Now that the dust has settled a bit after the Nintendo Switch presentation, a lot of people have been trying to decide if they’re going to be getting a Switch on launch day, or if they want to get one at all. Right after the recent presentation, many people were overjoyed, elated at the idea of a console that you could take with you. They stared longingly at their screens, yearning to play a new Zelda or Mario title. They were promised strong third party support, and online multiplayer! It was at this point that some people started holding up red flags, questioning some of the fine details about the upcoming amalgamation of all things Nintendo.
Let’s talk money. A lot of people seem to be in agreement that $299.99 is a fair price for the system. It has a lot of tech in the body of the console, as well as in the Joy-Con controllers, and it’s portable when you want it to be. However, the price of the accessories is what is driving people insane. Let me breakdown the current pricing for each item:
Pro Controller: $69.99
Joy-Con Controllers (a pair of them): $79.99
Joy-Con Controllers (individual controller): $49.99
Joy-Con Charging Grip: $29.99
Dock Set: $89.99
Joy-Con Wheel (set of 2): $14.99
Those are some pretty big numbers for most of the items on that list. To put this into perspective, if you want to have a friend over to play Nintendo’s new IP, Arms, together, you would need to buy the console for $300, a copy of Arms for $60 (as no games are included with the Switch), and an extra set of Joy-Con controllers for $80. Or if you wanted to save $10 you could go with the Pro Controller. You’re now looking at a minimum of $430. I’m not saying that purchasing an extra controller for the Switch is any different from the scenario you encounter when buying an Xbox or PS4, however, Nintendo’s reputation has always been “It may not be as powerful as the competition, but, it’ll be pretty affordable and it’ll be fun.” Because of this, the current pricing for these accessories is a difficult pill to swallow for Nintendo fans.
The dock is another point of contention, given that we know that it doesn’t provide any processing power. It’s essentially just a charging station. So, if you want to be able to plug your Switch into a second TV in the house, you’re looking at $90 on top of your other costs right off the bat. You could argue that this isn’t even an option for competing consoles, and you would be absolutely right. But given the spirit of the Switch and what it’s capable of, and how they’ve advertised that it can be used, it feels a bit like you’re being punished if you want to take advantage of those features.
Compare this to the Nintendo Wii launch. The console launched at $249.99, additional Wii Remotes were $39.99, Classic Controllers were $19.99, and Nunchuks were $19.99. On top of that, every console came bundled with Wii Sports. It may not have been a AAA blockbuster, but I think we all had a lot of fun playing that with friends.
Nintendo announced that they would be offering a paid online service for the Switch, similar to Xbox Live or PlayStation Plus. “Finally,” people said, “dedicated servers, matchmaking, voice chat, just think of the possibilities.”
Then Nintendo said that things like voice chat were going to be handled through a smartphone app. Questions have flooded the internet.
“What if I don’t want to use my phone?”
“If I plug my headset into my phone for voice chat, how am I supposed to hear the game audio?”
“What about kids that don’t have smartphones?”
These are just a few of the concerns about the proposed system. According to Nintendo’s website, it appears that you will be able to play games online when the Switch launches, without any sort of phone app. However, the way that the website is written would also seem to indicate that there won’t be any voice chat or online lobby features (such as inviting friends to play or setting play appointments), until the smartphone app is made available in Fall of this year.
Additionally, at launch they’re offering what they are calling a “free trial” of the online multiplayer service. This will last until Fall when it will become a paid service and the smartphone app will launch. While I can’t say for certain, this seems to me like their online service and smartphone app just aren’t completely ready. Rather than say “Online capabilities will be available later,” they’re saying it’s a “free trial” when the system launches.
Finally, there is yet one more thorn on the surface of this proposed online service. Nintendo announced that they’re going to have free game downloads every month for people that are paying for a subscription to the online service. These will be classic NES and SNES games, things that you might find on the virtual console for Wii etc. This might sound familiar to those of you that have PlayStation Plus, where you get two free games each month. However, Nintendo went on to clarify that you don’t get to keep the game, you just have access to it for that month.
Ok Nintendo, you’re charging me a ridiculous amount for accessories, and you’re asking me to pay for your online service, but then you also want me to use my phone and download your app if I want voice chat or all of the lobby features, and you’re taking away the free games you’re giving me each month? You really can’t throw me a copy of Super Mario Bros. 2 that I can keep? That I’ve likely already purchased on one of your previous consoles anyway?
Third Party Support / Launch Calendar
Many people would say that the Wii U was not entirely successful. Some people attribute this to the lack of third party support for the system. It’s a difficult situation to combat, because if a console doesn’t launch especially well, then you’re less likely to have third party developers interested in developing games for it. This means that there is yet less interest in the console, because no one is making decent games for it. You can see how the cycle continues. Nintendo announced that there will be huge third party support for the Switch and that over 80 games were already being developed for the console. That being said, some people are concerned that the launch titles as well as the games that are planned for the rest of 2017 are looking a bit lacking.
Let’s talk about the launch titles first. Here is the complete list of currently confirmed launch titles for the Nintendo Switch:
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
Super Bomberman R
The Binding of Isaac: Afterbirth+
I Am Setsuna
World of Goo
Human Resource Machine
Just Dance 2017
For many people, this is not an especially strong launch lineup, and it has them concerned that it could be a repeat of the Wii U. I think it’s safe to assume that Breath of the Wild will be great, but a lot of the other heavy hitting titles aren’t being released until later in 2017, or in some cases the end of 2017. Personally, the fear that I have associated with this situation is not unlike buying a game that is in Early Access on Steam. When you buy a game in Early Access, it can be a fun way to play a game early, even though they’re not done working on it yet, and they’re going to add a bunch of things later. However, in my experience, it’s almost like spoiling the game for yourself. It never ends up feeling like the complete package, there’s never that moment of being hit by this special experience. It’s just a slow flow of very cautious highs and lows. By the time the game actually launches, no one cares about it anymore. My concern is that if the Switch gets off to a slow launch, and has an unfinished online service, that it could destroy the impact that the Switch could have had.
The Other Side
It’s not all gloom and doom though. The Switch does look like a very capable console, with a lot of really cool features. And, if you can get over the cost of accessories, you know that the Switch and the games available for it are going to provide amazing social experiences and a lot of plain old fun. A new Zelda game, a new Mario game, Splatoon 2, Mario Kart (WITH battle mode), and a ton of other titles coming later means that by the end of 2017 it will be hard to justify not getting a Switch. Nintendo needs to be careful with how they handle the online service though. I am going to give them the benefit of the doubt for now that as we get more detailed information about the online service, we’ll hopefully see that it isn’t as bad as we thought it might be.
I’m looking forward to the Switch and I think it has a huge amount of potential. In a best-case scenario, it could bring about a new “golden era” of console gaming. It could be a time that brings veteran players back, and introduces a new generation to some well-established IPs, while mixing it up with things that we’ve never seen before. It could refocus the gaming world back to why we all started playing video games in the first place. It could remind us to just have fun, to not take things so seriously, to play together, and could be at the center of a huge collection of nostalgic memories. I would love for these things to be true, and I will be keeping my fingers crossed. Here’s hoping that the Switch is a hit.