Well, it’s another Switch post because no-one really wants to poke their heads up through this one yet.
Aside from the fact that the Switch has now officially sold out everywhere – unsurprisingly, considering it’s a new console (and 2 million units in the first week or so isn’t a small figure – it’s roughly equivalent to what Sony provided for the launch of the PlayStation 4!) – there’s been a lot of talk of bad ol’ Nintendo, and how it clearly hasn’t changed.
And whilst I certainly did see Old Grampa Nintendo poking its head up from time to time – 1, 2, Switch! is clearly a hangover from the old Nintendo – there was plenty of good, clear indicators throughout the Switch Presentation that suggested that, in fact, Nintendo has listened and paid attention. And touch wood, is likely keeping an eye on the market and seeing how things unfold in real-time.
WHO ARE THESE GUYS?!
The first thing to notice was a parade of faces, some new and some old, wheeled out onto the stage. From Shinya Takahasi and Yoshiaki Koizumi, Kosuke Yabuki (that’s a fantastic name by the way, sir!) and Hisashi Nogami – all key faces for the Nintendo Switch and the games coming out on the machine – we got to see the people behind the often carefully constructed curtain that Nintendo likes to hold up. Now, it’s true a few of these people aren’t very media-trained (yet!) but that’s missing the point. We got to see the people behind these things; the people making this thing happen, and in the past the faces have often been limited largely to the bombastic media-trained faces of Reggie Fils-Aime, the late Satoru Iwata and translating god Bill Trinnen. Which is fine; we love Reggie and Bill (and miss Mr Iwata greatly) – but they’ve become so identifiable that it often suggests limited mobility or decision-making within the company.
Now, we not only see a bunch of new faces, with their own new ideas, but we know who is ultimately responsible for when things go well – and when things go pear-shaped. That’s a bold move, and suggests a degree more freedom and accountability within Nintendo’s corporate structure. And that may not make things perfect – but it will sure as hell keep things spicy, and keep these people on their toes. We know who you are now! Congratulations on your promotions… oh, and welcome to HELL!
… we have cookies!
OH LOOK, STANDARD COMPONENTS!
So, we know that the Switch has wifi in its mobile unit, an ethernet port in its dock, a USB Type-C connector for charging and a capacitive touch screen. Now, why get excited for such basic industry-standard components? Because they ARE industry-standard components! Nintendo has often had shades of the Apple about it, in requiring proprietary adapters and specialist connection hardware. And yes, the games are proprietary (more on that in a bit). But where it matters – all the bits are as standard, and conform to basic standards. It has a normal headphone jack port. It uses Micro-SD, which may be a bit weird considering Micro-SD is still not the most reliable thing ever, but the fact is you CAN buy a half-decent 256GB Micro-SD card for not very much.
The reason this matters is that you don’t have to rely on everything being officially Nintendo licensed. You can use a Micro-SD from any company you like, your headphones – whoever that manufacturer may be. You can use the USB Type-C cables you already have lying around from your smartphone! And a capacitive touch screen – sure, Nintendo could have gone once more with a resistive screen, but they didn’t. They put the time in to actually upgrade the screen – so no need for the stylus anymore. Sure, a few bits will cost extra – like the charging grip (please change your mind and put it in the box Nintendo! Let us buy extras if we want…) – but in many key regards, what they’re using is industry standard and things can be replaced at arguably limited cost. That’s a huge step forward for Nintendo, and one I think we can all get behind.
Oh, and the controller – aside the gyro, it’s a basic controller. So guess what? We’re quite likely going to see proper third-party controllers which will be much cheaper than the official controllers! Remember third party controllers? Yeah, that’s a throwback I’m actually okay with…
LOTS AND LOTS OF CLEVER TECH!
And where Nintendo has gone off the beaten track, they’ve really pushed the boat out. Those JoyCons are stuffed with technology – an NFC Reader, a proper sensor, HD Rumble and scanner with the software backing it up to read shapes and possibly even faces (remember how big the Kinect was?), all the old motion controls but now even more sophisticated – making some of the VR controllers look ridiculously clunky. For people suggesting the JoyCon are expensive – just think how similar (and how much smaller) these are to an HTC Vive controller. And by the by, for one of those bad boys, you’d be paying £116.99. For a single controller. The JoyCon come in at £80 for a pair, and that’s still relatively impressive.
And there’s clearly more to be detailed. The graphics on the Switch looked frankly mind-blowing; Breath of the Wild looked just incredible, whilst Super Mario Odyssey was just Nintendo frankly showing off what the hardware was capable of. The transition between dock and mobile was seamless; and the switch back is likely only really limited by the delay on HDMI cables and how fast a TV can pick up a signal (this isn’t something Nintendo can fix, really). Not to mention that capacitive touch screen and all the split screen and synchronisation stuff they showed off. We’re talking serious work, serious technology and some serious engineering to have brought all of this together. And I have to respect that.
Nintendo often gets a lot of stick for being pretty old fashioned and sticking to safe technology – the Switch is by no means an Old Nintendo product. This is the sort of product that would have given Old Nintendo an aneurysm. It’s bold; and frankly, I could get used to a bolder and slightly more cutting-edge Nintendo.
NO REGION LOCKING!
That sound you’re hearing now is a choir of angels singing metal songs, with the lead angel playing the most bitchin’ 80’s saxophone solo ever.
It’s true, the Nintendo Switch finally, after lo these long years, has decided to cut region locking out of its hardware. This alone for me deserves a ticker-tape parade; welcome to the modern world, Nintendo. It’s so wonderful you could finally join us in this lovely place… well, it’s usually lovely, don’t mind the angry people outside. We’ve seen in the last year most people would get angry over the smallest detail. Ahem.
Yes, this means you can buy a game abroad and it will work on your machine. It means imports are back in business for Nintendo; a good thing too, considering Nintendo is quaintly Japanese at the best of times and we do still like to import our weird Japan-only stuff where possible. But, here’s the key and killer perk; it encourages Nintendo to actually start thinking about global release dates, rather than stagger game launches by region. It means we won’t see issues like the US trying to import UK copies of Xenoblade Chronicles. It means we won’t be waiting around for months whilst Japanese people detail every single element of a games plot before we’ve got a chance to even hear English dubbing. I mean, I love Story of Seasons. I’m still freakin’ waiting for the new game, even though it’s been available in Japan for months now! How long must I endure this wait?
Sorry. Ahem. Yes, so long Region Locking. And hello to proper game release schedules!
SERIOUSLY MODERN-LOOKING GAMES.
Aside 1, 2, Switch! which clearly should be a pack-in title (truth hurts Nintendo, #dealwithit), one thing was clear with the games on show; they screamed modern gaming. ARMS was incredibly clever; sure, for those of us who are older and more experienced gamers, ARMS is a blend of Power Stone and Ready2Rumble Boxing with lashings of Dreamcast-era nostalgia. Delicious. But to newer gaming audiences, the character designs and bright, clean graphics suggested having learned lessons from Overwatch in presentation. Whichever way you slice it, that’s damn good design work. So too with Super Mario Odyssey – huge, sprawling open world sandboxes with some damned impressive scale too (New Donk City had some damn fine draw distance to it!). Xenoblade Chronicles 2 is about as close to anime as a game has been in a while, Zelda: Breath of the Wild takes cues from huge open-world RPGs like Skyrim and The Witcher, Splatoon 2 is striving towards being a proper eSports game now…
Yes, not everything is perfect yet; I’d like to see more games in the first year, and perhaps by (or during) E3 this year we’ll know of more games. But one thing I can say; you only need to look at the game footage so far to see that Nintendo is bang up-to-date with games in tone and concept. As for Skyrim, yeah it’s a five year old game. But on a mobile console? I’d say only Pokémon would trump that as a selling point. Let’s see what else is announced up to (and including) E3, because I’m expecting some surprises.
… AND SOLID, MODERN DESIGN WORK.
One thing is clear; the Switch has been developed as a relatively high-end purchase. After all, why would Nintendo go to such lengths to keep the whole thing small, sleek and streamlined? The JoyCon have been designed with intelligence and a careful eye. The screen and its slight framing is sharp, crisp and solid. Even the glimpses at the UI we saw suggested a modern, minimalist product pitching to a discerning modern audience. All of that makes the Switch look incredibly expensive. The sort of thing even people who might balk at buying a Nintendo product wouldn’t think twice about whipping out of their bags to kill an hour or two. This is not your typical Nintendo product; this is clearly something different, and Nintendo paraded that around time and time again throughout the presentation.
That’s clever, because there’s a generation who have grown with a fairly negative view of Nintendo – both rightly and wrongly. Nintendo knows, as we all do, that part of growth is appealing to markets that don’t ordinarily buy your console – making it look slick, clean and modern (and expensive) goes a long way to giving it the kind of brownie points and style that many people expect from new technology, let alone new gaming devices. Don’t underestimate the power of style; if the Switch becomes a bit of a style icon, then that will help funnel more sales. It’s a superficial reason, of course. But the Wii U was a decent system with a great library of games and sold like a wet fart. Nintendo cottoned onto the fact that image matters; and don’t be shocked if in the coming months, a lot of focus is put on how it looks. Because to some people, that’s what matters.
And that’s my viewpoint. Of course, there are things about the Switch that are a bit of a turn-off right now, and I’ll probably get around to that in a few days. The past few weeks have been Switch-heavy and even I need to cleanse my mind of Nintendo from time to time, so I’m probably going to pick a new indie game and get stuck in.
Because the Switch isn’t perfect – nothing ever is, unfortunately. But don’t shout out that the Switch is bad ol’ Nintendo. It really isn’t.
That doesn’t mean the new guard aren’t going to make their own mistakes however. Let’s see if they’re any better at solving those problems…