With just over a week to go until Nintendo Switch launches, you’d think gamers would have plenty of reasons to get excited for the new console. Yet as we march towards the consoles retail release, increasingly there’s a sense that Nintendo is pushing the console out into the open despite the fact its missing key features. Why, despite a strong PR campaign, does Nintendo Switch feel so rushed?
This hasn’t been helped by the almost confusing daily announcements around the console. The lack of an online service at launch, as well as the Virtual Console going AWOL, are worrying signs that Nintendo Switch may not be ready for showtime. Yes these will come in time – but that’s the exact same problem the Nintendo Wii U ran into. “It’s coming later” did enough damage during the Wii U’s first year to derail the consoles momentum and land Nintendo with an uphill challenge it never escaped from. So why is this happening again, and why does it feel so rushed?
I’d make the argument Nintendo is rushing to get its device into the market because Wii U was such a failure – but that hasn’t stopped them from taking their sweet time in actually talking about the device. We first learned about “NX” back in 2015 – since then we’ve been twiddling our thumbs and waiting for Nintendo to show off their device. We had to wait until the end of 2016 to even get a glimpse of the device, and January 2017 to see what the console would come packing. Yet now as we approach launch, there are still some huge questions that need answers – answers that haven’t arrived until insanely close to launch. It only adds to the feeling that everything is being rushed to market.
The way Nintendo has haphazardly been announcing features so close to launch, while awkwardly avoiding giving direct answers to simple questions, has been laughable. These are huge red flags when it comes to anticipation for the console and only serve to muddy the water. Why have they waited so long to tell gamers that key features like the Virtual Console will be missing? Will gamers be able to eventually carry over their previous buys? Why isn’t the online service ready for showtime at launch – and why should gamers pay for it? These are important discussion points that don’t have answers – and probably won’t get them.
It’s all part of my growing concern over Switch and the feeling that it’s being rushed to market. Like Nintendo needs a few more months to get its device ready, but it’s launching now so it can capitalise on a quiet period in the gaming market. If the initial wave of gamers who invest aren’t blown away, it won’t bode well for the Switch or its future.
It also doesn’t help that Switch’s launch lineup is being carried almost entirely on the back of Breath of the Wild. Nintendo’s marketing for the console has revolved around two games mostly – Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (obviously) and 1-2-Switch, a game that has just as much chance of failing as it does being a system seller. Outside of Shovel Knight (and its timed exclusive expansion) there’s really nothing on the launch slate that makes the Switch a day one purchase. It’s even more bizarre when some of the systems biggest titles, such as Mario Kart 8 Deluxe and Splatoon 2, won’t be arriving until the summer. Surely it would have been better to wait until these titles were ready, rather than launching so ahead of time?
It’s sad because when the Wii U launched, it ran into similar problems. Gamers felt the console was vastly underperforming – and that had even more features. At least that launched with an online service and Miiverse out the box (Although Nintendo only discussed the Virtual Console days before release). At least that console had the entire Wii gaming catalogue to back it up. Switch doesn’t have these luxuries, it has to rely entirely on the strength of games Nintendo releases onto the console. Once gamers have finished with Legend of Zelda, what next? There’s a long wait until the AAA-titles for Switch touch down – and I suspect it won’t be long until we hear complaints from early investors about the lack of choice in the Switch’s game library.
I just can’t shake the feeling that Nintendo is launching the Switch a few too months early. It seems that with each announcement and the reaction to them, we’re marching towards something of a disappointment. If Nintendo wants to get its console off to the best start – it should have a more complete package out the gate. As it stands, Switch looks like it might be worth waiting a few months for, as Nintendo pushes features into the console. Rushing a console to market never works, and in the past has spectacularly seen the downfall of many consoles. Nintendo should have learned from the Wii U’s failures.
There’s nothing wrong with this but, given how feverish some of the anticipation is from gamers, perhaps it would have been a better shout from Nintendo to launch with more of a stacked deck. To give its early adopters more to shout about. As it stands, there seems to be more questions than answers when it comes to Nintendo’s console. As it stands, I can’t shake the feeling that the console is being rushed to market sans key features. And that’s not good for anyone.