So Nintendo has shown off their next console: the Nintendo Switch™.
This machine is a touchscreen with detachable controllers called Joy-Cons. What a user can do is either play it while the device is connected to the TV, or take it out of the dock, and play games on the go. The device has a number of controller options, including using the Joy-Con controllers, using a Nintendo Switch Pro controller, and just using the touchscreen. The whole display will be in full high-definition, and will probably support multi-touch capabilities. It has been reported that the device has an nVidia Tegra GPU in it, so Nintendo has switched (no pun intended) to a new graphics card maker, and has moved on from ATI/AMD. It also looks as though the device supports cards similar to those used in the 3DS, but I’m sure it has on-board storage, as well. Now I need to ask the question: why should I care about this device? I already have a PC which can play a number of games quite easily (maybe not the most recent games at the highest settings), as well as a good mobile phone and tablet. So for the most part, I’m not interested. There is a good number of publishers who are saying they will support the Switch. But what will they actually release on the device? My guess is that, at first, they will release ports for the device (or games that have been remastered). But then what? Would Bethesda release the next Elder Scrolls game on the Switch? It’s unlikely, considering that they’ll probably release it for the PS4 and Xbone, and of course they’ll have a PC version. Maybe they’ll make a smaller version, or perhaps they’ll release the mobile version on the Switch. If that were to happen, though, why would anyone care? Couldn’t a user just play the mobile version on their phones or tablets? How would that version be different? Bethesda may release an Elder Scrolls game on the Switch, but it won’t be a version that’ll be found on the other consoles, that’s for certain.
How about other parts of the device? Will it have specs comparable to the PS4 and the Xbone? Probably, however those two consoles already have upgraded versions on the way. It’s true that they won’t be huge improvements over the originals (supposedly, the PS4k will have support for 4k televisions and be capable of running most games at 60FPS. But that’s it), but they still have
specs that some big developers will like. How about the development environment for the Nintendo Switch? Can one easily take their Steam game and port it over to the Switch? There were a big number of indie developers who really wanted to port their games over to the Wii U. But the hardware was just too foreign from their familiar hardware to justify a port. Thankfully, a number of games (such as Axiom Verge) did make it to the Wii U. But is this enough to keep the new console afloat?
Among other big developers who have pledged support include the old vanguard of Sega, Capcom, and Square-Enix. These three are laughable, as they have been hemorrhaging money for years. Sega has lost millions over the past few years (though more recently they have rebound), Capcom has only been kept afloat by Street Fighter, as well as old re-releases of Mega Man and Resident Evil, and Square-Enix has seen marginal return on their mobile phone offerings (don’t even get me started on Final Fantasy). What are they going to release on the Nintendo Switch? How are they going to take advantage of the device? Probably in the same way as the Wii: release only a small number of games, some re-releases, as well as “test” games, and see whether they are a success. So it’s unlikely we’ll see some big games from these developers (although the remake of Final Fantasy 7 does not seem far-fetched. Twenty years too late, is what I think). Other developers include Konami, Activision, and Electronic Arts, but I really doubt they will release anything worthwhile on the Switch.
There are other developers who do look promising. Platinum Games is making something, and with their track record with Nintendo, they’ll probably make some great content. Others include From Software, but my guess is that they’ll port over Dark Souls or Bloodborne, so nothing new there. Another developer on the list is Nippon Ichi, most famous for their Disgaea games. What they’ll have is anyone’s guess. Then there’s Epic Games. That one is a bit of an enigma: why would they develop for the device? Why would they care? I have not a clue what they would make for the Nintendo Switch.
All of this information is wonderful, but the public needs to know other things. As I have mentioned, it needs to have specs similar to the competition, so what the final specs will be is unknown. How will the games be played on it? Will they all use cards, or will discs be supported? What are the online capabilities for the Switch? Since this is Nintendo we’re dealing with, we know it won’t be as good as the competition (probably little voice support, a gimped messaging system, and no online friends group support). I’m sure the Switch will be region-free (even Iwata talked about this), so that will be a welcomed addition. But all of this will mean nothing if the software and feature support is solid.
We’ve seen the list of developers who are supporting the Switch, but what other features will it have? In time, those will be revealed. But is this something that Nintendo is showing that they are different, that they will listen to their fans, and possibly make the games that some of their fans want? It’s impossible to please all of the fans, but there has been huge criticism for major Nintendo games over the past year. Star Fox Zero was critically panned and Super Paper Mario: Color Splash was also criticized. Let’s not forget how different Metroid Prime: Federation Force is from other Metroid games. So how is management going to be different for the Switch? Will they be more willing to support third party developers (and I’m talking about actually throwing
money at them to develop exclusive content for the Switch, as well as helping them with developing the games)? Will they make their online system more open to those consumers who just want to freely converse and play with other, different users? Will they allow for the users a little bit of freedom in Miiverse, to show content that may be a bit more grown-up? Of course, there will still be moderators. It is doubtful, as Nintendo’s management has changed little since Iwata’s passing.
I feel that, if Nintendo really wants to recapture the consumers they lost to the competition, they will have to change some of the leadership at the top. Even though they got a new president, mostly what has changed was what departments the current management looks over (most of the titles changed to “deputy <title>”, so they have a deputy director of marketing. I guess they became deputies when they got a new sheriff in town). It’s true that Nintendo has been getting younger developers into their company, and did try to find a younger president. But their leadership cannot be made up of people who haven’t not been able to turn around their sales over the past few years. “A problem cannot be solved with the same level of thinking that created it,” as Einstein once said.
Is it too early to say whether this will be a big-selling machine? Possibly. But if Nintendo’s track record, their current corporate structure, and the list of developers is anything to go by, it’s doubtful that the Switch will be a best-selling machine five years down the line.