Join ScreenCritics Dan as he takes one final look at the Nintendo Switch and its launch period, asking if Nintendo is really ready for the next step.
The Nintendo Switch console is just about ready to hit the shelves. Looking back, it’s been an interesting journey to the devices release – with many false starts and rumors surrounding the console. Heck, even as we march towards release we still don’t know everything about the device. Yet once the launch trailer hit back in January, I was wired, I was buzzed, I was…excited. I had to have one. But then rumors started coming out, and finally, actual data came out and my enthusiasm was shot with little fanfare and lots of gunpowder.
You see, I’ve not had a Nintendo machine of any kind until a few years back. It was never a choice for me to avoid it, it just never happened. I liked the DS, I love my 3DS, but the Wii U is a drastically abused husk of a game console that could have universally been better. And while offerings like Wind Waker HD on it are spectacular for the current AND the past generation, there is very little actually on the console to do.
I’ve noticed as information started coming out about the Switch, that…hey , this vaguely looks and smells like the Wii U again! The only difference is the Wii U was never marketed as well as the Switch was, people were confused for a long time about whether it was an update to the system, an add-on. The lack of information has bred confusion that made customers reluctant to purchase, partially contributing to its relative failure.
It will be important for my points to have a near-constant comparison to the Wii U going, as I believe it underlines the fact that Nintendo hasn’t really learned from the past, or its previous mistakes. That it’s still just seeking to ram its head against the wall until something sticks. For this purpose, I might sound harsher than I intend – I urge everyone to draw their own conclusions from the information presented here.
To start off with, the Wii U launched with all of 8 GB system memory – that is, the Basic model. Out of which you had all of 3 GB of actual storage. If you wanted the 32 GB Deluxe model – and 25 GB of storage space – you’d have to fork out more money. Similarly, the Switch says it costs $299 – but it neglects to mention that your controller dock is NOT a charging one – if you want one of THOSE, then you have to shell out an extra $30, my friend. Oh, you also want one or two additional Joy-con controllers for some reason? $50 for one and $80 for a pair, please. Oh and the regular controller is $69.99 if you ever need another one.
Nintendo has embraced, in my personal view, an attitude of greed. There was no need for these moves in the past, and it got worse over time. Wii U storage being awful was one thing, then the Amiibos which were often physical pieces of DLC for very limited content, and now full on accessory madness. What else is coming remains to be seen, but for what you do get with the Switch, the pricing seems ‘off’ . The system specifications are not worth $299 USD. Consider also that it comes equipped with only 32GB of memory but the loud recommendation that you yourself buy SD storage cards and that means $299 is the absolute starting price.
Any serious gamer will tell you that – assuming the OS is merely 8 GB – this leaves you with 24 GB of space. If any games ever need to install for some reason, that amount of space will not do a lot for you. Currently, it seems like a 128 GB Micro SD card is floating around $40 USD. Rumors say physical games won’t often make use of the hard drive, which will mostly be an eShop only thing, but still. Very bad form.
Moving on, let’s talk about Nintendo’s very own Internet Service. So for ’17-26 USD a year”, you will be able to play online and…that may as well be it. One of the bonuses touted by the plan is that you will be able to download a game each month! Notice how I didn’t say a ‘new’ game a month? It seems like Nintendo wants to dig up NES and SNES era games and let you play them ‘for free’ for that month only. And then it’s gone. So effectively, you are partially paying to rent an old, 15 + year old game – and not even a game, but basically a glorified .rom file running on Emulation native to the Switch. And you don’t even keep it! Isn’t that a swell deal!
Ah, but you can have voice chat, and lobbies! That..for some reason, needs a smartphone app? Now, call me crazy, but wouldn’t the …you know, brand new system you *just* made me pay $299 for be a more appropriate place for that? For those that down’t own a smartphone, or those that don’t want to clutter it up with memory-hogging applications, this is just a nuisance, not a feature.
My penultimate comparison to the Wii U is the over-reliance on gimmicks. We remember the Wii U – you could take the screen controller with you away from the console a short distance and still play with the TV off. The Nintendo Switch’s gimmick is the same thing, but over a larger area – the game can leave its dock and come with you on battery and last ‘up to six hours’ at best – with gameplay on an undocked Nintendo Switch using BOTW has received approximately 3 hours from what one assumes must have been a full charge. While decent, the 3DS boasts comparable battery life with the only caveat that it is a weaker system.
Finally, the Nintendo Switch when compared to its direct competitors, is incredibly weak. Cheaply made and lacking any real performance power behind it, it is just another way you are not getting value for your money. Even docked – in high performance mode – it is weaker than consoles released several years ago, meaning what outside of artistic brilliance, the console has very little to offer in terms of graphics. Having half the system RAM compared to its competitors also means less it can store in memory – leading to longer or more frequent loading times, or much less impressive looking models and environments.
These and other considerations – such as Nintendo’s behaviour with YouTubers and streamers – has caused me to reconsider my excitement for the Switch. My own conclusion outside of Nintendo, as a company, is that there simply is no reason to get a Nintendo Switch. At least, not yet. The offerings are few, the price is inflated by extra purchases you *must* make, and the one big game can be bought cheaper on the previous console. I’m not interested in the gimmick of portability – already have a 3DS for that. Moreover, I feel that people who use portable mode will become inattentive towards their outdoor activities and possibly endanger others in order to play – or at least neglect the task they abandoned the couch for.
With the Nintendo Switch launch around the corner, I hope some considerations have been conveyed and you are reconsidering your purchases. In its current state, Nintendo has done little to nothing new to earn your favour. Actively promising that unlike with the NES MINI there would be no supply shortages – there are supply shortages. Let’s keep an open eye along with an open mind, and see if the system blooms into something that actually *is* worth people’s time and money.