Nintendo Switch Early Impressions


Gus and I have already registered our opinions of the Switch on our podcast, but it’s time to break things down in print.

Now, obviously, Nintendo needed to reveal the Switch in a way that didn’t echo the unveiling of the Wii-U.  I mean, let’s be honest… they didn’t do anything to help that console.  They didn’t convey what it was, nor did they market the damn thing.  But the Switch reveal was quite different.  After all was said and done, we had a great understanding of what the console is, why it has the potential to benefit everyone, and most important of all, how it’s actually supposed to work.  It was the necessary ‘un-Nintendo like move’ they so desperately needed, but unfortunately, the company left their stink all over the rest of their presentation.

At least they started strong.  Right out of the gate, they told us what the Switch’s price point was and what its release date would be.  Everyone was surprised to learn the console would be out on March 3rd, sooner than expected – media outlets a plenty had reported March 17th – but the price point, $299.99, was a little confusing.  Without any context, I think $300 is reasonable, but that’s not the problem.  The problem is that Nintendo probably aren’t selling the Switch at a loss, and they really should be.

You see, Nintendo like to pretend they’re not competing with Sony and Microsoft, but that’s poppycock.  If you’re a gamer that has yet to enter this generation, and someone gives you $300 to spend on a new machine, you’re probably not buying a Switch.  As of right now, Target’s website offers the Uncharted 4 PS4 bundle and the Battlefield 1 Xbox One S bundle for only $299.  All of a sudden, the Switch’s ‘reasonable’ price point doesn’t seem so reasonable, especially since it doesn’t even come with a game.  So yes, Nintendo, you ARE competing with Sony and Microsoft.  To pretend otherwise is… well, pretty much what I expect out of you, you daft, clueless bastards.  And let’s not forget, this holiday, the Switch will also be going head-to-head with the Xbox Scorpio.

So, there’s two things Nintendo should have done for the Switch, and keep in mind these are minimal moves.

First, they really should have included a pack-in game.  2 + 1 Switch seems to be a simple a tech demo; a smattering of mini-games which show off the system’s distance measuring IR sensor as well as the HD rumble feature.  If this title was included with the Switch, people would have something fun to play with their friends right out of the box… which would have been a brilliant strategy if Nintendo had employed it.  People would have been compelled to call their friends over to try 2 +1 Switch on the hybrid machine.  This would have put the console in people’s hands in optimal settings, possibly causing these people to want a Switch of their own… but that’s a future not set to pass.  Instead, Nintendo are charging $50 for their slate of demo experiences… and NOBODY is going to buy it.  No, instead, everyone is going to buy Zelda and play the shit out of it for months… alone.  Now, if anyone wants to get hands on with the Switch, they’ll probably have to try it at a Gamestop, which is probably the LEAST optimal setting I can think of.


Nintendo could have reduced the Switch’s price to $249.99.  Would that put them at a loss per unit sold?  Maybe, but consoles are often sold at a loss.  Hardware distributors understand that selling at a loss usually leads to a faster growing install base.  One day, their console will be easier and cheaper to produce, and that’s when they’ll be able to turn a healthy profit.  In the meantime, they’ll make a little off software sales and accessories… or in Nintendo’s case, severely overpriced accessories.  Cover the ears on your wallet, because this rundown is going to make it cry:

A Pro controller is $70.  An additional dock – which is basically just a plastic case with HDMI passthrough – costs $80.  A single Joycon controller – that’s just one SIDE – is $50… or, you can get a ‘discount’ if you buy two for $80.  The Joycon straps are $8 a pop.  The controller cradle for the Joycons – that is, a hunk of plastic with a tiny USB charge port – is $30.

Worst of all, Nintendo have finally joined the multiplayer paywall club.  And that… that’s just terrible.  But damn it, if you want to play Splatoon or Mario Kart 8 Deluxe online, they’ve got you by the cajones, don’t they?  Now to be fair, I think everyone expected Nintendo would burrow down this rabbit hole one day… ‘because’, but that doesn’t make it any less of a disappointment.  I mean, this was the only consumer friendly thing Nintendo had left… yet they just cast it into the wind like they couldn’t give less of a shit.  And for those of you thinking there’s some other way they can justify their ‘service’, think again.  They’re going to give you either an NES or SNES rom each month, and some of the latter will have multiplayer enabled.

“A rom?  A bloody ROM?!”, you might ask.

Oh yes, a rom.

That’s what their ‘free game’ offerings will be… and at the end of each month, they’ll take them back… unless you want to buy them, of course.  Know what that means?  Nintendo doesn’t give a squatting shit how many times you’ve purchased games through their Virtual Consoles; they STILL want you to buy them again.  The only positive thing I can say about this, at least for the time being, is that we have no idea how much Nintendo are planning to charge for their ‘service’.  If they were smart, they’d make it way less than what Sony and Microsoft are charging… but nah.  Still, the price of this thing is a big question, and they left it hanging in the air.

There were other questions they neglected to answer too, such as, “What’s the launch line-up going to be?”  It wasn’t until the next day we had confirmation of five titles… and boy, did a lot of people express concern about that.  I’ve lived through numerous console launches that had been worse, so I’m not going to complain.  Besides, can you think of a better launch title than Zelda: Breath of the Wild?

“But it’s going to be on the Wii-U!”

So?  Nintendo have only sold between 13 and 14 million units, so for the many that never bought a Wii-U, they won’t care about Zelda being cross-platform.  The people who own a Wii-U won’t care either… you know, since they’re still getting the game.

Despite everything I’ve just shared, I know this may be hard to believe, but, Nintendo know EXACTLY what they’re doing.  We may not like their approach, but every decision they’ve made has been steeped in money.

While casual consumers may look at this thing now and say, “There’s not enough that interests me,” Nintendo doesn’t care.  They know there’s enough demand from fans to keep this thing selling throughout the entirety of 2017, and why?  Because Zelda, Mario Kart, Splatoon and Super Mario Odyssey.  You can argue nobody will care about a port (Mario Kart 8), nor a sequel that hasn’t differentiated itself enough from the original (Splatoon 2), but again, they have a large ‘didn’t previously own a Wii-U’ market to tap into as well.

But will the Switch sell as well as Nintendo and certain analysts believe?

Well, Nintendo apparently plan to have 10 million of these things produced by the end of 2017.  Considering where the Wii-U is sitting, that’s an ambitious goal.  However, there’s a lot of positivity buzzing around what this console can do, so I do expect this thing to outpace its predecessor every step of way.  Certain analysts have guessed that after all is said and done, the Switch will have sold 40 million units.

To that, I say, “Not so fast.”  I don’t think it’s impossible, but Nintendo need to stop being so wishy-washy.

What’s with all the ‘we’re going to continue to support the 3DS’ bullcrap?  They come up with the brilliant idea to market a console that’s suitable for home AND on-the-go usage, and they want to keep its primary competitor on the shelf?  I get that third parties love this machine because there’s 60 million units out there, but not putting the kibosh on the Nintendo 3DS in early 2017 is a mistake, and Nintendo will have to rectify that by this time next year if they hope to bring over the portable crowd.

And this ties directly into that whole ‘third party support’ thing.

Most Nintendo fans will say, “Nobody buys Nintendo hardware to play anything but Nintendo software!”  But a 3DS fan has to be pretty short-sighted to actually believe such baloney.  That system wouldn’t have moved 60 million units if not for third party support.  If you believe otherwise, think of all the people that would recommend Monster Hunter, Ace Attorney, Dragon Quest, Etrian Odyssey, Shin Megami Tensei, Bravely Default, and so-on and so-forth.  Beyond that, history shows there simply hasn’t been a successful console without a fair amount of third party support.

Thankfully, Nintendo has told us they’d like all third party games to appear on the Switch, but they shouldn’t hold their breath.  They’ll continue to see remasters of popular games, but that’s about it.  However, as long as the Switch keeps its momentum at retail, it shouldn’t be hard for Nintendo to convince third parties already on board with the 3DS to switch to… well, you know.  But again, Nintendo can’t wait years for this transition to happen.  It needs to be a year, tops, and then they have to commit to the Switch 100%.  No ifs, ands or buts.

I’ve let Nintendo have it pretty good in this article, but it’s so you, the consumer, will be aware of what the current value of the system is for the average consumer (not great), how the first year and beyond is likely to pan out (better than the Wii-U… slow at first, perhaps hot afterwards), and what things Nintendo could have done if they were truly ‘in it to win it’.  That said, I think the Switch is a pretty remarkable piece of hardware, and we could see a healthy balance of first party Nintendo games, as well as third party titles once those publishers are convinced to make their 3DS games for the Switch as well, or perhaps even exclusively, leaving the old portable behind.

Of course, success really is in the hands of Nintendo at this point.  They need to deliver on games.  No more of this ‘Metroid Space Ball Horseshit’.  Nintendo always say they listen to their fans, and now is the time for them to deliver.


Bit-History: Super Mario Sunshine

‘Bit-History’ is going to be my attempt at reliving games from the past which have left an impression on me, positive or negative.  To kick things off, I want to discuss a game that I’m really not very fond of, spurred by a conversation I had just recently on a forum I frequent.  “He’s not going to bad-mouth Super Mario Sunshine, is he?”  Why yes… yes he is.

Before the Gamecube, I was a huge Nintendo fan, thinking anything they would ever do would amount to pure gold.  As far as the future of gaming was concerned, there was no question in my mind that Nintendo was going to lead the way.  Boy, was I wrong.  For me, the Gamecube was a huge disappointment.  Those tiny discs seemed like a joke, and the console itself looked more like a toy than an actual console.  But, aesthetics aside, my major gripe was the horrid controller.  I mean, what the hell were they thinking?  It’s the most awkward control scheme I’ve ever used, and it should go down in history as a prime example of what not to do.  But, I had to work with what I was given, and what was a better game to give my new crap-tastic controller a workout than Super Mario Sunshine?  I would have to run, jump and slide with surgical precision, so the controller was really going to be pushed to its limit.

Well, let me begin by running down a shortlist of some positives about this game – Compared to Mario 64, the controls were refined, and the camera wasn’t nearly as awful as it was in its N64 predecessor.  The ‘world’ that was created for this game was bright and colorful, absolutely shattering the limited color-scheme that was on display in Mario 64.  Yes, the game looked great and it controlled even better, the latter of which making for a pretty fun and at times challenging experience, two qualities which have always been at the core of the series.

That being said, the positives are ironically intertwined with the negatives.  First, let’s talk about that beautiful world which Nintendo had created for ‘Mario’s vacation adventure’ – Bottom line, is that it just didn’t feel like a Mario game.  Mario was always at the center of the screen, and most of the baddies we were familiar with ran amok in each of the paint-portal worlds, but it all felt misplaced.  Nothing felt like it fit in with the environment, but I guess this is really sort of nitpicky.

Nah, what really bothered me most of all was the convoluted ‘story’ and the new gameplay mechanic that was introduced.  Basically, Mario goes on vacation but is arrested and charged for vandalizing the island with a bunch of black gunk.  The real culprit is ‘Shadow Mario’, but the natives have made up their mind and can’t/won’t distinguish between the two.  This premise introduces us to a new accessory for Mario to utilize during his travels – the FLUDD pack, which is essentially a glorified water gun.  So instead of just platforming, you have to use this thing to spray away the dirty stuff… you know, because ‘cleaning’ sounds like fun.  Furthermore, your pack obviously can’t provide an endless supply of water, so you constantly have to find a water source and refill the damn thing.  My question, obviously, is why the hell did the developers feel the need to tack on such a useless piece to the gameplay?  I mean, yeah, Mario Galaxy had a ‘space’ thing, but it kept platforming at the core of the experience.  Not so with Mario Sunshine, which actually forced you to work around the limited abilities of your ‘FLUDD’ device.  Mario doesn’t require a gimmick… and in this case, that gimmick managed to hurt the gameplay.

Conceptually, the game feels rushed.  “How can we introduce a new environment that can show off the Gamecube’s potential?  I KNOW!  An island resort!”  “Wonderful!  But how can we improve on the gameplay, even though Mario really doesn’t need that?  A WATER HOSE!”  The funny thing is, developers have noted a concern about throwing Mario into a world that feels so un-Mario-like, yet they moved ahead in this regard anyway.  At least in Mario 64, you were accessing magical worlds through the paintings in a castle, and each of the worlds within FELT very much like something you’d expect out of a Mario game.  Mario Sunshine’s tropical locale failed to create a similar feeling.

But, I know I’m going against the grain here.  So many people defend Mario Sunshine ‘because it’s just fun’, and Nintendo fans will vehemently defend the Gamecube, despite the fact it really didn’t have THAT many great games.  Super Mario Sunshine was one of the best experiences on the console… and isn’t that saying something?