Nintendo Switch Conference: High expectations and low returns

Like many of us I went into the Nintendo Switch presentation with high hopes, one could say too high. News leaks and tidbits of info got me to believe in the hype and raised my expectations of what was to come. Sadly though I broke the cardinal rule when it comes to conferences/game & console releases and allowed the hype to get out of hand and thus brings me, and seemingly many others, into the camp of confusion and disappointment.

The beginning of the conference started off well, as we got the price point of 299.99 American and a release date of March 3rd with the added bonus of a simultaneous launch in most major markets. Add this to the removal of region lock and fact that you can link up to eight Switch’s together to play in the same game and the console had a lot of promise to be a fun machine to bring around with you, but then we get into the oddball announcements. 

Nintendo is jumping into the ‘paid online service’ game along with Microsoft and Sony, but not until the fall as they have nothing currently ready to pay for. To compound this it was announced that subscribers to the service would receive one Nintendo or Super Nintendo game each month, however it was only for the month. While odd, this does run similarly to Microsoft’s games with gold program so maybe this won’t be as big of an issue as I think it is.   There is not much information on how this is all working, so like the free game a month, this may not be as big of an issue once more information is released. The one aspect of the Switch which has everyone scratching their head is Nintendo’s decision to make their voice coms system only usable through other media devices such as phones and, I assume, tablets. It boggles the mind on how this was the best solution in their mind especially when you consider that each game will decide if they want to include it or not.

Talking a bit more about the system brought to light some fears that were already in the community, the battery life, some basic quality of life upgrades in a capture/share button and everyone’s favourite feature; rumble. The battery life is touted as being two and a half hours to six hours which will likely be closer in reality to the lower end of the battery life. Battery life is always a tricky subject to tackle as people want to be optimistic about how long their charge will last, and much like phones the more you use your system the less the charge retains. It will likely be two and a half to three hours for most ‘big games’ and four to five hours for smaller or less intensive experiences while retaining the full six when using YouTube or other low end functions. As Nintendo showed off the controller, it was easy to see that it was not make for the average north american/European hand as they are incredibly small. A small saving grace is that the strap you attach to the Joy Con gives the entire controller a bit more girth.

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While we hummed and hawed over the console itself, Nintendo started talking about their games. Some part of the launch day line up, others within the launch window and finally some, which for the non-Japanese reading audience, were oddities with no date, or name, really set.  Eurogamer has a list of all games apparently announced for the Switch at some point and broke them down into their respective launch windows.

The launch day titles for the Nintendo’s new console seem to run the gambit of a traditional launch. You have the heavy hitter title in Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, followed up with games like Just Dance 2017 for the family entertainment and Skylanders Imanginators as a title for the younger audience. Add in a dash of nostalgia with a new look in Super Bomberman R and you have a moderate line up to keep most type of players engaged. The last launch title is 1,2 Switch, a new party style game which uses the Joy Con to perform activities such as milking a cow, seeing who has the quickest draw ala the wild west gun fights as well as a host of other face to face variations of games. This eschews the traditional screen experience to, as Nintendo is know for, try and bring a unique experience to the user(s) while they play. Heavily mocked name aside, I personally think there are some interesting applications and mini games to be found here, even if one of them is milking a cow.

We then get into the post release first party games, which range from a month or two after launch all the way to the the holiday season we get to some meaty games. Right away Mario kart 8 sticks out for two opposite but equally important reasons. On the one hand, having a kart game near the launch of the Switch is very important and gives the audience one of Nintendo’s most family friend titles. On the opposite side of that coin however is the fact this Mario kart is a ‘game of the year’ edition, bundling all the existing dlc into one disc, with a new piece of dlc in a few characters maps and battlemode changes. The lack of a new game worries some as it seems like the Switch has been relegated to ports of games on the Wii-U. The summer brings us Splatoon 2 which again seems to suffer the same ‘port +’ issues as Mario Kart, and then potentially nothing. Every other first party title is late 2017 or TBC, which does not instill confidence which is infuriating as games like Fire Emblem Warriors, Super Mario Odyssey and the rumored Pokémon Stars are heavy hitters needed. 

Third party games, the life blood that Nintendo needs, makes a moderately strong showing with fifteen games announced for 2017. We however immediately go back to the concerns discussed in the first party section. Seven of these titles are ports and while that is less than half, it is by the narrowest of margins.  Couple that with the other eight games do not scream triple a title and no real release date talked about, fans can’t help but feel a bit jilted, even if they are looking forward to said titles. For my own personal taste the other games by third parties with a TBC as the release date are my most anticipated as games like Dragon Quest X and XI, Seasons of Heaven, Shin Megami Tensei, and the ridiculously named Project Octopath Traveller. The wait for these however is one, on a personal level, of the biggest frustrations about the Nintendo Switch.

Much like movies, no sane person goes into a hobby or entertainment experience and hopes it fails. With that said I find that for every step forward made at this conference was coupled by two steps back with poorly defined objectives and an underwhelming plan for the year. I want Nintendo to be a juggernaut and bring their experiences to the masses, but as of this moment we are seeing a similar message as the Wii-U and that worries me as a fan of the company and a fan of their properties 

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