There has been a lot of talk about the lack of “apps” coming to the Switch on launch.
No Netflix, for example (though with recent news, maybe a smart move there…). And no Internet Browser. Alongside other things, like the Anime Channel not being there at launch, and lacking apps Nintendo already has on Wii U and 3DS like YouTube and Amazon Prime. That sort of thing – software apps from third parties that expands what the machine does. And ordinarily, I’d totally understand why people are upset that the Switch doesn’t have them by default.
Thing is, right now, I’d much rather Nintendo didn’t mess around too much with ‘apps’.
The Nintendo Switch is now three weeks away from its worldwide launch, and it has seen its first year lineup go from 24 to 106 games (and recent leaks suggest a healthy E3 showcase of even more fun things!). The common criticism is still the lack of big third-party franchises – an understandable concern, given Nintendo’s historical issues with third parties. That said, with talk RockStar and Bethesda are on board, seems bridges are being mended – though admittedly the results of that will be months if not years from showing results.
Why do I bring that up? Because one of the biggest criticisms is and has been third party relations – and it’s something I believe, from all the talk from third parties, that Nintendo has been working on and probably working on non-stop for the past year or so. Getting these people back onto Nintendo platforms isn’t just a nice thing – Nintendo is pitching to get a few games from it, if not some exclusives to boot. Mending fences, making hay whilst the sun shines and so forth – the future for the Switch would be a pretty sorry one if the company wasn’t running around making nice with third parties, especially those it doesn’t tend to have a historically good relationship with (see Bethesda and RockStar).
So the Switch isn’t getting a few apps – at least, not at launch. You know what? I think that’s a fair trade.
Personally, I never use the Internet Browser on consoles. It seems a complete waste when we have so many devices that can do that. Same with NetFlix or Amazon Prime; most of us have a Smart TV, a Set-Top Box, or even a PC or Laptop for that sort of thing. These are nice things to have on the Switch – but deal breakers? REALLY?! You’re making the hill you want to die on about a few apps which you can get on a dozen other devices you’ve probably already got lying about your home? I mean… I get it, but still… REALLY?!
In the grand scheme of things, I’d be happy to sacrifice a few apps for more games, particularly if those games come from Nintendo making nice with people it has screwed over in the past.
It’s perhaps cruel to mention this, but let’s do it anyway – remember the whole XBox One debacle? Don Mattrick pitched the console as not a console, but a whole multimedia empire thing. TV, movies, music, sports, apps. Guess what he largely forgot to do in the process? You guessed correctly: he forgot to talk about video games. So eager to pitch the machine as a whole new thing, it neglected the one main reason people actually might have had any interest in the device in the first place. So beholden to his vision, he blinded himself to the basic principle of the machine he was pitching.
After all, we’re buying a games console here. Apps? They’re nice, they add some spice, but don’t lose sight of the actual reason a device like the Switch exists – to play video games, to be a place for you to play video games, a hybrid concept that lets you play video games at home and away. It’s the lesson Sony took from the XBox One reveal, and ultimately pounded Microsoft into the floor for it. Yes, Sony has apps – but many weren’t there from day one.
Let us also not forget that the Switch, being a new platform, also has to negotiate new contracts and licensing agreements. Lawyers love taking their sweet, sweet time on that sort of thing – time is money, and whilst it is a bit of a stereotype, let’s face it; lawyers love money, so of course they’re going to take their time with this stuff. Some apps may end up on the Switch at launch, or in the launch window. Others may come later in the year. Others may take longer still – but that’s the reality of it. It’s more than just sticking an app on a device and letting it work. I know, it’s boring and not very entertaining to remind people legal stuff gets in the way of all the best things in life but hey, that’s how it is.
Even then though, if it were to transpire that the lawyers were prioritising game contracts and exclusivity arrangements with third parties over these apps, I’d be fine. More than fine, actually. I’d be thrilled. Nintendo taking the concept of a games console playing goddamned video games seriously? Remind me again why this is an inherently bad thing?
I don’t mean that to be facetious, nor to be a Nintendo apologist – merely to suggest that taking a stance on a few apps when for years we’ve been deriding the company for a lack of games smacks of moving the goalposts to suit an agenda, and that is exhausting and is largely one of the biggest reasons Nintendo doesn’t tend to listen to the market as much as it perhaps should. If you keep shifting your position, eventually a company like Nintendo works out that it can’t please you and stops trying. And this ultimately is one of the things the gaming press needs to work on – “Nintendoomed” may make for good headlines, but it also keeps muddying the waters making it hard to actually prioritise what needs to be fixed first for people. If you can’t see through the dirty water, you’re not going to know if the thing you bring up is still important to the wider market or if they’ve moved on to another problem to get all snappy about. Picking your battles is important – something many people could do with learning these days, sadly.
Mending those fences with third parties, particularly the few Nintendo did a lot to piss off back in the 90’s, is always going to be top priority going forward. Nintendo clearly got the memo there – and my guess is E3 is going to be a stunner if even a fraction of the third parties saying nice things about the Switch now have even one thing to showcase. After that, it’s games. Games, games, games. Keep the games coming, the money flowing, and then when the machine is moving and you can leave it tick over – then start adding additional layers. Three months, six months, a year – I don’t know how long this will take. What I do know is that is far more important than me watching Amazon Prime on my Switch. I’d much rather play new games on the way to and from the hospital than watch some shows I can have set to download or record.
And I can have them running whilst I play my Switch at home too.
I do get that some people are jittery over the notion of a new Nintendo console, especially after the critical miss that was the Wii U. Can Nintendo bounce back? I don’t know. In fairness, I don’t think anyone knows yet. Nintendo don’t really play by the rules so trying to define it by the rulebook is an exercise in complete futility – the Wii sold 100 million, the DS sold 150 million, neither device was highly rated before their release. The Switch is a new concept and again, we’re playing by ear here. It’s the first proper hybrid console. It’s exciting. It’s terrifying. It’s complicated. It’s going to be interesting and fascinating to watch, be that as it soars through the sales barriers or crashes into them head-first.
Thing is, want to know why we’ll miss the Wii U? The games. The Wii U may have had a ton of issues and problems, but when it came down to it – those games. Oh sweet explodey Mihaele, those games. Bayonetta 2. Hyrule Warriors. Smash Bros. Mario Kart. Splatoon. Mario 3D World. And so many more – and Nintendo was still able to shift in volume more first party software than Sony and Microsoft combined.
Apps come, devices go, but the games will linger long after we’ve stopped paying attention to the pathetic squealing of producers desperate for Netflix or Amazon to throw money their way. We’re gamers, we’re buying a games console. Let’s not forget that. When all is said and done, the life of a console is not going to be measured in apps, it is going to be measured in games…
… and that’s a game Nintendo has a bad habit of winning.