Official details about the Nintendo Switch have been officially revealed, but perhaps the system should have stayed behind the curtain.
I want to see Nintendo succeed. I grew up a devoted Nintendo kid, reading Nintendo Power, and blowing hopefully into my cartridges when they wouldn’t start. I’m instinctively drawn toward whatever the company produces, if only for the heady rush of nostalgia that comes from donning the iconic red hat of the world’s most famous plumber. Nintendo owns a certain innocent joy that recalls playing with toys more than anything else in modern gaming.
That’s why the Nintendo Switch is so frustrating.
With the official reveal event, Nintendo has loudly proclaimed that it just doesn’t care very much about the people who’ve spent a lifetime supporting it. The Nintendo Switch isn’t just a backward piece of technology, it’s a categorically inferior product that masquerades laziness as innovation.
Aside from being only nominally more powerful than the Wii U — which in itself wasn’t exactly a huge leap over the Wii — the Nintendo Switch sports some of the most meager internal storage we’ve ever seen. The most hyped forthcoming title for the system, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, will take up 40% of the game’s 32GB hard drive by itself.
Even more egregious, the system doesn’t even come bundled with a controller charger — an extra $30 expense on top of a system that retails for $300. The Nintendo Pro controller also isn’t included with the Switch and for some reason is more expensive than controllers for the Xbox One or Playstation 4 will cost you.
On top of those costs are a newly-announced paid online service that blatantly offers less for your money than any of its competitors.
While Xbox and PlayStation offer deep discounts and free monthly games, Nintendo is taking a slightly different approach: rentals. That’s right, you’ll get to borrow one NES or SNES game per month. Afterward, you’re going to need to pay even more for the privilege of continued play.
While you do, at least you’ll have online voice chat. Nintendo’s finally caught up with two console generations ago, but only with the help of your smart phone. Voice chat will use your phone’s data, through an exclusive app you can only access by forking over that monthly fee.
They’re launching with no more than a handful of titles: the bizarre and irritating 1-2-Switch, the latest iteration of Just Dance, a port of Skylanders: Imaginators, and Super Bomberman R. They’re obviously depending on the aforementioned Zelda entry to sell the console, but that will be releasing along with a virtually identical version on the Wii U. Nintendo is also scrapping the Mii-verse, one of the only truly enjoyable experiments from the troubled days of the Switch’s predecessor.
Super Mario Odyssey looks interesting and will no doubt sport the quality that Mario titles are known for. Still, Nintendo’s iconic plumber looks just a little bit ghoulish compared to the more naturally proportioned denizens of the game’s New Donk City (yes, really), and the game itself suggests Grand Theft Auto in the most bizarre way possible. It smacks of Sonic 2006, and that’s not a great first impression to make.
But, despite all of this, people will want the Switch because it says Nintendo on the box. Unfortunately, those people are already out of luck. The artificial shortage tactic is already in full force, with GameStop having already sold through its preorder allotment and the system unavailable at this point on Amazon.
If Nintendo had dropped the price, been more generous with its frankly ludicrous library of classic titles, integrated proper voice chat, secured an even slightly stronger launch library, or just focused on internal hardware that was relevant to this decade, I’d be singing a different tune. Even if they’d only accomplished one of these things, an argument could be made for the legitimate success of the Switch.
But as it stands, the only thing that will sell Nintendo’s new console is the same rush of nostalgia they’ve leaned into for years. At some point, it just won’t be enough any more. And considering the reception of the Wii U, yesteryear’s goodwill may have already run dry.
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