Saturday, January 14, 2017

Nintendo Switch

I find console launches are always fun even if it's a system I'm not particularly interested in so I figured I'd give my thoughts on Nintendo's upcoming Switch console. The release date (March 3rd) and price ($299.99) were finally unveiled two days ago. Although March was the month many expected for the launch, the end of the month seemed more likely as the 3rd is a little sudden at less than two months away. The system itself looks like a cross between a Wii U and a 3DS with the ability to use the new gamepad similarly to a Wii Remote and Nunchuk, and take games on the go by disembarking the console from the dock to play them on a controller with a touch-screen. As is typical with Nintendo, local multiplayer is a focal point and the system's portability along with the new controllers will help get more players involved in every gaming session. Up to eight Switch consoles can be used together and the new gamepad can be split between two players.

Unfortunately, the price could be a little high in comparison to the competition and the accessory prices are going to eat into everyone's game budget. The retail launch titles are on the weak side too. The lineup includes The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Super Bomberman R, 1-2-Switch, Skylanders Imaginators, and Just Dance 2017. Zelda is obviously the key game and is likely enough to sell plenty of systems. However, some fans might opt to get the game for the Wii U, a console they likely purchased specifically for this game. Bomberman is a welcome surprise with Konami being one of the last publishers one might have thought to find here (due to their handling of Metal Gear Solid V and moving the company's focus toward gambling machines). 1-2-Switch appears to be the typical platform demo type of game, showing off something new with a variety of mini-games along the lines of Wii Sports and Nintendo Land. Skylanders Imaginators and Just Dance 2017 are the standard 4-6 month old games from other platforms looking for a few extra sales.

Remember these? Some good, some not so good.
If you missed LEGO City Undercover it's coming
to the Switch too, and most other platforms.
I would have expected more PlayStation 4 and Xbox One games to find their way into the Switch launch. Perhaps the sales during the Wii U's launch convinced some publishers that it wasn't worth the cost to develop a bunch of ports or they don't believe it's worth competing with Zelda at launch. Maybe with a March console launch it might be better to wait for the summer dry spell before unleashing a flurry of last year's games with updated content. Of course, it might just be too difficult to get most PS4/Xbox games to work on the Switch. There is definitely nothing wrong with quality over quantity, though it's always nice to have a variety of genres at launch since everyone likes different types of games. Plus, beyond Zelda the quality may be lacking. Bomberman could be great but it's also likely only fun with a few players.

Will there even be a good variety of original content post-launch? Nintendo itself tends to recycle its own franchises over and over which has worked well, and it did add one new successful property on the Wii U in Splatoon. Third-party support is still important, however, if Nintendo wants the Switch to be a lot more successful than the Wii U. A number of publishers have pledged support to the Switch but will they release more than one game if sales of their first title are not good enough? Will we primarily see ports from third parties? Ubisoft will follow up Just Dance 2017 with Steep and Rayman Legends: Definitive Edition. More ports, awesome! I had a hard time getting into Steep; it was fun to mess around with the wingsuit but as big as the area to explore is I got tired of it rather quickly. Rayman Legends is one of the best of a solid platform series so if the fans want to play it again with some exclusive content, they'll need a Switch.

Puyo Puyo Tetris
Sega announced its upcoming multi-platform Sonic the Hedgehog game, Sonic Mania, will release for the Switch, as will the puzzle game Puyo Puyo Tetris. I'd say Sega is a safe bet to stick with the Switch throughout its life cycle. It will likely continue to pump out Sonic games that will always be at home on Nintendo's hardware. Sega subsidiary Atlus announced its working on a new Shin Megami Tensei title for the console.

Electronic Arts put Mass Effect 3 on the Wii U at launch but recently BioWare stated it has no plans to release Mass Effect: Andromeda (also releasing in March) on the Switch. That's too bad as it's a popular series that is a nice change of pace to many of the games announced for the Switch. Instead EA was at the Switch presentation to let everyone know it would support the console with its next FIFA game release. FIFA is one of the most popular game franchises and it never hurts to have a solid library of sports games on any console.

Bethesda also made an appearance to back the Switch with The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. Skyrim is a great game, or it was when I played it in 2011 on the Xbox 360 and PC. Okay, I'm sure it's still a lot of fun but when the game releases in the fall it will be six years old and is that really what the Switch needs during its first holiday season? Many gamers will have already dedicated 100+ hours to Skyrim and it's asking a lot for RPG fans to buy the game again, especially if the MSRP is $59.99 (not sure if it is finalized but retailers do have pre-orders set to that price).

Super Mario Odyssey
There were more games announced by other publishers as well that you can check out over at Nintendo's website. We'll just have to wait and see how well the ports and other third-party releases perform. Even though third-party support is important for retail success (more games = more shelf space and attention by retailers), Nintendo will surely find continued success with its first-party titles. A few more things Nintendo mentioned are that the console will be region free which is great and the online service will be a free trial until the fall at which time it will be a subscription model. It also stated:

Subscribers will get to download and play a Nintendo Entertainment System™ (NES) or Super Nintendo Entertainment System™ (Super NES) game (with newly-added online play) for free for a month.

Nobody knows exactly how to interpret that. My guess is that users do not get to own the game they choose to play for a month, and then the next month they can either choose the same game or a different game. It's also very possible a game can only be chosen one time because Nintendo likely wants to hook players into buying every game they try. One thing Nintendo is not great at is sharing its older titles; it would rather nickel and dime its fans over and over again. My suggestion would be to give out a free NES and/or Super NES game to own every month to subscribers. If Nintendo wants to do the select-one-game-per-month plan it should do that with all of its games beyond the 16-bit generation. In any case, it really does need to leverage its back catalog better. The fact that Nintendo has been making games for as long as it has gives it an edge over the competition that it hasn't taken great advantage of.

Although I poke fun at the ports and might be a little sarcastic at times, I do hope Nintendo and the third-party publishers do well with the Switch. No video game fan should ever want to see a game or console fail. More games is always a good thing and more competition benefits all of us.

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