Well, that was entirely predictable.
The Switch reveal was an interesting little parade of showcases. The games looked impressive – Super Mario Odyssey in particular looked staggering, a glossy and slick modern open-world concept with some of the loveliest texture work and water effects I’ve seen in years (Nintendo has a history with water physics and effects, see the Gamecube for further proof). The hardware and software engineering required for the transition between docked and undocked play blows my mind – no small feat, but again, Nintendo has a history of peculiar engineering feats. HD Rumble is a simple description for an enhanced haptic feedback system, and with cameras and motion sensors in those teeny, tiny little JoyCon controllers, I can only come to the conclusion that Nintendo is deploying arcane magicks in order to fit this kind of tech into such a tiny space. Graphics on the whole looked pretty special, playing down fears that it was going to be underpowered, and some bold new IP in the likes of ARMS certainly adds to the sense that Nintendo is giving some of its Garage Projects time to shine.
Of course, for many, this is never going to be enough. And sure enough, all weekend I’ve been subjected to a parade of articles across the Internet declaring that Nintendo is over, dead, doomed and should just stop now and cancel the Switch, going third-party and putting an end to it all. Most of the arguments were absurdist, of course, but the main criticism that ran through it all was overwhelmingly obvious – that at £279.99, or $299.99, that the Nintendo Switch was too expensive.
Is it? The Switch, as I see it, is Nintendo at its most creative in a decade. There is so much technology and engineering in the device that I am still impressed just reading into the finer details of the machine. A slick new interface and firmware platform, a new online play system designed for multiplayer (unsurprising considering so much of what was teased was, effectively, multiplayer-focused). The sleek, surprisingly slim Switch device itself – all that power, in such a tiny space. It does boggle the mind a little, but again, engineering and a whole lot of it was likely deployed in order to make this thing as crisp and modern as any high-end smart device. Graphics – clearly not the issue, with Skyrim footage clearly taking cues from the HD Remaster, the aforementioned Super Mario Odyssey showcasing an incredible amount of detail and effects and Xenoblade 2 looking frankly glorious.
This is Nintendo arguably giving the gaming market what it has been demanding for the last four years; a high-concept, high-end mobile platform (that just so happens to also double as a home console). It has unbelievable amounts of technology in those slim, tiny cases and the cartridges, custom-made for the Switch, look mighty-damn-fine to boot. You have graphical power, a much better interface, a dedication to more online structure and stability and one must say it’s the best looking Nintendo machine in a long, long time – this sure as heck isn’t your average kids console, that’s for sure. And of course, getting all of that comes at a cost and that unsurprisingly is going to be… the cost.
And unsurprisingly, getting arguably all they wanted, people still aren’t happy right now.
To utilise an old term I coined, this is a “curiously Nintendo problem”. People seem to think Nintendo is a magic company that will sell high-end hardware at cut-down prices because it can, because they demand it and because it would be ‘better’ for Nintendo to do so. Really? Make huge losses on the hardware in an uncertain and weaker market than the one we were in back in 2012? If Nintendo had managed this, I’d be declaring them Witches – because no earthly force could logically make that possible. People want a high-end, high-concept machine then the realistic notion is that the device is going to cost more money. More power = more money. That’s hardly a new idea, is it? Nintendo isn’t a charity – it’s a business, and whilst they obviously do enjoy their games (sometimes a little too much going on those costumes…) the bottom line is always going to be the bottom line.
The Switch is more potent than I anticipated. The game reveals showcased a damn impressive amount of hardware in such a sleek device; and I have come to the conclusion that yes. If I want this kind of impressive, bleeding-edge tech in the console market that is going to cost me money. £280 is hardly unreasonable, when you consider the idea of buying a 3DS and Wii U on launch would have set you back closer to £500 (and the PS4 and PS Vita likely closer to £600). Common sense should tell you that for what you’re getting, £280 may feel like a bit of a sting, but it’s two consoles in one and that is damned impressive hardware and engineering.
I’d have preferred a little more time and focus on third party games – considering there are 80 currently in the works, according to Nintendo, getting a glimpse at some of them would have been nice. Particularly as Shin Megami Tensei and Fire Emblem Warriors were frankly proof-of-concept teasers and not actual gameplay footage (I am disappointed Nintendo stooped to that level, but the games industry keeps doing this so I can’t say I’m shocked Nintendo has finally cottoned onto it too). We do know of many which have been confirmed – either officially or accidentally. UbiSoft have officially confirmed that Assassin’s Creed is coming, and Gamestop accidentally blurbed the existence of Pokémon on the Switch – not that this wasn’t the worst kept secret about the Switch though.
Of course, I know why. Nintendo is pacing this out, frustratingly so but wisely so too. E3 is coming in June, and Nintendo likely wants some big reveals for that event, whilst using new reveals each month in the coming year to maintain a level of interest. That makes sense. So too does Smash Bros. for Switch, which wasn’t revealed but has been largely confirmed already, and Reggie Fils-Aime teasing Metroid and Mother 3 revelations in the coming months. Nintendo wants to maintain interest, and it can’t do that if it front-loads the Switch with promises of games down the road, particularly if they’re not going to hit 2017 and particularly because we’ve already had a big project cancellation this year in Scalebound, which generated a lot of anger and frustration. Far better to stick to what you know, what you have and what you know you can commit to before promising the Moon and (Pokémon) Stars.
And yes, third parties are a little tentative. I’m not wholly convinced that’s because of the Switch though. The market is suffering right now, and games are taking longer to make and costing more to produce and market. We’ve heard a little about what is to come this year across the board, but right now every third party is being a little cautious. The past few years have not been kind to the console market, with falling software sales taking a sledgehammer to what should have been pretty solid releases. There is no good time right now to be pushing a new games console, and I’m sure in the coming weeks and months we’ll see a little more confidence in the Switch by third parties, particularly if rumours are true that Nintendo is offering better digital purchase terms and that nVidia providing their own expertise to help developers get their games making the ‘switch’.
It’s the start of a new chapter though; the Switch is happening, and I’m okay with seeing where this road takes Nintendo. It’s wild, it’s different and it’s highly experimental. It’s a huge risk – another thing many keep saying Nintendo needs to do. Here it is, taking a huge risk, and it’s not good enough. Truth is, I don’t think for some anything Nintendo does will ever be good enough. Even if they did go third party, I doubt any of the people saying they would buy those games would actually do so; they’re not interested in Nintendo’s future, more Nintendo’s destruction.
But one thing should perk Nintendo up.
This level of gamer and gaming press vitriol has been seen before – and that was back when Nintendo announced the wildly different and quirky console that we all know as the Nintendo Wii. The headlines all proclaimed Nintendo’s death was imminent, that Nintendo had conceded defeat, that it was over and doing a Sega. We endured obituaries for Nintendo for weeks, months, even as the Nintendo Wii was flying off the shelves and Nintendo was struggling to meet consumer demand for what they thought was going to be a niche product. It was four years before sales tailed off, and then the press and gamer anger was right back again – the Wii was doomed, Nintendo was doomed and so on. In that time Nintendo had made billions of dollars, had some of the highest software sales of all time and arguably created some of the best games ever – Super Mario Galaxy is still considered one of Gen-7’s finest titles, and rightly so.
In short – don’t judge the Switch by the anger. That’s par for the course with Nintendo. Some people just want to see the company burn. Judge it on its own merits, by Nintendo’s history and by what it reveals in the coming months, or at E3. If you want to wait, do so – I’m sure by the time Black Friday 2017 comes around, and stores slash prices across the board, you’ll get a great deal. There’s nothing wrong or stupid about waiting and seeing how it goes. Launch windows are often barren, and how quickly we forget the emptiness of the PlayStation 4 and XBox One’s launch windows. Don’t forget – know that this happens, and likely always will, whatever console is released.
Let’s see how it goes. Nintendo has a horrible habit of finding the exact right buttons to press (and for the Switch, that is going to be Pokémon – you know it, I know it, hell – single-cell organisms probably know it).
Let the hate wash off you. It’s tiring, predictable and frankly distracts from more pressing questions and issues. There are valid and important criticisms that we have about the Switch – but that is getting lost in a modern Internet age of shouty, sweary, vulgar loudmouths who have nothing constructive or meaningful to add to the discussion aside joining in with a lynch mob without having the smarts to ask if this is wise, or even the best use of their time and/or energy (when you can, you know, just not buy it?).
It’s exhausting, but let them go through the motions. They want high end tech and visually impressive games. They don’t want to pay for them.
And they wonder why Nintendo doesn’t listen to them…