Yesterday the next Nintendo console, the Switch, was officially announced and I couldn’t be more excited or nervous for it. If Nintendo can nail the launch and support of this console it could become my defacto console. But there are many caveats to this optimism.
With the Switch being a hybrid portable/home console with the portability being the main selling point the battery life of this console is just as important as any other portable gaming console, or mobile device. There are reports saying that the dev kit only has 3 hours battery life maximum and that is cause for concern, but the dev kit would be used in a game developer’s office so the consumer version may have a slightly better battery life, but that seems unlikely. And if the battery life is mediocre how will it last any meaningful length of time with wireless features on while running resource intensive games?
Third Party Support
Nintendo has had a problem with significant third-party support since the Gamecube. And while their first-party output is nearly immaculate, Super Mario 3D World, Splatoon, Metroid (not counting Other M), etc. But with the Switch their third-party support needs to be on par with Sony and Microsoft. If the Switch can have the breadth of third-party support the PS4 and Xbox One have, any major third-party game becomes a portable game. Imagine being able to play the next From Software Dark Souls-like on the go, or DMC 5 (please Capcom). Nintendo has announced a solid line-up of third-party developer partners, but that doesn’t promise continued or quality support. If this console has the same significant third-party dearth the Wii U and Wii had, this may be another costly endeavour for Nintendo.
Older Nintendo consoles were known for their durability, the Gamecube, original DS, and GameBoy Advance, the Wii, Wii U and 3DS have all become more fragile. If the Switch is meant to be as portable as that trailer leads us to believe the side controllers, or Joy-Cons, need to be able to take at least a mediocre beating. What happens if your tablet breaks? Do you have to buy a whole new system or can you purchase just a new tablet and sync it with your dock at home? I also never saw a cover or travel bag for the tablet, or saw it get pulled out of any travel bag, which makes me ask how we’re supposed to carry it around and not get it scratched. And even though Nintendo has been in the process of making their online store/account system actually meet the modern bare minimum requirements they’re still in the baby stages of understanding this ecosystem. I don’t foresee a Switch store that keeps your Virtual Console purchases from the Wii U. And speaking of the digital storefront, just how much hard drive space is the tablet going to have? This could and probably will be cleared up in the lead-up to release, but for now, along with the lack of a price point these questions leave a lot of doubt in consumers’ minds.
As a college student who frequently travels across the state to visit family over the holidays this is a godsend. I can bring console games cross-state or cross-country without having to bring my PS4 and then worry about finding a screen to use it. And before someone mentions remote play, yes it is a cool feature, but it doesn’t work that well. The Switch would make it so much easier to bring console gaming on long trips. This is assuming that the Switch tablet has some kind of portable charger, because despite Nintendo’s out of touch attitude sometimes they would be insane to not include one with the Switch. All the other positives really stem from this one big positive. And with the merging of the console and portable systems and user bases, many long standing Nintendo franchises stand to benefit and change. What does Pokemon do with this significant increase in hardware power? Will we still have Zelda games like A Link Between Worlds just priced around $40? One thing is for sure, a new (or upgraded re-release) Splatoon ensured my day one purchase of this thing. Now if we could just get a Prime or 2D Metroid game on this thing….
Nintendo gonna Nintendo
With Sony and Microsoft flexing their graphics muscles for their next console iterations I have to admit it is nice to see Nintendo still trying to innovate. This may become like another gimmick like the Wii U tablet or motion controls but it’s a gimmick that I think can significantly change Nintendo’s software output for the better, and a gimmick I’m optimistic about unlike the Wii and Wii U.