On Thursday, January 12th, Nintendo finally pulled the curtain back on its next home console: the Switch. As a detractor of the Wii U from the day it was unveiled, I was pleased to see that the company had seemingly veered back on course with the Switch — a hybrid home/portable console with some exciting ideas and one of the most anticipated launch titles in history. But then reality began to sink in.
As enthusiastic as I am for the hardware itself (as you can see in my hands-on report), it’s hard to look past all of the ways that Nintendo botched the reveal of a console that everyone wanted to like.
Below, I’m going to explore all of the ways that Nintendo bungled the reveal of a console that absolutely has to succeed, and provide some (potentially untenable) solutions for the company to consider.
1. The Price
Nintendo is asking consumers to pay $299 for an underpowered console that doesn’t even come with a charging controller. Both the PlayStation 4 and the Xbox One retail for $249 at the moment, and both have massive libraries of games that will only grow larger throughout 2017 and beyond.
Whatever Nintendo has to do to lower the price of the launch bundle, it should. Whether that means removing the non-charging Grip controller or selling the Switch Dock separately or throwing all the wrist straps into the ocean, the Switch simply isn’t competitive at $299, and never will be.
2. The Launch Lineup
This section probably deserves its own post, but I’ll try to be brief. At the time of writing, Nintendo has announced five retail games that will be available for the Switch on launch day. Five. I think I downloaded more than five games on my iPhone this weekend. To make matters worse, two of the launch games are ports, and only one actually looks anything like a triple-A console game:
- 1-2 Switch ($49.99)
- Just Dance 2017 ($59.99)
- The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild ($59.99)
- Skylanders: Imaginators ($59.99)
- Super Bomberman R ($59.99)
If Nintendo wants to convince anyone other than diehard fans to buy a Switch at launch, it needs to make 1-2 Switch a pack-in game. I won’t even go into the fact that 1-2 Switch looks like a collection of tech demos worth about $10, but to take it out of the bundle and sell it for $50 is criminal.
3. The Games
I know, we just talked about games, but the problem runs much deeper than the launch lineup. According to Nintendo, Only 23 games are currently scheduled to hit the Switch in 2017.
Of those, the only true exclusives are Breath of the Wild, Splatoon 2, ARMS, Super Bomberman R and Super Mario Odyssey, with the remainder of the list consisting of ports (I Am Setsuna, Minecraft, Skyrim), remasters (Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, Ultra Street Figher II) and indie games (Has-Been Heroes, Snipperclips).
Super Mario Odyssey could very well be the killer app for the Switch over the holiday season. Zelda might be massive enough to tide us over until the end of summer. But for now, it’s hard to see how the Switch is going to avoid the same fate as the Wii U, especially when things dry up completely in early 2018.
Thankfully, unlike many of these issues, Nintendo has time to address this one. No matter what it takes, Nintendo needs to come to E3 2017 with as full a slate of releases as it has had since the GameCube hit store shelves in 2001. If 2018 for the Switch is anything like 2016 was for the Wii U, it’s already over.
4. The Accessories
If you ever needed proof that Nintendo exists in an alternate reality, look at how much it charges for accessories. A set of Joy-Con controllers costs $79.99. A single Joy-Con controller, which you would only ever buy if you broke or lost one, costs $49.99. Yeah, you show ’em, Nintendo. Punish the idiots who break just one of their Joy-Con controllers by charging them an extra $10 to replace it.
What’s even more stunning than the price of the Joy-Cons — which are more expensive than a DualShock 4 or an Xbox One controller, despite the fact that they don’t come with an actual controller shell — is that the Grip that comes in the box of the $299 Switch can’t be charged. You have to take the Joy-Cons out of the Grip and slot them back into the Switch console to charge them, or pay $29.99 for Charging Grip.
This one’s easy: GIVE US A CHARGING GRIP IN THE BOX, NINTENDO.
5. The Online Service
Nintendo waited three months after revealing the Switch to actually talk about it. Presumably, this was because there were still elements of the console that needed to be finalized before the company would be ready to show it to the public. Somehow, even after the three months were up, Nintendo still hadn’t figured out the Switch’s online service is going to look like. All Nintendo knows for sure is that we’ll be paying for it.
Honestly, the fact that the Switch online service is paid instead of free doesn’t bother me all that much — it’s the industry standard, whether we like it or not. What does bug me is that Nintendo expects us to buy a gaming console in March 2017 that won’t have a full online service until fall 2017.
Here’s the kicker: Nintendo is going to do its own sort of PlayStation Plus/Games with Gold program and give away a free NES or SNES game every month to those who subscribe to the service. The games will even be updated with online play! Unfortunately, once the month is up, you can’t play the games anymore.
Another easy solution: let subscribers keep their NES games and figure out what you’re going to do with your online service before the console launches in March. You have a month and a half. Get to work.
I really like the Nintendo Switch. I dig the Joy-Con controllers, I love the improvements made to the Switch Pro Controller, I can’t believe I can play Mario Kart 8 on the go and I want to have one in my home on March 3rd. I just wish that Nintendo would stop finding ways to make desirable products undesirable.
The Nintendo Switch will be available on March 3rd for $299.99