“Yeah, I got £20 that Nintendo misses too… does that make me a bad person?”
Well, I slept on it. And… I’m still a bit confused.
Let’s start with the bad stuff. Retailers are pricing the Switch at £279.99 – not the £179.99 many had mentioned. Retailers in the UK do work a little differently and it’s rare for hardware to stay at the anticipated price point (people forget the Nintendo 3DS was initially started at £219.99 before competition drove that down to £179.99), but it’s obviously more expensive than most retailers were hoping for. With a baseline PS4 costing £249.99 (or cheaper, depending where you buy it), coming in thirty quid more expensive than the current market leader is a bit of a gamble.
And launch games – we got a lot of games to talk about, but most of it is launch-window, rather than on actual launch. Again, this is not unreasonable – hell, look at the PlayStation 4’s original launch lineup for an example of games drought. And Breath of the Wild is clearly a killer hook – perhaps Nintendo’s biggest killer hook. But a lot of what was shown or teased is months, if not a whole year, away from hitting the shelves.
So too was Nintendo’s new Paid Online service. Now, I think we knew this was happening; but Nintendo’s offer of free NES/SNES games for a month on circulation isn’t good enough in my eyes. I certainly wouldn’t mind a string of retro games on a cycle, but this was a golden opportunity to take the PS Now! out behind the sheds and give the thing a damned good spanking. Weirdly, a huge number of SNES games will take newcomers more than a month to nail down – there are tons of great 16-bit era games. And Nintendo could – and should – have promised Nintendo 64, Gamecube and possibly even Wii games on the service (perhaps one game per retro console each month). They didn’t, and that’s not nearly good enough.
Oh, and yes, 1-2-Switch! looks a bit corny. Screenless gaming is a bit too high-concept for my liking.
However, hot damn those games!
Breath of the Wild looks truly epic – a sprawling, story-driven open-world RPG? Fantastic. Super Mario Odyssey looked amazing – set in New Kong City, Mario comes to a different world to chase down Peach and Bowser (in a fetching white suit!), and it looked like an open-world Mario game. Climb skyscrapers, swim in lakes and rivers (the water effects are frankly some of the nicest I’ve ever seen) – it looks like it is going to be an incredible game and it already looks incredible to boot. Fears about the graphical capabilities of the Nintendo Switch seem to be relatively unfounded – Super Mario Odyssey nailed visual presentation.
Other games were detailed too – a new Shin Megami Tensai, although only a proof-of-concept teaser. Xenoblade Chronicles 2, which frankly I need in my life. Fire Emblem Warriors is another massive game in the works; with what Hyrule Warriors managed to achieve, bringing that to the Fire Emblem series should prove an irresistible draw. And Skyrim Switch, due sometime later this year, will be an obvious big third-party game. Skyrim on-the-go is far too big to be sandwiched into a launch presentation, so expect more on that in the coming months. Splatoon 2, Ultra Street Fighter 2 (which looks absolutely beautiful, with high-definition sprites that take a sledgehammer to the Street Fighter 5 models!)… and a bunch at the end which were a bit of a blur that we’ll probably see more of during the Treehouse Stream in a little while. No More Heroes returning is also a nice surprise.
I also liked the look of Arms, a fighting game and another brand-new IP for Nintendo. Arms looks like a cross between the freeform arena combat of Power Stone and the comedy stylings of Ready 2 Rumble Boxing, and it was sufficiently silly enough that it nabbed my interest straight away. Again, it looked fantastic – and there’s a bit of Splatoon’s motion-control in there too to keep things a little interesting. Arms may not have grabbed the headlines like many of the names dropped last night, but I’m certainly interested in it and I cannot wait to get my hands on it proper to see how it fares as an actual game.
But it was a subdued affair, even though many of the presenters on-stage tried so hard to keep things interesting with wacky costumes. It was late, and we were all tired and exhausted, but the event lacked energy. It was quite corporate in a lot of respects, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing – just not what we were anticipating from Nintendo, which has done a fantastic job in the past with its presentations – particularly its live ones.
It also comes before E3; where Nintendo typically finds itself hogging the headlines, so it no doubt wanted to leave some wiggle room. Thing is, the Switch and its higher price point don’t leave a lot of wiggle room, and whilst I don’t think Nintendo will suffer shortages – retailers have said there will be plenty of supply early on – nor a lack of initial sales, it would have been nice to see Nintendo really sprint past the line, rather than struggle over it. After almost two years of waiting, I’m sure we were all expecting far more than that.
I do think the event was better than it could have been – and simply far better than the XBox One reveal, a watershed that may take years for anyone to lower – but this was Nintendo clearly exhausted, despite the fact that I believe they have a winner on their hands. Great concept, the graphics look frankly incredible and with more to come we’re being told, the Switch is a fascinating machine and should sell itself regardless. Nintendo may not have helped it though, particularly with not talking about an actual launch line-up out of the gate, but let’s not kid ourselves that past successful consoles have suffered pretty lacklustre showcases (and a dearth of launch content – I guess this is one hurdle that may never truly be overcome).
That will be their next task – to rebuild momentum. They set the groundwork, but they didn’t excel. Now, Nintendo needs to spend the next few hours in the Treehouse nailing specifics, and nailing down launch games. They’ve got a lot to do, and the Treehouse Live event is arguably the place to do it (better a long live-stream than condensing everything into an hour-long presentation), but still… it was about the minimum I expected. Not disappointed, but not exactly thrilled either. It was safe, but unsurprising for the most part.
So, let’s see what the rest of today brings. But right now, Nintendo has some work to do again… let’s hope they bring it!