A Switch Too Far: Why Nintendo’s Latest Console Is Unconvincing

Assuming you have 8 friends and a boat load of money (I have neither), you can enjoy innovative titles such as 1-2 Switch, a game that cringingly panders to a gimmick that absolutely nobody cares about, and costs $50. You can do fun things like quick-draw against fellow Nintendo gamers, and if you’re in the United States, try not to get shot for real by policeman fooled by your pretend stand-off.

But don’t worry, there are games coming that we absolutely do care about, like Super Mario Odyssey, except that it isn’t, not yet anyway, despite almost certainly being a Wii U game originally. I’m sure, when it finally does arrive, it’s going to be another masterclass of design from the Godfather of the platforming genre. But, frustratingly, except for the relief that Zelda will arrive as a launch title, the first party support looked wafer thin. Hype for Splatoon 2 is real, but it isn’t a launch game… really, Nintendo?

We’ve learned in the past that it isn’t a good idea to rely on Nintendo’s promise of third party support, and even if there were some positive signs, that, too, didn’t offer much tangible evidence to reassure either. Third party support has certainly been a big uncertainty going into the Switch’s reveal and was a much talked about potential sticking point about the console’s ability to compete in the world market moving forward. But, the offering is woefully short of what we would have wanted.

Ironically, Dragon Quest XI on Switch is a big boon, but was strangely breezed over during a scissor reel, rather than being expanded upon. Even so, we knew Atlus and Square Enix would be there – both of those developers are typically partnered with Nintendo, after all – but what else?

Suda51 made a cameo to explain that he was interested in making a game for Switch, but had not even decided what it would be yet — again, not very reassuring. The emphasis on FIFA was bewildering too. Sure, FIFA is immensely popular, and is designed to draw in a more diverse audience for the console, but did we really need an interview to announce a sports game?

Aside from vague promises and unnecessary sport game reveals, however, there were some more solid announcements that do spell good news from a third party support point of view. Yes, we can play Skyrim on Switch! We can enjoy that open world on the go, take it wherever we go and experience an AAA open world title on a handheld console. Well, for 2 or so hours. Seriously, you can bet your ass that games like Bethesda’s iconic RPG are going to be at the lower end the console’s battery life, which is a sobering reality that rather defeats the romance of Skyrim’s launch on Switch. I mean, why else would I want to play a five-year-old game on my brand new Nintendo console, if not to have it on the go?

So, to answer Mr. Tatsumi Kishimi’s question of what we thought….. Well, in all honesty, it isn’t looking good for the Nintendo Switch. This wasn’t a disastrous launch by any stretch of the imagination, but nothing I’ve seen tonight has convinced me to preorder the console. It isn’t all doom and gloom, but there isn’t much to hold onto either. We always suspected the hardware would have limitations, but what would have made all of that better, what would have smoothed over the ill-will from the Wii U’s early demise was solid first party support for the Switch. I wanted Nintendo to speak to me, to knock it out of the park with big names like Metroid and Mario at launch. Nintendo had to come out swinging to convince us that this was a new chapter for them.

Unfortunately, it felt a little too familiar, like Nintendo was falling into the same pitfalls that thwarted the Wii U — the wrong messaging to its fans through a lack of software and weak, gimmicky hardware.

A healthy, vibrant Nintendo is good for the market. But where yesterday, the future looked bright and there was a palpable excitement in the air, tonight has been sobering. There are going to be Nintendo’s hardcore fans that will always support Nintendo products, as they did the Wii U, but we know that audience isn’t enough to sustain the Switch. At least at this early stage, Nintendo’s future as a hardware manufacturer still looks questionable