I’ve never bought a Nintendo console at launch. Perhaps my parents picked up the original NES close to its debut, but all my Nintendo purchases have taken place months and even years after they hit the market. But I pre-ordered a Nintendo Switch the very first moment I could. I waited in line and plunked down my money for a product I haven’t handled or even seen in person. Now I am left wondering: did I make a mistake? Maybe I did, but I refuse to be pessimistic. I want to balance my worry with excitement.
This is a big, important moment for Nintendo. If the Switch succeeds, they’ll be back in the good graces of gamers everywhere. The glory days of the Nintendo 64 and Gamecube will be back! And if the Switch misses? Well, The Big N could be looking at some rough times. It’s not a sure thing. There is a lot of uncertainty about the Switch, so let’s weigh the good and bad.
The Good: Let’s get this out of the way: the Nintendo Switch will never be powerful as the PlayStation 4 or Xbox One. That’s okay because it takes it out of competition with those big boys and alleviates the pressure a bit. What we have seen looks pretty slick. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is downright gorgeous, and other titles retain that cartoony and vibrant Nintendo look. There is some concern about the Switch’s battery life when undocked with estimates saying you can only get about 2-3 hours without being plugged. That’s certainly not great but good enough for a day on the bus or lunch break at work. Besides, you’ll still be able to undock the system and charge it via its USB port as you play in bed or curled up on the couch. So the strength of the graphics and battery aren’t as strong as their competitors but are still more than enough to make a good impression...
The Bad: ...For now.
What happens in a few years when the PS4 and Xbox One have made leaps and bounds graphically? The PlayStation 4 Pro and the Xbox One S prove Sony and Microsoft will continually enhance the horsepower of their systems. Will the Switch keep up or feel even less powerful as time goes on? How will this affect game developers? Why would studios create content for a system that just can’t muster the strength of others? Even if the Switch carries many of the same games, other systems do (more on that later) why would you buy them if you can play them on superior hardware? The lack of under-the-hood muscle shouldn’t scare you away, but it should concern you.
The Good: We are getting a brand new Zelda game at launch. We will be playing a ground-breaking Mario title by year’s end. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, Splatoon 2, Super Bomberman R, Xenoblade Chronicles 2 and several popular JRPGs will all be in our hands within months. Then you have a handful of coveted ports, from Stardew Valley to Minecraft to Skyrim and I Am Setsuna. Yes, that’s some promising content for the first year. If even a few of those games are good, you’ll be plugged into your Switch a lot. However, there’s a catch, and it’s a big one.
The Bad: Aside from the games listed, the line-up is pretty skimpy. The limited number of launch games is still laughable. Of course one of the launch titles is Breath of the Wild which is the game everyone wants to play. Still, this isn’t a very encouraging schedule of games.
This is the Switch’s first year, its coming out party. You'd think Nintendo would have a slew of games swamping the marketplace. This is the moment to make the Switch’s presence known. Instead, you have a handful of very interesting games (though many are ports, meaning you might have already played them) and a smattering of other smaller but promising titles. Rumors say Nintendo will make a big impact at E3 and introduce some real mind-blowers. You better hope so. While there are some exciting games coming out for the Switch, the wow factor is minimal.
Third Party Line-Up
The Good: As I referenced above, the Switch has made some third party relationships that are putting the Wii and Wii U to shame. Bethesda is on board with the Switch, along with EA, Activision, Square Enix, Capcom, Atlus, and Ubisoft. That is very good news indeed. Nintendo has always nailed it with their in-house games like Mario, Zelda, Donkey Kong and others. Where they have lacked before is with third party developers. Tons of games would come out for the Xbox and PlayStation but not the Wii or Wii U. Without that constant stream of AAA title games, Nintendo wasn’t able to attract new players or keep their consoles thriving. With them reaching out to these developers, it seems like that might not be a problem with the Switch, especially since it will be able to handle modern graphics.
The Bad: There’s a lot of bad in this category. A lot. While Nintendo has certainly reached out to third party developers, they aren’t bringing their A-game. Skyrim is an amazing game, one of the greatest of all time, but it’s nearly six years old. EA is one of the biggest gaming companies on Earth, but they’re bringing...FIFA? Really? Where are some of the major titles that other systems get? Where is Call of Duty or Assassin’s Creed?
Will the Switch eventually catch up and carry these other franchises or will they be forever stuck with year-old ports and less-popular games? If the Nintendo Switch wants to survive, it needs current and popular third party properties. If not, gamers will end up only using the Switch when it’s time for a new Nintendo favorite. Like the Wii U, it’ll end up collecting dust the rest of the year.
The Good: Even if Nintendo never delivers as many juicy third party games as it could, it still has one thing other consoles don’t: Nintendo games. Nintendo's library is loaded with classics from the NES to the Wii U. No other company has as many masterpieces at their disposal. As proven in the past, they are more than happy to let those games live again in the form of their eShop. Via the eShop, gamers have been able to download old games to their modern consoles and play them just like it was yesteryear. It’s been a huge boon to Nintendo, and it’s something they do better than anyone else. It’s one of the major reasons to own a Nintendo console, and you can only imagine how great it’ll be on the Switch.
The Bad: Nintendo has been surprisingly tight-lipped about this subject, instead hinting at certain things without much information. They have promised some sort of eShop but haven’t given specifics. They have also revealed that online services will cost money, a first for Nintendo. That’s okay; you have to pay to use the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 online too. But if we are paying, what are we getting? Like PlayStation Plus and Xbox Live members, Nintendo says subscribers will get one free NES or SNES game a month. Cool, right? Well, there is some speculation that you’ll only have said game for literally a month. It’s like a rental. That’s a bummer.
That's what I can reflect on now, but there's still a ton we don't know about. For example, Nintendo's relative silence about the virtual console is concerning. This is an area they always deliver in; they should be bragging about how great their eShop content will be. Instead, The N is playing it close to the vest and making a lot of gamers sweat. We will know more soon, of course. Very soon. The Nintendo Switch will either steal or break our hearts on March 3.