Alex O’Neill is Editor-in-Chief of IrrationalPassions.com, and resident “glass-half-full” man about all things skeptical in The Video Games World.
So uh… well, here we are. In a post-Switch world. We know what’s going on with that thing, for the most part. Are you happy now? Is this what you wanted?
Well. According to the internet, that’s a resounding “no”, but then again, when was the last time video game fans were actually ever happy with anything. Sony’s PSX press conference? And E3 press conference? Oh yeah, those things. It may be telling of the vacuum of followers I live in, but it’s predominantly people who migrate to Sony, will irrationally defend Nintendo, and continuously not even address Microsoft. And the former and latter all had nothing but terrible things to say out of Nintendo’s press conference formally unveiling the Nintendo Switch.
I’m not pointing any fingers, and I think we can all be honest here: it was a supreme bummer how much of ‘just another press conference’ this was, especially of the traditional, Tokyo Game Show-esque variety. It was very straightforward, with a little bit of that Nintendo feel thrown on top of. They spent most of their time talking about the actual hardware, and the Joycon controllers that they’re quite proud of. Trouble is, people wrote those things off when they first saw them detach from the console in its unveil months ago. This wasn’t what people were excited for. People wanted video games.
There weren’t that many video games to talk about.
Now here is the rub: I’m generally excited about the Switch as a platform. I hear a lot of “it’s the Wii 2” or “it’s just like the Wii U”, and I understand that mentality. The way it was talked about was an extension of the past, and the way Nintendo tried to “sell it” to consumers was poor. It was another ‘Nintendo doesn’t get who their fans are’ kind of press conference, which both alienated Nintendo fans and people who used to like Nintendo and really want to like Nintendo again.
But it’s not “the Wii 2” and it’s assuredly not the Wii U. I think the big point of separation is that the Switch feels like it has its own identity. I mean, the Wii did, but outside of 1-2-Switch, the Switch feels like something generally out of motion controls. I mean, ARMS is there… but I really like the look of ARMS for whatever reason and… I don’t know, that game has style, and I respect the hell out of it.
The Nintendo Switch is a platform that has a concept that makes sense, is instantly recognizable, and feels fresh, regardless of how few games are on it. It’s less powerful than the PS4/XBO (it was never going to be anything more), it lacks a lot of direct third party support (like I said it would months ago), and relies heavily on a gimmick, but at least in this case, outside of two shown games, it’s a gimmick that allows you more options on where you can play with the platform.
I may be reaching here, and don’t get me wrong, I think there is plenty to be frustrated with, we’ll get to that, but I think the platform, and that platform alone, stands stronger than folks are giving it credit for, even if Nintendo is a terrible sales person. I get it: I shouldn’t be here trying to sell this thing to you, Nintendo should be, but hey: there is a reason they don’t do press conferences anymore, and that definitely lends itself to why Nintendo should have just done a direct for this announcement as well.
Right now, my stance is that you, the reader, should not pre order this console. The one game that I think really sells that system is coming the same day to Wii U, and if you have a Wii U, it’s another (hopefully) great addition to the solid-but-small catalogue of games for that platform. This was a bad pitch, and Nintendo flubbed it. You shouldn’t support them day one because of that. You should take that word and speak with your wallet. It speaks far louder than any other action you could take.
I’m of many minds about this platform. Nintendo is a grown up company with grown up business men and women within. It should know better that an awkward, Japanese-centric show, with little direction and focus, sporadic translation, and poor pacing, just wouldn’t speak to wide audiences. Adults work at this company. Any of them could have gone and watched any E3 Press Conference either Sony or Microsoft did within the last two years, all four of which were great in my opinion, and by bear minimum standards better than this show. Anyone who worked that could have watched, oh I don’t know, literally any opinion or prediction video on the Switch in the last three months and seen what people wanted from this announcement. Any one there could have looked at the dropping trend in motion controls outside of VR, and realized that maybe a platform that uses motion controls, but as far as we know has no compatibility with Virtual Reality, isn’t something people would be interested in.
Did I expect them to actually be smart and do this kind of market research in a market they’ve been entirely vested in for over thirty years? Honestly, no. Nintendo is, by all accounts, so traditionally Japanese, in that they rarely pay attention to competition or seemingly-obvious external factors, that I never for a moment expected them to invest in the overall gaming ecosystem, because they’re just simply tonedeaf. Does that mean they couldn’t do a great and knock-out show? Absolutely not. They messed this up, big time. And I don’t think Nintendo can sustain themselves for as long as they clearly think they can going forward. There has to be that “come to Jesus moment” for Nintendo where they realize they can make far more money making software for other platforms than they can hemorrhaging their billions in savings for R&D on platforms that are going to fail because they just don’t know how to make compelling ones anymore. Or at least, compelling on the outside. Again, I think this platform will be great as a system, and ideally in the long run it’ll have some exciting titles on it, but this is such a bad first step that it reinforces the long-believed concept in my heart that Nintendo is far and away out of touch with what console players want and need in the modern day.
The Nintendo Switch should have been a handheld first, and a console second. It isn’t.
With all that harsh negativity out of the way, let me say this: is it too late for the Switch? Absolutely not. Nintendo has turned things around before and made really incredible games for their platforms. The Switch is cheaper than the Wii U Deluxe was at launch, and depending on how they market it, could sit quite comfortably as a companion to either of the “HD Twins” in anyone’s entertainment system. It’s gonna get the cool 3DS-style third party support that I speculated it would too, I really believe that. Announcing a Musou FIre Emblem game and a new Shin Megami Tensei game off the bat tells me that.
I think in a year, depending on what major pricing announcement decisions Nintendo makes, there may be more hope for the Switch. They really need to get out of their secretive ways of not announcing projects as soon as possible though, and reassure consumers that there will be games for this platform in not just the next year, but far beyond that as well. It’s something I hate, announcing games far too early, but Nintendo doesn’t really have a leg to stand on here. People doubt this thing, and clearing that doubt is and should be their number one priority.
I still believe that within the next year or two Nintendo will announce and release a portable-only version of the Switch that doesn’t come with the doc, has a better battery life, and is noticeably cheaper. Expanding this into a more affordable handheld option with the possibility of hooking it up to a TV still on the table makes the most sense, and would make it an easy buy for a lot of folks if it plays the same games.
Nintendo is down, but most assuredly isn’t out. I’m bummed out, but I am also excited. I want to see this platform flourish, and even if Nintendo may not get the consumer or what they want as much anymore, they still make top-tier and incredible games. At the end of the day, that really, truly does go a long way.