Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Nintendo Switch: Last Hurrah or a Comeback?

I really do question what Nintendo thinks in their offices in Japan. For over 20 years, they have lost a lot of their home console audience due to bad decisions such as the Nintendo 64 using cartridges and a number of things from the GameCube. They rebounded a bit with the Wii, but stumbled heading out of it and failing miserably with the Wii U. Their handhelds, however, have been a consistent seller, even without much competition and the their biggest threat being the PlayStation Portable. All things considered, Nintendo is putting their eggs in one basket to bring in a unique way to play games. Coming March third is the Switch.

What Nintendo is trying to do is to combine the experience of playing on the go like people would with a 3DS, but also have the experience of playing it at home like any of their home consoles since 1983. Their aim is to focus on one system and one system only. The hope is for their to be no multiple versions of the same game like what happened to Super Smash Bros.. They seem to get the grasp somewhat on what needs to be done in order to succeed.

Regarding the Wii U, it was a big failure due to a lack of marketing, the name, pricing, and a bulky gamepad which contributed to the price, just to name a few of its mishaps. Nintendo seems like they understood the problems that plagued their predecessor and are trying to fix any damaged caused by it. I find the price to be a little high, but not a dealbreaker. Three hundred dollars is manageable. The controllers, named Joy-Con, looks to be something that will not add to the price. However, getting a set of two and a Pro Controller altogether is going to cost over a hundred dollars, which will hurt a little bit if you instantly want four player action.

You can't have a launch without having games. The lineup when Switch debuts is very small. Of course, the big one will be The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. It has been in development for a very long time and will also come out on the Wii U. Nintendo launched the Wii with Twilight Princess and it served as a strong launch game in 2006, so hopefully for the big N, they didn't anger a lot of their fanbase. That being said, the rest of their lineup as of now won't have as much of an impact like Zelda, but there is stuff that will keep some owners occupied. The next biggest franchises are Just Dance, which was still being made on the original Wii along with the newer consoles, and Skylanders, the toy based game that has been a seller since 2011. Other notable games include 1-2-Switch, Super Bomberman R, and I am Setsuna.

For the rest of 2017, Nintendo seems to understand to space the game releases over this first year to keep people interested in the Switch. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe comes out in April, but they hope its enough until Splatoon 2 releases in the summer. Then there is the Christmas season, which is when Super Mario Odyssey hits shelves. If Nintendo plays their cards right and advertises the system and the games, this could make people buy a lot of product and somewhat compete with the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.

A big problem with Nintendo is getting third party support. For now, it looks okay. A lot of companies are looking to test the waters with a game or two. Getting past the launch titles, some of the notables include Skyrim, Dragon Ball Z, and Sonic Mania. A lot of companies have been confirmed into making games for the Switch. It's just a matter of wondering if they come out and when. The first year of support for the Wii U had quite a bit of third parties, but by the end of 2013, it dwindled down very fast. Nintendo really needs to keep these companies and still give them a big reason to put their heavy hitters on their system.

One of the things that Nintendo has lagged at was online. The way they have been, they are trying to make up for lost time ever since they underestimated online back in the GameCube days. Now, they are going the Sony and Microsoft route of charging instead of it being free. Cost wise, it could potentially be around 17 to 26 dollars going by what the yen costs are going to be, but it will start the charging in the fall. That's not a bad price if that is what it's going to be throughout the world. Their online chat, on the other hand, requires a smartphone app, which is one of my issues regarding Nintendo. It seems like they move a step forward and then move two steps back. Without much information, it's hard to know if it's possible to do chat without a phone.

Then there is the free game with online. Nintendo hasn't really explained the reasoning, but similar to the Xbox systems, you get a game if you are using the paid online. Unfortunately, it's an NES or SNES game that is free for a month. I don't know if you can keep the game or you have to pay for it after a month, but if it's the latter, this could potentially fall flat on its face. I get that there is a wealth of games from the 80s and 90s that are loved, but it would have made more sense to look at the GameCube or Wii. Maybe even the Nintendo 64, but the way it is being done, this pales in comparison to what Microsoft does.

A big thing with the Switch is that it is a cartridge format. It should be obvious if anyone has played a 3DS or DS what the cart is going to look like. There's not much else Nintendo could have done. The memory size is still abysmal. Thirty two gigabytes is still not enough, and some will be forced to buy SD cards, especially if you are going digital.  There is no backwards compatibility, which I don't see as a dealbreaker. It would be a nice option, but it won't be the end of the world.

My assessment on it before it launches is this. There is enough positives that will help the system sell. Nintendo is playing it smart with their releases. The big question will be how they market it and how often they will promote it. If it does well, they have to carry that momentum and give people more old and new franchises, provide some price cuts and put improvement into their online and show that they can still be a competitive company with a huge comeback. If it fails, who knows what will come next for Nintendo.

So overall, I would have a little optimism regarding the Switch, but I wouldn't be too scared of it once its library starts to pick up during the year. I somewhat expect this to do better than the GameCube and Wii U if things go well for it. Hopefully, Nintendo knows what works and what doesn't. There's a lot riding on what could be the last hurrah if things don't translate to success.

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