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Monday Musings 1/16/17: Thoughts on the Switch and its future


Jason Clement
  • Monday Musings is a feature where every Monday, I'll shoot the breeze about what I've been playing and what my thoughts are on various news and events in the game industry.

Last Thursday was a day of unbridled excitement for Nintendo fans and heightened curiosity for mostly everyone else.

 

It's been quite some time since I've last seen anticipation from people who were previously down on Nintendo due to its more casual-oriented focus with Wii and the failure of its successor. But leading up to Thursday's event, even people who were staunch critics of Nintendo for the last 10 years or so were pretty bullish on the Switch's prospects. Would this be the console that would turn things around for them and their outlook on Nintendo?

 

I remember distinctly listening to an episode of the Kinda Funny Gamecast sometime in the last month, and both Greg Miller and Colin Moriarty were talking about how interested and excited they were for the Switch, but Colin made a mention of something about how it all seemed too good to be true and that he was "waiting for the other shoe to drop."

 

And he was right.

 

Thursday's Nintendo Switch Presentation was not perfect by any means, and it was a pertinent reminder as to why the company is now opting for Nintendo Direct videos instead, and -- frankly -- why they're much better off doing the latter.

 

For starters, let's start off with what went wrong-

 

 

 

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Lost in Translation

 

 

There's a reason why international press conferences aren't done a whole lot in the game industry, or at least not in Japanese -- essentially, the rest of the world (that doesn't know Japanese) were left to watch a presentation that was awkwardly translated and paced.

 

Beyond that, the first two games that were shown displayed a Wii-like casual focus, something that was a bit scary to see for many that were watching. I remember one person on Twitter saying that it was like they were focusing on the Wii concept all over again, and I kind of had a similar dread about that as well. Waggle is definitely not the way to go (in the case of ARMS), but I was happy to learn that it wouldn't be the only method of control in that game.

 

 

 

 

Failure to Launch?

 

 

No doubt about it -- The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild will be a great game to have at launch, not to mention the key reason people will be buying a Switch at all on day one. But one game will not carry an entire launch (and in the rare case that it does, it's because it has exceptional word of mouth, such as Wii Sports).

 

At the very minimum, there needs to be at least one big game to get people excited and 2-4 noteworthy supporting games that may not be quite as big but still get people interested in playing.

 

Let's compare this to PlayStation 4's launch for a minute.

 

Now, PS4's launch lineup wasn't amazing (no launch usually is) but it did roughly meet those fundamental requirements.

 

Depending on your interest, Killzone: Shadow Fall and Knack were interchangeable as the big game in the lineup, with one or the other also serving as the next best thing in addition to Resogun and third-party games that were launching day and date with other platforms such as Call of Duty: Ghosts, Assassin's Creed 4: Black Flag, LEGO Marvel Super Heroes, and a few others. It was a solid lineup, if unremarkable for many, yet it got the job done.

 

Think about it this way -- in a football game, a successful play is pulled off when the quarterback is well-supported by the linemen, running backs, and wide receivers.

 

Let's say the quarterback represents the console (or the console manufacturer, in a sense) and the wide receiver represents the launch lineup's best game. The killer app, in a sense, which in this case represents Breath of the Wild.

 

Since that title is largely the only notable game in the launch lineup, it's almost as if this figurative football game is being played just with the quarterback and wide receiver. So when the play begins, quarterback Switch has no choice but to throw to the wide receiver (Breath of the Wild) and hope beyond hopes that he can break through the other team's defensive line and -- at the very least -- score a first-down, if not a touch down (which, in this case is a successful launch with great sales, great momentum beyond just the first month, people buzzing, etc.).

 

Now, if there were at least 2-5 other notable games launching beside Breath of the Wild, they would be able to help support the play and make sure the wide receiver can get as far as he needs to go. The chances of success increase. But without them, the wide receiver's chances of success are greatly reduced. This is exactly where Switch is at with its launch at the moment.

 

 

 

 

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The other shoe drops - Price Inconsistencies

 

 

The launch lineup, as dismal as it is right now, is just one part of the equation. The part where "the other shoe drops" is with the price of extra controllers and such.

 

Namely, a Switch Pro controller will run you $70.

 

Two extra Joy-Cons will run you a cool $80.

 

If you opt for just one Joy-Con? Not $40, but $50 (what??).

 

Now, I can understand why the Joy-Cons cost as much as they do, especially with the new HD Rumble functionality that's probably not too cheap to implement; there's a decent amount of tech in those controllers. Still, that isn't much of a comfort to anyone who has to spend close to one third of the price of the console just for extra controllers.

 

So why is the Switch Pro controller $70? I can only imagine it's because they want to profit heavily on people wanting a traditional controller, much like how Sony wanted to profit on Vita memory cards by charging much higher than other companies would for similar cards (like SDHC). I mean, the Wii U Pro Controller was $50 initially (even less now) -- what is it about the Switch version that merits an extra $20?

 

 

 

Western third-parties are still very much a question mark

 

 

One important thing that I was hoping would be addressed that totally wasn't is the acceptance of Western third-parties. Nintendo had all of two Western third parties say something at the press conference: Bethesda's Todd Howard confirming Skyrim on Switch, and EA's Patrick Soderlund confirming FIFA.

 

What other western publishers that were previously announced seemed to be showing token support so far, with Take-Two and 2K bringing only NBA 2K17, Activision bringing Skylanders Imaginators, and Ubisoft with Just Dance 2017 for now (though the latter has other rumored stuff in the works). I can understand why any Western third party would be cautious about working with Nintendo after the Wii U, but so far the future does not look good for Switch and Western AAA games -- something that many hoped would change with this new generation.

 

It's too early to say for sure, though, but the early outlook isn't promising. I'm more optimistic than I was with Wii U because Nintendo getting Todd Howard aboard isn't an easy feat and it at least shows that they're trying this time around. However, it does look like most third-party support will be from Japanese publishers unless the install base really takes off, along with support from indies.

 

But here's the good news...

 

 

 

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First-Party Lineup is incredibly promising

 

 

Despite an auspicious start, the Switch's first party lineup from now until the end of the year and beyond is looking incredibly good. Mario Kart 8: Deluxe Edition may be a port, but it will sell and people will want it especially as a multiplayer experience when there will be few others available at that time.

 

Xenoblade Chronicles 2, if it makes 2017 as planned, will be a welcome title for RPG fans and hardcore gamers alike. Super Mario Odyssey looks like it could be the most influential Mario game since Super Mario Galaxy, and it's the game people are most excited about other than Breath of the Wild. I've seen many people on Twitter and elsewhere who haven't been into Nintendo for a while that are pretty excited for this one and have voiced their interest in getting a Switch to play it.

 

We'll hear more about Fire Emblem Warriors in just a few days, but it is also another big reason to be excited about this year's lineup, especially after how well Hyrule Warriors turned out. ARMS looks like goofy fun yet could be a deeper experience with how the mechanics work, leading to a game that could potentially be a new, breakout hit. And Splatoon 2 looks like it'll help kick off Switch's multiplayer in a big way.

 

There are also a number of big games that have already been leaked but haven't been talked about officially just yet. Pikmin 4, the Mario x Rabbids RPG by Ubisoft, rumblings of a Metroid game which may be Retro's next project or even an internal Nintendo team, and even the upcoming Super Smash Bros. port, which will likely contain extra content. And that's not counting other games we don't know about that might also be announced at E3.

 

It'll be a fairly good first year for Switch as far as first-party games go once we pass through the dull launch period.

 

 

 

Virtual Console and eShop news is still coming

 

 

Easily one of my most anticipated features that will still have yet to hear about is the Switch eShop and rumored Gamecube Virtual Console games. Fans have been wanting Gamecube VC games for the longest time now, and the mere thought that we'll be able to play those games on the go is incredibly exciting.

 

But even excluding the Gamecube, it's exciting to think we'll be able to take any VC game on the go now (aside from Game Boy/NES/SNES with New 3DS). And hopefully they'll begin putting various SEGA titles back on the eShop this time around; we'll see.

 

 

 

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The Tech is intriguing

 

 

Despite the overall horsepower being purportedly lower than a PS4 and Xbox One, I'm looking forward to seeing what developers do with the Switch overall.

 

While it may have sounded uninteresting or gimmicky at first, the HD motion capabilities do seem pretty clever after dwelling on some of the possibilities. Someone on Twitter gave a great example, saying that a new Metroid Prime game could benefit from this by providing different sensations as you select different types of beams -- the sound/sensation of ice tensing up with the ice beam, a sort of pulse sensation as you fire off the wave beam, and so on.

 

I'm also interested to try the Joy-Cons as individual controllers and see if the 2-player holds up with them. While it probably won't be a preferred way of playing, I could see myself casually playing with one or more people on the Switch tablet at certain times, provided that the game works with the multiplayer feature.

 

And like I mentioned in the section above, playing console games on the go is going to be a fantastic choice to have.

 

 

 

 

Switching things Up

 

 

In any case, I would have to sum up my thoughts by saying that Switch has a rough short-term and a potentially great long-term ahead of it. We'll know a lot more about to what to expect in regards to third-party support and how often it'll get games by E3, but in the meantime, I'm looking forward to the few main games that will be coming out beforehand.

 

Nintendo definitely has some kinks to work out in regards to the pricing of various things (and the decision not to bundle in a game), but I'm hoping they'll come their senses and fix what's not working over time.

 

If anything, I'll probably be mostly lost in the splendor of Breath of the Wild instead of getting upset at why there aren't more games out in the first month or two anyhow.

 


 

What do you guys think about the Switch, both in the short-term and long-term?

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