Well god dammit Nintendo. You got me writing about you again.
Eurogamer dropped a report last night pointing out the potential limitations of the Switch hardware – not surprising for a website that once proudly emblazoned the words “Nintendo Concedes Defeat” in relation to the reveal of the Nintendo Wii, only to hurriedly delete the article when people pointed out that it had done no such thing (and that the Wii went on to sell a hundred million units in the space of its life is a telling indictment on this mentality). The machine is underclocked when in mobile form! It’s power and performance is modest! Hell, why don’t we throw shade at the Switch for that list of third parties and assume that they’ll all abandon the machine months into its lifespan, eh?
Allow me a moment here. Because I’m going to tread ground I already posted about today in regards to Super Mario Run.
Optimism and expectations are funny objects; we saw the Nintendo Switch running Skyrim, and we assumed that it was going to be some behemoth. In truth, the reality is far less science-fiction in basis. The Switch, according to all retail outlets on the subject, is being pitched at a surprisingly modest £200/$200. “But it’s not as powerful as my mobile phone” – okay, let’s run with that. How much is your mobile phone worth on the retail market? £500? £600? You want that same level of performance in a £200 handheld console hybrid? Now, I understand that the consumer market is a little overzealous at times, but here even I am rolling my eyeball so far back into my skull that it is getting a damned good view of my lower intestine.
A £200 handheld hybrid console isn’t as powerful as a £600 smartphone? Well, what a surprise. Next I presume you’re going to tell me bears actually do shit in the woods!
We know little about the intricacies of the Switch – nVidia have a development overlay platform for the Switch that even the likes of Bethesda say makes it easy to port games to. Take a moment with me, because Bethesda, who a few years ago were so anti-Nintendo that even bringing up the Wii U elicited oddly vulgar language from their developers. If Bethesda say this is good, after being for so long so against the even vague notion of working with Nintendo again, I might be inclined to think they know something about this that we don’t.
As for what it is capable of – Nintendo hasn’t promised squat yet. Most of that has been down to press hacks and over-eager bloggers (myself included) making assumptions based on information that wasn’t even officially vetted. Compare this cautious approach to… oh, I don’t know, how Sony and Microsoft marketed the PS4 and XBox One. 1080p 60fs all around! Limitless streaming! Hail to The Cloud! Affordable quality! Friends take control! Faster launches! Accurately predicting your tastes! Play games before they’ve finished downloading!
I could go on, but let’s be real here – Sony and Microsoft were so full of shit that Kew Gardens was taking out stock in their company. You didn’t get what you were promised on these consoles, and yet Nintendo – who hasn’t really promised anything yet (not surprising considering the live reveal isn’t until the 12th January 2017!) – is being lambasted for not delivering on wild speculation and rampantly ramped-up expectations?
But I can, and will, be critical of Nintendo.
One of my pet peeves with Nintendo, for many years, is that Nintendo wants to carve out a new niche in the games console space – though it dominates one in the handheld sphere – and yet seems sometimes deliriously over-enthusiastic with its concepts. The problem isn’t the enthusiasm, it’s the scattershot nature of Nintendo. Rather like Sonic the Hedgehog, Nintendo hasn’t pinned down any real baseline in terms of platform – something even Sony and Microsoft have accomplished in far less time than Nintendo has been making console hardware. This means that from one console to the next, everything changes. The architecture, the controls, the online platform… everything gets shunted around. You want a rod to beat Nintendo with, don’t talk about its hardware, talk about the basic lack of consistency in these spaces. Nintendo burns its previous platform to the ground in order to rebuild an entirely new kingdom on the ruins of the old one, and that’s about to happen again to the Wii U. This is a problem, I posit, that is and has been hurting Nintendo for years now. It’s too eager to move on at times, leaving behind solid concepts that everyone else ends up refining in their stead.
Nintendo is often more interested in being the origin, and not the zenith. Quote me on that.
That said, I think someone needs to be the excitable little inventor-type; willing to try anything. Sony and Microsoft, for all their success… can we just admit that they’ve effectively co-opted the best everyone else has had to offer and done little themselves? When these companies have tried to innovate on their own backs… well… Cell Processor, Kinect, Move and PS Now (which is just a rebranded Gaikai really). Truth hurts kiddo, wear a helmet. Whatever your opinion on Nintendo hardware, what you enjoy now has, at some point, been done by Nintendo. That’s the point of Nintendo. They may not refine the concepts… but they at least get them through the door. Perhaps that’s just as important; after all, if Switch turns out to do well, you really think Sony and Microsoft aren’t in a few years going to eagerly push super-charged hybrid units of their own?
As for the Wii U thing – yeah, they didn’t pinch much from the Wii U. But they were ready to offer alternatives before the Wii U even hit the market – Vita Controller and Microsoft Glass. Both were hurriedly withdrawn from the market when the Wii U bottomed out – Sony and Microsoft were well ahead of Nintendo here, more than ever before, ready to compete. And when the Wii U faceplanted the sidewalk, well, Sony and Microsoft ran the opposite direction effectively abandoning their competing concepts. Such good Samaritans.
Anyway, I got sidetracked there.
We’ve projected hard enough onto the Nintendo Switch that we simply didn’t get a clear picture through all the light shining off its every surface. And that’s the problem of hype in a nutshell – we expected much more, but we really should have been more sensible on this front. At £200, the Switch is probably going to be a pretty solid bit of kit – it’s hardly a drop in the ocean, and nVidia are likely still taking hardware hits in the pocket in order to get a serious foot in the console arena. But it isn’t breaking any records and it’s not broken the laws of thermodynamics yet, where it can run a game that looks as pretty as Breath of the Wild for hours on end on a single charge without burning your hands..
It’s strange to me that we have a market that seems to have so much expectation for Nintendo and so little interest in what it does. They seem to think Nintendo has the power to reforge the universe, to break the laws of physics and send data faster than the speed of light. It’s not something we do for anyone else, so I wonder – why? Is it that we genuinely think Nintendo has engineers who can do this? Or do many simply make such assumptions and projections knowing Nintendo cannot ever meet them, thereby disqualifying Nintendo from their gaming diet (and in this case, you dicks have the balls to keep saying you’d buy third-party Nintendo games? Oh wait, the Mario Run thing, you still bitch and moan… never mind, you just prove my point).
Wait and see what the Switch shows next month. If it sucks – save me a pitchfork. But odds are Nintendo has a few tricks up its sleeve to make the Switch fly. And hey, for all the talk of what the Switch doesn’t have, look at the 3DS and look at what they got out of that hardware – which in layman’s terms now is positively protozoic – with Pokémon Sun and Moon. Give developers half a chance and the right tools for the job and they will find magical ways to extract every last drop of power and performance from a device. And when you think they can’t find any more – oh look, they found some more. See the last year or so of the PlayStation 2 for examples of this.
It’s a £200 handheld console hybrid.
Just wait and see what they show next month before you start running around with the torches and pitchforks.