The Switch, Nintendo’s newest video game system, merges home gaming comfort and portability to create a unique, eye-catching platform.
The nifty Joy-Con motion controllers foster the same casual-friendly gameplay that made the Wii a hit, while Switch’s tablet-style design and side-grip controller slots improve Nintendo’s Wii U vision. When you consider Nintendo’s dominance over the portable console market, it’s easy to imagine Switch following suit and delivering some truly excellent games. Still, it’s just as easy to be apprehensive about committing to the new console, especially with Switch launching in the wake of Wii U’s passing.
Leaving Switch’s Fate Up to Chance
From the system’s catchy reveal trailer, to its painfully detailed presentation, it is clear that Nintendo wants its audience to know exactly what Switch is, and what it can do. A quick glance at professional gaming outlets, or community-focused sites and YouTube channels, reveal Switch unboxing videos, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and Super Bomberman R reviews, and innumerable hot takes. Nintendo is pushing Switch in a big way, and it’s using the growing trend of gaming channels and online personalities to push the system into the eyes of the masses.
One thing is certain: the Nintendo Switch launch is going to be big. But will the system maintain a steady burn, or be a mere flash in the pan? Switch could be a potent contender in current console market, if Nintendo plays its cards right. But to make Switch more appealing to gamers sitting on the fence, Nintendo should consider tweaking and improving the following four issues.
Switch Needs Strong Third-Party Support
To ensure the Switch’s longevity and success, Nintendo needs good third-party developer support. Yes, we’ve all seen the fancy graphic featuring dozens of developers on board with the Switch. Sadly, this means very little, as Wii U boasted similar partnerships prior to the system’s launch. Third-party Wii U support dwindled a few months after the system was released, and companies like EA abandoned Wii U software development entirely.
The video game industry changes constantly, so we can’t know what games ultimately come to fruition. But Nintendo needs to secure these partnerships to keep the Switch relevant. We know the system can’t compete with the hardware muscle that Sony and Microsoft have to offer, so Nintendo must keep the Switch appealing with solid software options. Because Switch is a portable/home console hybrid, one can hope that the system’s lineup of games mirrors that of the Nintendo DS and 3DS, which enjoyed excellent third-party support throughout their lifetimes.
Nintendo does its player base a solid by making the Switch region-free. You can purchase and play Switch games from anywhere in the world, be they niche Japanese games or big-name multiplatform titles. Wii owners might remember Operation Rainfall, a social media campaign that urged Nintendo to bring several Japanese-exclusive titles to North America and Europe. Games like Xenoblade Chronicles and The Last Story made their way to Western shores thanks to the movement, but it might not have been as much of an issue had Wii not been region-locked.
The Switch is also getting a surge of indie games throughout the year; about 60 have been announced for Switch, including Yooka-Laylee, Pocket Rumble, Stardew Valley, Shovel Knight, and more. This is great news, as it gives Switch owners a tremendous amount of content to chew through in between big-name releases and exclusives. But these games alone won’t be enough to keep Switch afloat: it needs compelling software that goes beyond the indie scene. Third-party support from companies EA, Ubisoft, and Square-Enix, be it multiplatform ports or exclusive games, is extremely important for enticing potential would-be Switch buyers. Bayonetta 2 was a tremendous Wii U asset, after all. We can only wonder in excitement at what companies, such as Platinum Games, Capcom, and From Software, are cooking up for Switch.
Switch Needs Modern Online Functionality
The Nintendo Switch reveal came with the revelation of a new, online service to go with it. This service is free at launch, but will adopt a subscription model in autumn. While this may not sound very different from the services Sony and Microsoft provide, these companies have several years more experience with subscription-based online services, as well as incentives to encourage gamers to commit. PlayStation Plus’s free monthly game downloads and Microsoft’s Games with Gold are prime examples. A quick look at the official Switch online service page suggests Nintendo has a few odd kinks to work out.
The most positive aspect of Nintendo’s new service is the discounted offers on select games, which is a genuinely nice perk, given that Nintendo games don’t usually drop in price. But that’s about the only good thing to come from the announcement.
One glaring issue is the bizarre monthly game download, which lets subscribers download one NES or SNES classic title for free, for a month. The caveat, however, is that you don’t get to keep it after that month is over. This is only worsened by the fact that these games are several generations old and easily obtained online via emulators. Sony and Microsoft both give you a selection of games to download and keep so long as you keep your subscription active. Sure, these monthly offerings aren’t technically free either, but it’s a nice perk, especially since you’re paying for online connectivity anyway.
What is perhaps even more bewildering is Nintendo’s use of a smartphone companion app for basic online features, such as party chat and game invites. We can only speculate about why Nintendo has opted for a companion app rather than designing these features directly into the Switch’s interface. Nintendo’s online approach is odd, and we can only hope that the company learns much from the spring and summer online beta.
Switch Needs a Bundled Game
There is no doubt that Wii’s runaway success was due to the console’s unique motion gimmicks and casual appeal. However, the silent hero in the Wii’s tale of glory is Wii Sports, the quirky, party-oriented sports game that came packaged with the console in some regions. Wii Sports epitomized the Wii experience: it used simple motion controls to great effect, while also crystallizing exactly what Wii offered.
Nintendo Switch is a portable console with two highly specialized Joy-Con controllers that can be paired together for use as a single classic controller or divvied up with a second player for co-op or competition. But the Switch doesn’t come packaged with any game to take advantage of the dynamic controllers or the console’s mobility.
1-2-Switch is a party game that utilizes the Switch’s portability, as well as the two Joy-Con controllers for competitive dueling and party-style challenges. This makes 1-2-Switch the ideal candidate for a bundled game, but Nintendo has opted to sell the game separately and for $50, no less. The tremendous success of Wii Sports, even in regions where the game was not bundled with the system, is very likely coloring Nintendo’s decision to sell 1-2-Switch independently. Nonetheless, the game’s quirky humor, silly mini games, and Switch-exclusive tech would be better suited as a bundled title rather than a standalone game.
The two-player functionality of the Joy Cons, as well as their highly versatile motion and IR capabilities, alongside a pack-in game, would perfectly emulate the NES bundles of old: It would be a modern iteration of the NES Action Set bundle from the late 1980s.
Switch Needs More Memory
Nintendo Switch launches with 32GB of internal storage space for game data, but about 7GB of that is taken up by the console’s system software. This means you could easily use up what little memory the Switch is packaged with on a single digital game download. Alternative bundles with larger storage capacity would be ideal for those gamers who prefer to buy their games digitally.
Nintendo is avoiding the atrocious price gouging that PlayStation Vita owners suffer by making the Switch compatible with generic micro SDXC cards. As you may know, PlayStation Vita uses outrageously expensive proprietary Sony memory cards to store game data. With Switch, however, you can buy whatever size microSD card you like to replace the system’s default storage.
It’s also important to note that Switch uses cartridge-based software that doesn’t need to be installed onto the system, unlike PlayStation 4 or Xbox One, which make installations mandatory for digital and physical games alike. Memory is less of an issue if you buy physical cartridges, so you can simply pop a new game into the Switch and play right away.
The issue here, however, is that not everyone wants to buy a physical version of the game. Many gamers prefer buying digital games, as they don’t take up real-world space and can’t be lost. Nintendo Switch’s game cartridges are tiny: smaller than a Nintendo 3DS cartridge. You can’t fault buyers for wanting to go digital to avoid having to keep track of these diminutive, yet highly valuable games cards. Again, an alternative bundle with greater storage options would be ideal going forward.
Plus, game saves are stored to system memory. They’re realitively small files, but add up over time. If Nintendo allowed users to move save data from the system memory to microSD cards, it would be a much welcomed addition.
Nintendo is no stranger to iterative system releases. The Switch’s spartan launch may not impress everyone right out of the gate, but I have no doubt that a Deluxe Edition is coming down the pipe, with a larger microSD memory card, a pack-in game, or both. We can almost certainly expect something like it later this year. Nintendo Switch has tremendous potential, and I sincerely hope that it delivers on all fronts, and that Nintendo improves its weak points in time for the holiday season.