The Nintendo Switch has been a pretty hot topic recently in the media and in many online communities, rightfully so because it’s been a while since we’ve seen an actual brand new console announcement, discounting “upgrades” like the Playstation 4 Pro and Microsoft’s upcoming Project Scorpio. But is that enough to actually allow the Switch to succeed where its predecessor, the Wii U, failed?
Well, from what I can tell, likely not. The Switch will probably head down the same failure-ridden path, for the same reasons as the Wii U did.
First, we need to talk about why consoles like the Playstation 4 and the Xbox One succeed and have been doing pretty well in comparison to their Nintendo counterpart: the games. While people love to joke that these consoles have no exclusives, a large chunk of gamers buy consoles over a PC because of how accessible couch multiplayer is for games like FIFA and Madden. While most “hardcore” gamers wouldn’t look at these sports games as something important or relevant, a lot of sales do come from people who enjoy these games with their friends, using the console the rest of the time as a Netflix machine.
But you might argue that the Switch is seeming to emphasize and simply local multiplayer and accessibility, something Nintendo has been pushing a lot in all of their Switch related media.
The thing is, you’d be wrong.
While other consoles certainly aren’t as portable as the Switch, looking at the apparent convenience of the machine can lead you to forget something important: the cost of playing multiplayer. Yes, you can all bring your Switch over and play on your own devices, but that’s a clean $300 USD a pop. Even if you wanted to just play regular local multiplayer, if consumers want the full-featured dual analog controller, they’re looking at $70 USD for the Pro controller or $80 USD for two Joy-Cons, and that’s WITHOUT the $30 USD grip. Compared to the objectively cheaper $60 USD price tag for both the Dualshock 4 and Xbox One controller, comfortable couch play on all games is a more expensive and bothersome ordeal with the Switch than with the competitors, no matter what.
Okay, so what about the online? Surely online play should still be acceptable, considering you don’t have to sacrifice your wallet for more controllers (again, unless you want someone to be stuck with no dual analog on the Joy-Con). Well, Nintendo has adopted a similar policy to other console creators now, with a paid online system akin to Playstation Plus or Xbox Live. This issue in and of itself I have no issue with, but Nintendo’s new online, while surely more stable than their older systems as a result of the fee, is still abhorrent in how it operates in regards to the competition.
The thing about Playstation Plus and Xbox Live is that in addition to online, you do also get free games every month, which you keep and can play forever as long as your subscription to their online service remains active. It’s a nice little compensation anyway, and Nintendo attempts similar, but without the ability to keep your games after the month is up. That’s right, they take away the game and force you to buy it to keep playing, even if your online subscription continues. To rub salt in the wound, they’re not even new games or indie games like the other two consoles offer, but instead they’re just NES or SNES games, old games that they’re STILL making you buy after a month. On paper and likely in practice, Nintendo’s awful attempt at online subscription plays out as being far more unfriendly to consumers than their competition, and with a very dodgy history of online, a consumer base made up of many children unable to pay for online, and a bad history of not including online multiplayer in many of their multiplayer games (Mario Party, anyone?), this choice is baffling.
So, let’s take a look at the final nail in the metaphorical coffin: the games. The Switch doesn’t actually come with any games of its own, like Wii Sports or Nintendo Land, with the flagship minigame collection equivalent, 1–2-Switch not coming bundled like its predecessors, meaning you will have to drop another $60 USD on a game on launch day, and well, unless you want to spend that money on a strictly multiplayer time waster like 1-2-Switch, your choices are largely shovelware outside of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of The Wild, which is also launching on Wii U, a console that is laughably cheap to buy at this point, and which many people anticipating the game back when it was just known as “That Zelda game for Wii U” already own in the first place. The gameplay shown on both systems doesn’t look overly different enough to warrant buying a new console either so that one is down the drain.
All of their Spring launch window games look fairly mediocre, consisting only of ports and Arms, which while appearing fun, is still somewhat gimmicky. April has an enhanced port of Mario Kart 8 and that’s it, with Summer bringing Splatoon 2, the only exclusive game with a confirmed release window before the launch of the admittedly amazing looking Super Mario Odyssey, probably the first big system seller of 2017. Still, with a very worrying launch year, nearly devoid of exclusives besides enhanced ports, the Switch is going to have a very tough time in the market.
I worry for the Switch. I do wish that Nintendo can come back from the rut the Wii U has left them in, but the Switch doesn’t seem to have enough going for it and still lags behind the competition’s previous console generation in many ways, which paints an unfortunate picture for Nintendo’s future in the industry. As I see it now, until Super Mario Odyssey comes out, I don’t personally see much of a reason to buy the Switch, but I could be wrong. The 3DS had initial struggles as well due to the same reasons as the Switch likely will, but a strong library later in its life did resurrect the poor handheld. I guess we can only hope that 2018 brings a few more games to the system and provides a few more reasons to buy one.
Seriously though Nintendo, please fix your damn online too.