The Nintendo Switch: Pre-Launch Analysis
The future of Nintendo will be here on March 3rd. Will the future be bright and exiting or will it be a disappointment?
After months of speculation about their new hardware, a console handheld hybrid called the Switch, Nintendo revealed many important details about the device at a January 13th press conference. In traditional Nintendo fashion, the press conference (live streamed from Japan) was filled with ups and downs. There were plenty of exciting revelations about the new hardware and the games planned for the device but those exciting moments were coupled with groan-inducing moments that left viewers confused or with even more questions. With the newly acquired information from the presentation and a large amount of interviews and events Nintendo has hosted since then, consumers and analysts now have a clearer picture of what the system is and some of the games you will be able to play on it. With the release date looming, it is an excellent time to examine and analyze the information available to consumers. Let’s switch into gear!
Price – $299
The price of the Nintendo Switch will be $299 at launch. The console includes: A Nintendo Switch tablet (Tablet Sized Device), Joy Cons R and L that attach to the Switch, a Docking Station (To Display the Switch on a TV), charging cord, and the Joy Con Grip (used when the Switch is docked). Unlike earlier reports and rumors, there will not be differently priced models (different SKU’s) of the device. This is refreshing, as Nintendo has struggled to market their previous product and what is include in the different versions of their devices. Hopefully, having one SKU will eliminates some of the confusion about which version to buy on launch day. While there are not differently priced models like the Wii-U (which came in a 5 GB and a 32 GB model), the Switch will launch with two different models, both priced at $299. There will be a Switch console that includes muted gray Joy Cons and another model with one Blue and one Red joy cons.
The price of the product has disappointed many fans and analysts. Many analysts were hoping for a $250 to $275 price range, which they believed would help it compete in a very crowded marketplace. Currently you can get a PS4 and Xbox One, both of which are more powerful hardware than the Nintendo Switch for $299 (or cheaper if they are on-sale). It is disappointing that Nintendo did not price the product more competitively, which would make it easier to differentiate the Switch from its competition. That being said, the price of $299 is not so high that the Switch will be dead on arrival. At $299, the Switch is still a competitive product. It is fair to point out that the Xbox One and PS4 both launch at more expensive prices then the Switch but they also more powerful systems as well. Readers who want a Switch but think $299 is too expensive for the product should keep it eye out, perhaps Nintendo will drop the price or create bundles for Holiday 2017.
While the price of the Nintendo Switch is higher than some expected, the price still will allow it to be competitive in the market place. But what about if you want to buy a new controller? What if you want to an extra docking station? Well, the price of many of these items may leave you astonished or disgruntled. A single joy con will be sold for $49.99. A set of two Joy Cons will retail for $79.99. A docking station will cost $89.99. The Nintendo Switch pro controller, which will include HD rumble and motion controls (which were lacking from the Wii-U pro controller) will retail for $69.99, only slightly higher than what the Dual Shock 4 and Xbox One controllers retailed for. While there is admittedly a lot of tech crammed into the Joy Cons, the price of $49.99 for a single Joy Con or $79.99 for two, is not an appealing price point for consumers. If you want to buy a Joy Con Grip that charges your Joy Cons then that will cost you an extra $30 (for the record, the Joy Con Grip that the system comes with will not charge the Joy Cons while they are attached to the Grip).
The pricing of Joy Cons and other accessories could be a serious misstep for Nintendo, as they are pushing the Nintendo to be friendly to multiplayer games like Mario Kart, Arms (which requires a two Joy Con set up for maximum effect), and other games they may have down the pipeline in the future like Super Smash Bros. Early reaction to the pricing of these accessories and controllers has been skewed towards the negative. In an article for Polygon, Ben Kuchera asserted that the consumer perception of the price of these accessories will be “an important detail as Nintendo begins to try to sell this thing to a mainstream audience, and the initial reaction isn’t positive” (Kuchera, Polygon.com).
The battery life of the Nintendo Switch continues to be a point of contention for the new hybrid system. At the presentation, gamers and analysts received information that many had expected: the battery life will largely depend on the game you are running on the device. In their conference, Nintendo asserted that the Switch will give player ” 2.5 to 6 hours of gameplay” per charge. For big games, that number will probably veer towards 2.5 to 3.5 hours per charge. It has been confirmed by Nintendo that Zelda will have a max of 3 hours per charge.
The battery life remains a gray cloud hanging over Nintendo’s head. It is dangerous for a system which is touted as a system you can take “on the go” to only support two to three hours of gameplays per charge. Perhaps there will be external batteries made by retailers and other companies. Battery life remains an issue that could stand in the way of the Switch’s success. When discussing battery life of the Switch, IGN’s Jose Otero wrote that the Switch could succeed or fail based on how battery “limitation impacts the overall portable experience” (Otero, IGN.com).
One advantage the Switch has over the current Nintendo 3DS handheld system is the Switch’s use of the USB-C charging cable. USB technology is much more common than the cables and charger that the 3DS used. USB-C is a common charging cord used to charge smart phones and other devices. This means that you may already a charger that can be used with the switch.
During their presentation Nintendo gave almost no information about Virtual Console and since the presentation they have remained quiet on the issue. Virtual Console is a digital E-shop service where games can buy and download older generation games. Each game is priced somewhere between $4.99 and $19.99 depending on the console it originally appeared on. Many gamers have spent considerable time and money with Virtual console games on Wii-U. With the advent of the Wii-U many games want to be able to play these games on the Switch. The hot issue is whether this upgrade will be free or there will be fees for moving your virtual console games to the Nintendo Switch.
Additionally, it was rumored that Nintendo Switch would bring some GameCube games to the device, including the revered Super Smash Bros Melee, a game fans wish to have access to and a game that is commonly played at some fighting tournaments. Another rumored virtual console title is Mother 3, a game with a passionate following. Virtual console could be used to pat the launch line up. Nintendo has a rich history of excellent games and making these available could help distract from a lack of software, or fill in the gaps between big first party releases like Zelda and Mario.
Online: Pay to Play (Eventually)
Nintendo is taking major steps towards modernizing their online with the Nintendo Switch. At long last, Nintendo will have a voice-chat a feature that many critics thought hampered multiplayer online games of the Wii-U era, such as Splatoon and Mario Kart 8. The service will let players invite friends to play online, set play appointments, and chat with friends. Online will be free until Fall 2017 when it will become a paid subscription. It will depend on what exactly is provided in the service and the price of the service. A recent interview from Nintendo President Tatsumi Kimishima revealed that the service cost “2,000 – 3,000 yen annually which translates to $17.62-$26.44 (16.39-24.58 EUR / 13.94-20.91 GBP)” (Pereira, Gamespot.com). While this number may not be an exact estimation for the United States, it is likely that the price will be somewhere in the $20 to $30 range. This pricing model is much more affordable than the price of Xbox Live or Play Station Plus, though it is unlikely that the features included in Nintendo paid online service will as robust as Sony or Microsoft’s are.
Nintendo is opting to use a mobile phone app as the portal for Online chat and other services. This is intriguing since Nintendo has only begun to connect their software and hardware with smart phones and the mobile market since the launch of Miitomo and Super Mario Run last year. Another feature that will come with the paid subscription is access to a SNES or NES game. Unlike subscriptions like Games for Gold and PlayStation Plus, which allows you to keep these games as long as you are a paid subscriber, the NES or SNES game will disappear every time a new month rolls around. In this case, it is more like rental service rather than receiving a free game. One interesting detail that Nintendo has no elaborated on is the “newly added online play” (Nintendo). It is exciting to think of being able to Super Mario Kart and other classic games online. If executed correctly, these monthly games could become exciting community events.
If Nintendo delivers a drastically improved online experience and additional features, then there will be ample justification for their decision to opt for paid online. In an article for Forbes.com, Erik Kain asserted that Nintendo is free to follow Microsoft and Sony’s example by charging for online services, but it is uncertain if the quality will match the online services offer by other companies. Nintendo is coming from a position of “inexperience with online networks” and needs to deliver a high quality service their gamers will enjoy using. (Kain Forbes.com). Until gamers have a chance to try the service, we will not know how stable the online connection is, how effectively features like voice chat and lobbies are implemented in a smart phone app, and if it is worth paying for this service once it becomes pay to use.
Storage – Almost Non Existent
The Switch will launch with a measly 32 Gigabytes of internal storage. As a consumer, this choice feels baffling. While many consumers and fans knew not to expect the larger 500 GB or 1 Terra-byte of storage that comes with a PS4 or Xbox One, many expected a larger hard drive than 32 GB. The Wii-U, which launched in 2012, had options for a 5GB or 32 GB system at launch. This means that Nintendo has not increased the storage space at all since the Wii-U. Since games are becoming larger and larger, it feels like a misstep to not increase the size of internal storage for the system. For example, if downloaded digitally, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild would take up 13.4 GB, almost half of the Switch’s storage.
Despite this, the Switch does have two things going for it storage-wise. Firstly, the Switch is using cartridges instead of Blu-ray discs. The advantage of cartridges is that they do not require storage space or need to downloads data into the hard drive the way Blu-Ray discs have to. Many big games like Halo 5:Guardians and Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End required 50-60 GB installs in order to be played. If Switch buyers buy cartridges instead of buying game digitally, then they can conserve their storage space for E-shop games and other digital only products.
Another bonus for the Switch is that it supports the expansion of memory with Micro SD cards. The Switch has a micro SD slot build onto the device, a wise choice considering the rather limited memory the system comes with. Micro SD cards will users to expand the memory of the Switch significantly. Ultimately it is frustrating that the Switch has a somewhat limited memory, but it is something that Switch buyers will put up with and there are already some fairly cheap solutions to the storage problem.
The Launch Line Up
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild will anchor the Switch’s launch
The Launch Line Up remains an issue for the Switch. Reports from Polygon and IGN confirm that the Switch will launch with less games than the Wii, Wii-U, Xbox One, or PS4. Currently the North American launch line-up includes a disappointing amount of games: 1,2 Switch, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Just Dance 2017 (Ubisoft), Super Bomber Man R (Konami), I Am Setsuna (Tokyo RPG Factory/Square Enix), The Binding of Isaac Afterbirth, Skylanders: Imaginators, Human Resource Machine, Little Inferno, and World of Goo. Needless to say, the current Switch launch lineup is not the most extensive list of games, but there is some interesting variety in the games available at launch.
While the Wii-U may have launched may with more games, it was not anchored by the launch of a game like Breath of the Wild, which is one of the most anticipate games of the year. Nintendo’s last console to launch with a Zelda game was the Wii, which launched with The Legend of Zelda: The Twilight Princess (also a dual launch game) to great success. While the new Zelda will also launch on the Wii-U, the game remains a huge draw for potential Switch buyers. The game has garnered huge attention from fans and critics alike. With the promise of an impressive open world experience, gorgeous art direction, and a return to the fundamentals of the original Zelda, the game is shaping up to be a once in a generation experience. If there is one game that could offset a weak launch line up, it is Zelda: Breath of the Wild.
Software After Launch
Launch line ups for systems are often lack luster for many new consoles, regardless of the quality of the machine. In order to achieve more stable success in the market, a console or handheld needs to have games after launch to encourage consumers to buy the device and to convince current owners to continue to support the device. If the Nintendo Switch does launch with a weak launch line up, as it most likely will, Nintendo can recover from a weak launch line up with a steady flow of games from first and third party developers. In a recent interview, Nintendo President Kimishima assert that it is important to “continue to provided new titles regularly without long gaps. This encourages to continue actively playing the system, maintains buzz, and continued sales momentum for the Switch.” (Gurwin, Digitaltrends.com). Whether Nintendo will accomplish this goal remains to be seen, but if they do, they will avoid a major problem that plagued the Wii-U.
Let’s start by discussing what is usually one of Nintendo’s greatest strengths: first party software. At the presentation, Nintendo showed off two high profile ports/expansions of big Wii-U properties: Mario Kart 8 Deluxe and Splatoon 2. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, which includes all the content of the Wii-U game and its two DLC packs, along with a revised battle mode, will launch on April 28. Mario Kart 8 did astonishing well on the Wii-U’s dismal install base, selling 8 million copies (an astronomical number for a console that has a life-time install base of 13-14 million), and Nintendo is banking Mario Kart 8 to repeat its success with the Switch. While this game may not be exciting to Switch owners who already own a Wii-U, the game is incredible and is a great pick up for any Switch owners who didn’t own a Wii-U.
Splatoon 2, a semi sequel to the Wii-U’s break out success story, will be coming to Switch in Summer. The recent Nintendo press event allowed many to play a build of the game. Splatoon will be coming out in Summer 2017. Snipperclips, Cut It Out Together, an interesting experiment from Nintendo and one of their first E-shop games, will launch sometime in March. Arms, a game that looks like an exciting expansion of Nintendo Wii boxing mini game, will be available in Spring 2017. It’s use of the Joy Cons allows for a unique control scheme. The recently announced Fire Emblem Warriors is slated for a fall 2017 release.
Nintendo still has a lot of question in terms of Software for their first year. There will likely be a tickle of announcements prior to the Switch’s launch, and then more announcements coming at their June 2017 E3 conference. If Nintendo wants to succeed, they need to bring an assortment of games and experiences to the Switch. Fans of Metroid may finally see the return of Samus Aran by year’s end, as Nintendo of America President Reggie stated that reports should “talk to me in a year, after we see what happen” (YouTube, Game Spot Interview). One can only hope Metroid will make a triumphant return on the Nintendo Switch.
In terms of Third Party support, considerable questions remain. Will studios like Ubisoft, EA, and others bring their games to the Switch, including games they have developed for PS4, Xbox One, and PC? The showing of third parties at the presentation was rather tepid (including EA’s somewhat awkward FIFA presentation) but there is still hope that third parties will support the system. There were rumors of a Dark Souls port, as well as a Ubisoft’s rumored Good or Evil sequel, will these games end up on the Switch? Only time will tell how well the Nintendo Switch is supported by Third Parties. The future is by no means certain at this moment. And it would be unwise to say that the Switch will be fully support or not support by Third Parties.
Indies game seem to already have an exciting presence on the Switch. Fan favorite Shovel Knight will be an excellent title for gamers looking to scratch their retro gaming itch. The beautiful puzzle adventure game RiME be arriving on the Switch. Yooka Laylee, Playtonic’s exciting new 3D Platformer was cancelled for the Wii-U, but it has been confirmed as Nintendo Switch game for later this year. In addition to the above mentioned games, there are a variety of other Indie games that are coming to Switch, each offering distinct and interesting experiences. It is exciting to see how developers take advantage of the Switch hardware and support from Indie developers so far is extremely encouraging.
What do you think about the Nintendo Switch? Will you be buying the console handheld hybrid when it launches on March 3rd. Will you be waiting until more games come to the system? Are you unconvinced by what Nintendo has shown?
Gurwin, Gabe. “Nintendo admits Switch launch lineup is slim, promises continued stream of games.” Digital Trends. N.p., 02 Feb. 2017. Web. 03 Feb. 2017.
Kain, Erik. “The 5 Biggest Problems With The Nintendo Switch.” Forbes. Forbes Magazine, 19 Jan. 2017. Web. 25 Jan. 2017.
Kuchera, Ben. “The pricing on Nintendo Switch accessories is a bad, bad joke.” Polygon. Polygon, 13 Jan. 2017. Web. 03 Feb. 2017.
Gamespot. “Nintendo Switch: A Deep Dive with Reggie Fils-Aimé.” YouTube. YouTube, 17 Jan. 2017. Web. 03 Feb. 2017.
Pereira, Chris. “Nintendo Switch’s Online Subscription Service May Cost Less Than You Expect.” GameSpot. N.p., n.d. Web. 03 Feb. 2017.
Nintendo “Nintendo Switch online service – Nintendo Switch™ Official site – Online gaming, multiplayer, voice chat.” Nintendo – Official Site – Video Game Consoles, Games. N.p., n.d. Web. 03 Feb. 2017.
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