I'm sure everyone and their dog has already written a blog about the Switch following Nintendo's recent presentation, but as a longtime Nintendo fan I feel obligated to offer my own thoughts on the system, and I have an angry Samus avatar with bunny ears, so shut up and listen.
Now something that people have been oddly overlooking in their criticisms is that the dock is distinctly lacking in a toaster feature. I'm not really sure why I'm the first to point this out because this is a pretty notable omission. I mean come on, you could've called it the Super Nintoaster instead; a way catchier name. In the age of smartphones that can track your daily bowel movements via the PoopLog app, why the hell can't my Switch double as a toaster? Fucking scandalous. I demand answers, and I hope Nintendo provides a good explanation for this in the coming months if they hope to sell me on the Switch. Otherwise it's not going to come home the breadwinner of this generation.
Now that we got the most important issue out of the way, let's start with the good about the Switch:
Super Mario Odyssey is looking pretty fun. It's giving off some serious Sonic Adventure vibes with the whole sprawling metropolis setting and awkwardly inserting a cartoon character among normal-looking human beings, but ya know, also in the good way of looking like a grand adventure of epic scope; full of faraway places and secrets to discover around every corner. Something that I've felt the Mario series has been missing for quite some time now is a genuine sense of adventure and exploration that I haven't experienced since the Mario 64 days. I was always eager to find out what lies behind every door and hidden passageway in Peach's castle, and while I was unexpectedly wowed by how deftly Super Mario 3D World melded old and new school Mario into a very compelling experience, I was still left wondering if Nintendo was ever going to bring back that hunger for discovery that I used to feel so long ago. It appears that Odyssey intends to do exactly that, and it's going to be all the more glorious for it.
Zelda: Breath of the Wild will launch with the Switch. The Wii U made the grave mistake of launching with absolutely no killer apps out of the gate, and Nintendo seems to have taken this lesson to heart; this time unleashing a real titan right from the start. With Breath of the Wild being the first 3D Zelda to feature a fully realized open world and possibly even full voice overs, this is looking to be the grandest Zelda adventure yet; one that is giving off some fitting Princess Mononoke vibes.
The general aesthetic and design of the console is on-point. No unnecessary bells and whistles, and it has an adequate amount of buttons placed appropriately in comfortable positions. It doesn't feel like the "gimmick" (if it can even be called that) gets in the way this time, but instead genuinely serves a practical function in giving the system additional functionality as a hybrid console.
The price point is fairly reasonable for what you get. There's been some arguments that it should be cheaper because it isn't as powerful, but what people aren't considering is that mobile devices have always been more expensive in order to achieve the same levels of performance as dedicated home devices. At the $300 price point, it's cheaper than an iPad and roughly half the price of a new smartphone, and yet will probably outperform both in raw processing power.
No region locking. Not much to say about this here other than that it's about time and region locking sucks. Good riddance.
The return to cartridge-based media could turn out to be a huge plus for the system. We're long past the days when N64 games were severely limited as a result of the storage space on cartridges. Now flash sticks and SD cards can reach up to 128 GB or more if they so please, and because this is solid state storage, this means a couple significant advantages over disc-based media: speed and rewritable data. You won't have to deal with load times, and unlike discs, you can also write save data, patches, or even possibly DLC directly to the cartridge instead of the Switch. Many critics have expressed concern about the Switch's lackluster 32 GB internal storage, but I think this won't be as big of a problem as it sounds if they effectively utilize cartridges in this way.
And now the bad:
The shift to a subscription-based service for online multiplayer is an unfortunate trend in the console industry; one that now Nintendo is poised to follow as well. It's exploitative and unnecessary, and as someone who only casually likes to hop on multiplayer from time to time, it's frustrating that it creates this feeling that I'm not getting my money's worth out of these services when I don't always feel like using them. Furthermore, as a kid growing up when Halo 2 hit the gaming scene and Microsoft introduced their Xbox Live service, my parents were never avid supporters of my gaming hobby and I always had to scrounge up the money myself to pay for everything. Given that I was obviously too young to have a job, this proved notoriously difficult and most often I ended up just relying on free Xbox Live trials that I would occasionally inherit from somewhere, if I even got to play it at all. No doubt my experience was probably far from the exception and I'm sure that many other kids will now have to compromise and miss out on fun times online as a result of this money-grabbing pay wall. And to be clear: this is a cash grab, as Steam has been providing a fully featured online ecosystem complete with friends lists, voice, and text chat for a decade now completely free, and it has been more than adequate for my needs. Lastly, given that Nintendo's online service has already been pretty lackluster in the past (I still can't even voice chat in Mario Kart 8), and there aren't exactly any confirmed launch titles yet that scream "I need to play this online," how they intend to build up a userbase for this new service is a pretty fucking big question mark block.
If you couldn't tell already, this kinda crap really pushes my buttons, so I now apologize in advance for this, but I have to get this off my chest:
Subscription fees can die in a fire. It wasn't acceptable when Microsoft started it, and it sure as shit isn't acceptable now that Sony and Nintendo are doing it. Spare me your apologetics about industry standards and how the money will go toward improving the service, among other odious rationalizations. I've heard them all before and you're just wrong. Deal with it.
Ahem, rant over.
Now onto the hardware. While I did say the price point for the system is good for what you get, the hardware still looks like it leaves much to be desired. I'm not sure if it was just something to do with the way the games were filmed during the livestream presentation, but a lot of the gameplay shown visually looked like it wasn't any better than the Wii U, and in some instances maybe even slightly worse. The system really needed to reach the performance of at least a base Xbox One in order to ensure third party support, but now that possibility seems to be thrown in jeopardy once again, as developers will have to work extra hard to optimize their games for the Switch, and many may just deem it not worth the resources to even bother developing. This is probably the most significant hurdle for the Switch, as the Wii U's weak hardware and lack of third party support proved to be a death sentence for the system. While I will more than likely be picking up the Switch regardless as Nintendo's first party franchises have always been more than enough to satisfy me, this is no longer the case for most other gamers, and if Nintendo wishes to remain relevant, they have to bring on third party developers and keep them on the system this time. The weaker hardware also throws into question the idea that this is truly a hybrid console. If it doesn't even reach the bare minimum performance that other home consoles can achieve, it feels more like just a mobile device that also happens to have a convenient way to dock with your TV rather than a device that truly doubles as both a full-blown home console experience and an on-the-go mobile system.
And then there's the software. Launching with Zelda is a great start, but then there appears to be a big dry spell pretty much until November when Super Mario Odyssey hits the shelves. Is Zelda alone enough to carry the console for most of its first year out in the wild? Keep in mind that Breath of the Wild is also launching for Wii U, so Nintendo fans don't have to purchase the system to play the latest Zelda. With this in mind, what audience is left to purchase the Switch on launch day? No major third party games confirmed for launch, and one first party title that is technically optional for most Nintendo die-hards who likely already own a Wii U.
Also the Pro controller is $70. Seventy. Dollars. What the fuck Nintendo?
Anyway, with all these considerations in mind, I think the Switch faces a pretty stiff uphill battle. It still seems poised to be viewed as the "secondary" console that you only buy if you have enough leftover money after purchasing your main gaming device, but on the other hand its mobile capability may provide just enough of an incentive for consumers that it can inch out a niche in the market like the 3DS did. Time will tell I suppose. If only they just included the toaster, all of our fears could've been allayed.
But now let's talk about what I think Nintendo should have done instead.