners a cool $70. The price of the Pro seems downright cheap however when one situates it next to the cost of a replacement Joycon controller. Replacement Joycons run to a ridiculous $80, but that purchase alone does not a Joycon controller make, because people will also need to purchase a Joycon controller grip separately for $30 – bringing the cost of a second Joycon controller to a massive $110. How did Nintendo think this was okay? Finally, the Switch recharging dock will cost $90, so best to forget about playing the console through multiple televisions.
2017 Switch Games
With comprehensively terrible pricing plaguing the Nintendo Switch business model the one mitigating factor could have been Nintendo’s software line-up. Given the length of time that has elapsed since Nintendo dropped the bulk of their support for Wii U, one figured that they would be well prepared for the launch of the Switch and would knock it out of the park. The right line-up can sell hardware at any price [within reason], but the Switch’s launch line-up is insufficient for the task required of it. In fact the Switch’s launch line-up would seem pretty uncompelling even if the system was priced at $250 and the peripherals did not cost an arm and a leg. Basically the Switch should not be releasing until Christmas 2017, and the system’s entire 2017 catalog of game releases should have been released during that three month holiday launch window. As it stands Switch owners are set to return to the familiar emaciating drip feed of Wii U game releases that doomed the console.
Zelda: Breath of the Wild will be available on launch day, and will be a mandatory purchase for all new Switch owners. That being said, it will not do much to convince Wii U owners to upgrade, as the game is also getting a Wii U release. 1-2 Switch will also be seeing a launch release date. Most people initially assumed that this would be a system pack-in title, seeing as it looks to be a fairly shallow tech demo made to highlight the Switch’s new gimmicks – but no, it is actually a $60 game! Just Dance 2017 will be available on launch – these games have always done well on Nintendo platforms, but it will be interesting to see how well it does on the Switch’s overpriced hardware. At least Just Dance casuals will not have to buy an online subscription ($60) and a Pro Controller ($70) in order to enjoy the console. Skylanders Imaginators will also be available on launch, if anybody still cares. Finally, Super Bomberman R will be available on launch – but fuck Konami!
This is not all for launch owners however, as there are several other March releases that have not been confirmed for launch day. Launch month releases include puzzle game Snipperclips, Hasbeen Heroes, Fast RMX, and I am Setsuna. I am Setsuna is great, but we all played that game months ago. That being said, in the unlikely event that the Switch actually gets a physical release of the game then this port might actually matter.
Looking further afield April will see a port of Mario Kart 8. The vague Spring window will see the release of a port of Disgaea 5, Rime, Puyo Puyo Tetris, and Arms [the Wii throwback waggle boxing game]. Summer will see the release of Splatoon 2, which should have actually been titled Splatoon Season 2, as it is just Splatoon with some added maps, weapons, and power-ups. Finally, an ancient Skyrim port will arrive in the Fall, and Super Mario Odyssey will come out for Christmas 2017. The new Mario game is set in realworld New York City, leading one to conclude that it is actually the video game tie-in to the Blu-Ray rerelease of the Super Mario Bros. movie. The game looks pretty good, and it should have been a launch title. All that the Switch gets by launching nine months too early is the stench of death and failure, which will negatively impact every aspect of the console going forward.
Additionally, the Switch has a number of releases that have a vague 2017 date, some of which will almost certainly be pushed into 2018. These games include Xenoblade Chronicles 2 [which will probably only release in Japan this year], Minecraft, Sonic Mania, Dragonball Xenoverse 2, NBA2K18, Fifa [based on the PS3/360 versions], and Ultra Street Fighter II, which is just Street Fighter II HD Remix with two additional characters [that are both recolours of Ryu and Ken]. Good luck playing that without a Pro Controller!