Nintendo: Bait and Switch?

Nintendo: Bait and Switch?
COMPANY: Nintendo
PLATFORM: Nintendo

With the Wii U proving to be a damp squib, despite boasting a number of great (mainly first party) games, Nintendo were quick to put it to one side and launch a fresh new console, smack dab in the middle of the controversial but also kind of successful 1.5 upgrades from Sony and Microsoft.

Last night saw Nintendo finally show off the new machine in all its glory and reveal a number of key features, games and, more importantly, price points and release date. However, in almost typical Nintendo style there were a number of off putting and baffling decisions. It almost seems expected now that they would bafflingly put their foot in their mouths at precisely the time they should have the world at their feet.

Let's start with the hard facts.

Switch will launch on March 3rd, which is tantalisingly close, at a price of $299.99, £279.99 or 29,980 yen. Straight out of the gate that's a higher price than people were expecting, especially when you can pick up an Xbox One or PS4 with a game (or games in most cases) for around £200 or less. It hurts more when you see the eye watering cost of peripherals too, with a Pro Controller weighing in at £64.99 and a pair of the Joy Con pads another £74.99 - oh, and you'll need a charger grip for those pads at a further £27.99 - so £102.98 extra to play four player local multiplayer which was one of the key selling points. 

If you want to play games with friends on day one it's going to cost you, unless they're also picking up the system of course. That's not even including the other accessory packs, like screen protectors, a carry case etc. that all can cost between £14.99 to £29.99 each.

Then we come to the specs of the machine itself. It seems like Nintendo learned nothing from the Wii U and are looking to bundle in a paltry 32 GB of built in hard drive space. That amount proved useless for Wii U and will probably be an issue again with Switch, especially once you take into account digital games or the Virtual Console offerings that are sure to arrive. When this issue was widely lambasted on their last console it is perplexing why Nintendo would flat out repeat the same mistakes again? Perhaps it's an effort to keep costs down, but that just means potential buyers will have to shell out for extra memory, so it's a false saving.

The controllers have built in motion sensors, which looks pretty clever in practice, and Nintendo have a launch game designed specifically to take advantage of that fact in 1 2 Switch. Force feedback is built into each Joy Con to provide a properly granular sensation too, so that's a nice touch, though as someone that turns off rumble on every console not something that blows me away. It's also worth metioning that the console is region free, this is definitely a "good thing" as now you can import all of those obscure games that have been missing from your life, maybe cheaper too. Boo yah!

Then we get the hits. The battery life of the console, when away from the charging point for some on the go style fun, is a rather paltry 2.5 hours to 6.5 hours depending on the game. The quoted time, as an example, for Zelda was roughly 3 hours - which immediately rules out the Switch as a go to device for long distance travel. Considering playing big games on the go is kind of the whole selling point this feels like it could be a deal breaker for a lot of people, as a poor battery almost negates that aspect entirely.

Nintendo have also decided to FINALLY try and provide a proper online offering but even tried to screw that up in every conceivable way. It's free until Autumn when it'll become a paid for service, which is fine as that would be on par with MS and Sony so would at least (hopefully) mean they are going to provide a stable platform. However, the chat service will be via a separate app (as opposed to just using Skype for free - I mean come on Nintendo), plus while they are offering a free game each month it will only be a NES or SNES game AND you only get to play it for that solitary month. It's a hot mess of a subscription service, even if it costs relatively little. Why don't Nintendo get how to do online yet? I'd be happy for them to just rip off the PS Plus or Gold service at this point as at least that would be something.

The launch line up is also looking anaemic at best with only FOUR games confirmed to date. The aforementioned 1 2 Switch is a compilation style game, with a bunch of mini games designed to get the best out of the pads and console no doubt, and is alongside a rather drab list of Skylanders and Just Dance. Wow! The only big game confirmed for launch is Zelda, which is also coming out on Wii U so is hardly a massive reason to shell out (a LOT) for an entirely new console.

UPDATE: It seems the launch offering has swelled to seven games now. As Ubisoft are cranking out Rayman Legends, which has beena round for an age now, and Steep plus it seems the new Bomberman will be available at launch too. Better - but hardly games that are going to get your pulse racing.

Upcoming titles were a touch rosier, with Super Mario Odyssey chucking our favourite plumber into the real world for some open world Bowser bashing. It looked in parts amazing and in parts uncanny valley, but at least its coming even if there was no set date confirmed. Fire Emblem Warriors is a hack and slash spin off of the RPG title. Splatoon 2 is in the works, as is an updated version of Mario Kart 8 (which is bizarrely missing the launch line up, despite being just the Wii U game with a few extras). There is also a new "Switch specific" FIFA on the way, which sounds ominously like the stripped down versions that have been haunting the Wii and Wii U for a while. Oh dear. Other titles include motion conrolling fighting game Arms, racing game (that's not F-Zero, boo) Redout, a Sonic title and a reimagined Street Fighter.

Other games were announced but seem years away, including Xenoblade 2, a new Shin Megami Tensei, a new game from the makers of Bravely Default (called Project Octopath Traveller, which is either genius or bat shit crazy), A no More Heroes sequel and a new Bomberman. Yay!

As ever then the strongest part of the whole event were Nintendos first party offerings, with Zelda and Mario the obvious system sellers. The console itself looks good, has some cool features but yet again seems to be lacking in a number of key areas, with a terrible battery life, poor memory, a muddled online offering and currently dire launch line up.

The Switch was Nintendo’s way of coming back after the poor performance of the Wii U but it seems that they are just repeating the same mistakes over and over again. It's a system that will boast tremendous first party games but third party support still seems poor, despite claims to the contrary, and we'll still be seeing older titles like Skyrim emerging years after their prime and newer games like FIFA with stripped back features.

It's a hard sell at launch for anyone but diehards. As if you have a Wii U you can get Zelda on that, leaving you with just three games to choose from. Buying any of those titles and a console takes you over the magic £300 threshold, and any extra pads or accessories push that cost even higher.

For all the promise of the Switch it seems like the bets course right now is to wait and see, at least until it has a heck of a lot more games and its basic features (no online at launch, no Virtual Console yet) are up and running properly.


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