Since the big Nintendo Switch presentation earlier this month, there has been a sense of unease when talking about the prospects of the console. Maybe it was just the downbeat tone of the live translation, but the bright optimism that was around after the initial Switch teaser has been turning into something less pleasant. From the excitement before the recent presentation to the much more mixed reception to the device amongst publications, the switch (ba-dum tish) in tone is clear.
Switching the Play
Look, it’s clear that the Switch has some issues to address. The third-party situation, ever the concern on Nintendo platforms nowadays, isn’t as great as that initial splash page of studios would have led us to believe. Publishers like EA and Bethesda claim support with FIFA and Skyrim respectively, but when you look at their available stable of series that’s quite a small contribution. The launch line-up, meanwhile, lacks original titles and is much smaller than the Wii U and 3DS launch lists (though, Switch has Zelda). More than anything, the pricing of the accessories is bordering on absurd and pushing devotion of Switch adopters to the limit.
However, there are some big reasons why the tone of voice regarding the Switch should be much different. After attending the Nintendo Switch Premiere Event in London and actually handling the system, the appeal of it has become so much clearer. It is both more effective, and put across in a better way, than the appeal of the Wii U was for its own relatively short life.
The Nintendo Switch is, like all of Nintendo’s best products, a great idea. The Wii was an idea of a new play method that would include more people; the DS was an idea that two screens, on the go, could open up a new world of gaming possibilities. The Nintendo Switch as an idea that home and handheld console gaming doesn’t have to be divided in our minds anymore. Switch gives us seamless transitions between the two types of play; it’s a home console you can take anywhere, or a handheld you can enjoy large-scale on your TV. Nintendo’s job will be to choose which of these two messages they lean towards the most, but at the core of it, the beauty is that you can choose how you play at your own leisure.
A New Nintendo
Emphasising this appeal is the sleekness of the technology. Compared to the slightly clunky Wii U GamePad, or the more plastic feeling of the 3DS line, this is Nintendo making a piece of technology with certainty for a contemporary tech market. That’s not meant in a derogatory sense to their previous products; this is said with excitement for the new way Nintendo is positioning their product aesthetic-wise.
The centrepiece that is the tablet screen is contemporary-looking, with a subtle black outline and no-nonsense look. The Joy-Cons, while having that element of play to them, are either sophisticated in grey or enticing in a red/blue contrast. In the slightly dimmed light of the Premiere Event, a circle of 8 Switch consoles (for Mario Kart 8 Deluxe) was a marvel to behold, with the crisp screen shining out to greet you between those Joy-Cons. On that small scale, 720p output combined with the superb art direction of a game like Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is stunning.
Whenever the moment comes up to explain to someone what the Wii U was and why it was great, it was – and still is – hard to pinpoint what to talk about. The aforementioned idea at the core of that console was… what? It had two screens, but that wasn’t a new thing, and being so closely tied to the Wii brand severely hurt its chances of standing alone. Explaining the core idea of the Switch and why it’s an investment to consider buying into is much easier; it’s a handheld you can take on the go. That 3DS your child would like? It can now be docked at home and serve as your home console too. Better yet, it looks a lot like the tablets that the younger audience are both desiring and getting more accustomed to.
A Cohesive Nintendo
Other than the simple, core message of the Switch, it has one other major card to play that seems to be widely forgotten – it’s unifying Nintendo. Followers of Nintendo have seen the cycle of handheld and console game releases before, where you often see one console getting more releases than the other system before quietening down as the other gets its own wave of titles. As long as the Switch does become Nintendo’s main focus (continued 3DS support is claimed, but its importance is likely to fade away), then that issue disappears. Nintendo, and their partners, can focus on one audience of home and handheld Nintendo fans coming together.
We’re seeing evidence of this already. In that one Switch presentation, more major full-blown RPGs were announced than Wii U had in its whole lifespan. The reason for this? 3DS was a haven for Japanese games in the vein of RPGs coming to Switch. Take the multiple Dragon Quest games coming, or Project Octopath Traveler, the bizarrely-named yet enticing RPG from Square Enix.
Furthermore, series that cling to handheld systems for the main entries, like Fire Emblem and – crucially – Pokémon, will have their hand forced now. Their games will inevitably be home console experiences now, because of the Switch’s functionality. We’ve seen this with the announcement of a main Fire Emblem entry on Switch in the Fire Emblem Direct, and with the rumours of a supplementary game to Pokémon Sun & Moon – Pokémon Stars is the name thrown around – for Switch in the vein of Yellow, Emerald, etc. These games will bring in more players, more consumers, and after that, more and more publishers.
It’s not going to be easy for Nintendo to make the Switch a success. What I hope is that the reasons stated above help you to understand that we shouldn’t be knocking the Switch down before it is even out of the gate; Nintendo’s latest eccentric console is a wonderful piece of tech, and there are big opportunities for it to capture the hearts and minds of consumers.
Most of all, Nintendo is back front and centre in the gaming consciousness – and that’s a great thing in my books.