The good and bad of the Nintendo Switch reveal
This week Nintendo finally announced details of their long-teased successor to the Wii U. Previously only known as the ‘NX’, their next console will be the Nintendo Switch.
In a 3-minute long video we learned the machine will be both a home-console and a portable, with a nifty looking mini-screen coming out of the dock when you want to play on the go. There are several controller options, with tiny ‘Joy-Con’ pads clipping onto the screen for four-player on-the-go gaming.
Nintendo got a lot of things right with the trailer, and I’m excited. But it wasn’t perfect. Here is what I think it got right and wrong:
Clearly a new console: This trailer was a far cry from the Wii U’s launch trailer, which genuinely looked like it was a peripheral for the original Wii rather than a brand new machine. It spouted lines like ‘The brand new controller’ and bizarrely showed the machine playing Wii games. And it barely showed the actual console itself at all, further adding to the confusion. This issue of ‘what actually is it?’ plagued the Wii U for its entire lifespan, with brand confusion being one of its major problems.
Nintendo were clearly keen to not repeat this mistake with the Switch trailer. We got multiple close-ups of the console itself, and the complete move away from the Wii branding was made clear very clear. The clever logo representing the controllers was shown multiple times, hammering home the fact that this will be a brand new experience. Good stuff.
Games games games: My favourite thing about the trailer was the games they chose to show. The trailer started off with Zelda:Breath of the Wild, which we all knew was coming, then went on to show a new Mario(!), Skyrim(!), NBA 2k17 and a new Splatoon.
This was a really clever array of games to show. Nintendo fans will find it very hard to resist a launch line-up featuring a Zelda and Mario game, and Splatoon was one of the few successful new franchises on the Wii U, so it’s great to see it back too. The decision to show Skyrim was especially interesting, as it will represent the first time the Elder Scrolls franchise has appeared on a Nintendo console, and despite being a game from 2011, it will be the first time the game has been portable (and will hopefully be the remastered edition also coming to Xbox One and PS4). NBA 2K17 is another interesting one, as sports games on the Wii U were conspicuous by their absence – this seems like a statement that the Switch won’t suffer the same fate.
Big screen: The portable screen looks big. Big, crisp and beautiful. One issue I’ve had with Nintendo’s portables is the screen real-estate – Sony’s handhelds have always looked better, and it seems Nintendo has taken a leaf out of their book with the Switch.
Colour: The grey matt-like look is stylish, and further serves to set the machine apart from the Wii branding. It looks slick and mature, and would fit well in a living room. It doesn’t look like a toy.
Name: It’s a simple, memorable name. Interestingly it’s the first traditional home console ever with an actual word as a name – rather than an original hybrid of words/numbers that a console usually takes. If the word ‘switch’ becomes synonymous with the product, it’ll be a massive benefit for Nintendo. It’s a clever name as it relates to the machine’s USP, and opens the door to potential ‘Make the switch’-esque marketing slogans.
Mario: A new 3D Mario for the launch (hopefully) of a Nintendo console – the last one was Super Mario 64. And we all know how that turned out.
No price: We didn’t get a price for the machine in the trailer, and there are some concerns that the addition of the extra screen could make the cost high. The Wii U suffered from this and it will be interesting to see if the Switch suffers the same fate.
No specs: Nintendo have been quiet on the specs front, and we don’t know how it will match up against the PS4 and Xbox One – let alone the Scorpio and PS4k. With the portable option it’s unlikely it will be able to stack up against the latter two in particular. This should have been a lesson Nintendo learned with the Wii U – they have to keep their hardware at least close to their competitors, or third party support will fall.
No christmas surprise: The console looks cooked and ready, which makes the March release all the weirder. You’d think a Christmas launch would make more sense, but apparently March is still when we’ll see it.
No Pokemon: The games shown in the trailer looked great and ticked all the boxes – except one. If a Pokemon game had been on show, it would’ve completed the set and sent hype-levels into overdrive. Sun and Moon launch at the end of the year for the 3DS – a machine that will likely be made obsolete by the Switch – so perhaps this makes sense.
Controller confusion: I wrote in the 10 things I want from the NX that controller confusion was one of the big problems of the Wii U, so a simpler scheme for the Switch would be crucial. Alas, it seems the Switch has kept the trend of having many options, with a Pro Controller, a controller with the Joy-Cons attached, the screen with the Cons attached, and using each Joy Con as an individual controller. Whilst some might say that variety is good, in my opinion it’s just confusing, particularly for the casual consumer. The PS4 and One have one controller. Simple. Nintendo should try to keep it that way too.
Backwards compatibility: One of Nintendo’s greatest strengths is its backlog of quality games. It’s been confirmed that as the Switch will use cartridges, and will not be backwards compatible. It ends a tradition of backwards compatibility with its previous two consoles – my biggest hope is that it launches with a comprehensive online shop – something both Wii machines did not do well enough at all.
Overall though, I was delighted for the most part with the Switch announcement. They seemed to have learned from the costly errors of the Wii U regarding brand confusion, specs and message, and can hopefully make a success of it.