January 12th has come and gone and we have finally received some actual information from Nintendo about what we can expect with the Nintendo Switch. So how does it stack up? Will millions of Americans be making the Switch or can we expect another Wii U fiasco? Let’s look at their presentation.
For those of you wanting to watch the full thing, here’s a link to a Youtube video which captured the entire press conference. Go nuts. We’ll be here when you get back.
I also want to make clear that a lot of additional information has been released both to media outlets directly and on their website. I’ll try to incorporate as much as I can when talking about the console itself but I primarily want to talk about their press conference.
Alright, let’s get into the details of the thing.
Nintendo just cannot break tradition, it seems, no matter how hard they try. Despite the Nintendo Switch being toted as a back-to-basics machine being focused on the core gamer, they just can’t resist creating all-new controller gimmicks muddying up their console.
Despite the initial appearances, the Switch will contain both a touchscreen and motion controls. The motion controls will utilize an IR sensor in each of their standard controllers, dubbed Joy-Cons.
The touchscreen was simply given a single sentence in their hour long presentation when they said,”The screen will have a capacitive touch panel.” That’s it. I hope that answered all your questions about the touchscreen because it sure didn’t answer mine.
Here’s my problem with both of these announcements. The whole premise of the Nintendo Switch till now is that it will be a hybrid device, allowing for gaming both on the TV and on the go. If there are games that utilize the touchscreen though, how will those be playable on the TV? I can’t very well poke the screen while it’s docked, can I? Maybe they will substitute in the motion controls in some cases, but what about when I want to use a Pro Controller which doesn’t have motion controls? Will I not be able to use the Pro Controller for games that use a touchscreen when it’s docked? You see how this becomes insanely complicated right out of the gate.
Also, let’s talk about those motion controls for a second. How hard is Nintendo pushing the motion controls onto developers? If I take my Switch on the go with me, how much am I going to need to use motion controls to get through games? I’d love to play Zelda: Breath of the Wild on a plane but not if I have wildly swing the controllers around just to play it.
Unfortunately, no answers were given about how this will be managed.
The other most important question I had during this presentation was battery life and while it’s not a total disappointment, it’s also not ideal. They said that battery life will depend on the game being played and should last between 2.5 and 6 hours. They estimate a game like Zelda: Breath of the Wild will last 3 hours on battery life.
This is on the short side, in my opinion. 3 hours isn’t long enough to last most plane trips without an extra charge and that’s disappointing. Parents won’t be able to hand their kid’s the Switch to play in a long car ride.
The upside of this is that they did announce that the Switch will charge using a USB Type-C charger. This means that you will be able to use third party charging devices to keep a portable charge handy for longer trips. It’s an extra cost on top of the new console but at least it’s an option unlike for portable consoles like the 3DS.
The last thing that I want to mention is that Nintendo announced that their controllers will contain a new “HD Rumble”. Since I haven’t physically held a controller, it’s hard to say what this is like but they described it by saying if you hold a glass with ice cubes in it, you can tell the number of ice cubes by the feel of the controller. You could also tell if it’s being filled with water. So… there you go. It sounds cool but who knows how well it actually works.
One of the first questions everyone had coming into this press conference was “What games are launching on the Switch.” Nintendo responded with a big middle finger because only two of the games they showed are coming out at launch: The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (a welcome confirmation considering rumors going around that it wouldn’t be available at launch) and a pack-in title called 1-2-Switch that seems to be the Switch’s answer to Nintendoland and Wii Sports.
Every other game announced during the press conference will be coming out in the future. Now, I looked online and found a few more games coming out at or very close to launch time (the games specify March 2017 so… maybe they come out later that month?) but it’s still a pretty light list. Here is what I found:
- The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
- Has Been Heroes
- Just Dance 2017
- Snipperclips – Cut it out, together!
- Super Bomberman R
- I am Setsuna
- Skylanders: Imaginators
The only ones that specifically say they release at launch are Zelda, 1-2-Switch, Bomberman and Skylanders.
So that’s pretty disappointing but they did at least show us plenty of other games coming out in the future for the Switch. During the presentation they showed trailers or even game demonstrations for Super Mario Odyssey (the official name for the previously dubbed Super Mario Switch), The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, Splatoon 2, a new boxing style game called ARMS, an unnamed Shin Megami Tensei game, Fire Emblem Warriors, Dragon Quest Heroes 1 & 2, Dragon Quest X and XI (not confirmed for the US yet. I’d bet on XI but probably not X coming over to the west) and a new Square-Enix game called Project: Octopath Traveler.
That’s a lot of games but only a few even got release windows. ARMS will be out this Spring and Splatoon 2 will be out in the Summer. Skyrim comes out in the Fall and finally, Super Mario Odyssey will be out in time for the holidays. Again, the website contains some more games but only a few have confirmed release windows. We’ll be getting an enhanced Mario Kart 8 called Mario Kart 8 Deluxe on April 28th. Sonic Mania will be out in the Spring with Project Sonic 2017 coming out sometime this year as well. NBA2K18 will be out in September and Lego City Undercover is getting a port this Spring.
While it shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise, Nintendo also made a brief announcement that they will be moving to paid online functionality in the Fall. They didn’t say what this would entail but said they would have parties and online events. There was nothing about included games like PSN or Xbox Live offer but they said they’d talk more about that as we get closer to Fall. Until that time, all online functionality will be free for Switch early adopters.
A big hole in their announcement came from a lack of any statement on the Virtual Console. Not a single word was uttered about what we would see from Nintendo’s past offerings. A big selling point for many players would be a big revamping of the Virtual Console. Rumors have also surfaced that Gamecube games would be available for the first time on the Switch. It seems we’ll have to wait to see if they can fix the numerous problems with their otherwise enticing VC lineup.
And finally, the big announcements of release date and price. The Nintendo Switch will be releasing on March 3rd in most regions of the world at a price of $300. They also announced that the console will be region-free so European readers or frequent importers don’t have to be concerned about where they buy the console.
I have concerns about the $300 price point since that will put them at a higher price than the Xbox One or the Playstation 4 who are both under $300 now. For many gamers, Nintendo will have a hard time convincing them that their functionally weaker hardware with fewer games will be worth the purchase over Microsoft’s or Sony’s already installed consoles.
Final Grade: D
I was very disappointed by this press conference. I’m left with more questions than actual answers about the hardware after learning that it will have motion controls and a touch screen. Their launch line-up wasn’t stated and even after searching through their website, it still seems very light on games. Breath of the Wild can’t carry the console by itself. Finally, the price point seems too high and will prove to be a hard sell in a world dominated by the Playstation 4 which is available for less. Nintendo doesn’t completely fail as they did provide numerous gameplay demos and some surprise reveals for games coming out later on the console such as Fire Emblem Warriors and a new Shin Megami Tensei but the launch looks to be a frightening time for this new console.
Nintendo is coming from behind and they need to play their cards right to make a comeback in the gaming industry. I’m afraid that they are not making good choices in the critical launch period and it may cost them big down the line.
What are your thoughts so far? How did the press conference leave you? Will you be making the Switch? Let us know in the comments.