The Nintendo Switch, and Nintendo’s Recent Launch History

When the Switch was first announced, I was ecstatic. The proof-of-concept type trailer that they used to show the functionality of the Switch was a frequently watched video for the next few weeks, and the possibilities – mainly, portable Skyrim – were enticing. It’s the most excited I’ve ever been for a Nintendo home console, as somebody who only really paid attention to the company’s non-handhelds around the launch of the Wii. And for the most part, my excitement remains unchanged. But there’s one big reason (besides the price) that I’m not going to grab the console any time soon, and it’s the same reason why I’ve never been all that fussed about rushing for a brand new Nintendo console.

Launch titles. Nintendo has a history of launching their consoles with very little in the way of actual games, and the Switch is no exception. Typically, there will be one big, triple-A title, followed by a smattering of third party games that are swiftly forgotten in the following months, and a game or two which promotes the main gimmick of the console. For instance, with the launch of the DS, the US saw the release of Super Mario 64 DS – a remake of an older game – alongside Asphalt Urban GT, The Urbz: Sims in the City, Feel the Magic: XY/XX, Spider-Man 2 and Madden NFL 2005. The Wii’s launch was somewhat more respectable, with The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, Wii Sports (their proof of concept style title), and a handful of larger titles found on other consoles. The 3DS launch was particularly barren, with not a single standout title and a smattering of potential interests depending on your niche franchise preferences. The ill-faring Wii U launched with a dramatic number of title ports that ultimately failed to pull audiences away from rival consoles which did a better job of running the games.

The Switch, then, follows this pattern to a tee. You have the large triple-A title that everyone wants to play, namely The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. And you have their gimmicky demo, 1-2 Switch, which I’ve seen reported as being fun for a few hours but far from a full title. (Hello again, Wii Sports. I see they gave you a hefty price tag this time.) You have an attempt to revitalise a dead franchise (here’s to you, Bomberman) and a few niche or unique titles. In all fairness, I’ve not played them. They could be fantastic. But I’ve not heard much besides “meh”.

I was going to dedicate a portion of this blog post to what I thought was a less-than-wise decision to launch your new console with its main title being available on the previous platform. From what I’ve seen and heard, Breath of the Wild is only slightly less impressive on the Wii U – almost negligibly so. I’d just like to point out that on this front, though, I was dead wrong, as Breath of the Wild is apparently outselling Super Mario 64 as a launch title so far. I felt that was worth mentioning, considering how this blog post has criticised Nintendo’s console launches so far. I’m not a big Zelda fan myself, and even I want to get my hands on this one.

Despite all of this, I’m still pretty damn excited for the Switch. I’ve seen the list of games which are coming to the console, and I’m absolutely planning on buying titles such as Skyrim, Terraria, and Stardew Valley for a second (or third) time, as well as investing in some other indies that I’ve not gotten around to yet like Shovel Knight, The Binding of Isaac and Unbox. Plus, the 3DS gamer in me is eager to delve into the Virtual Console library again, and to own some of Nintendo’s older games that previously didn’t make it onto the 3DS shop. Plus, as somebody who skipped the Wii U as deftly as Neo from The Matrix dodges bullets, I’m looking forward to owning a Nintendo home console again and playing some larger titles.

But that’ll all come in a year or two. Because, once again, Nintendo has given us a console with hardly any decent games attached. I’m just hoping that Breath of the Wild’s success will carry the Switch past Nintendo’s recent early day console failings. The 3DS caught up, but the Wii U never did quite manage to recover from so many devs pulling their support.

I’ve also found Nintendo to focus somewhat too much on giving their consoles some crazy functionality, to the point where it can hinder gameplay. I can only assume that after the Gamecube’s failure to compete against the Xbox and the PS2, Nintendo decided to stop competing altogether and take things in a whole different direction. It worked for the DS. Theoretically speaking, it worked for the Wii, but in a manner that made it more of a family party console than the Nintendo gaming console that many people wanted. I can’t count the number of times I got sick of playing Animal Crossing because of the Wii’s motion controls. The 3DS had a dismissable gimmick, so much so that Nintendo capitalised on it and sold a non-3D variant of the console. The Wii U was a weird mess of motion control and dual screens combined into a home console with an identity crisis. The Switch, however, has functionality which actually makes it more convenient to play, like Nintendo’s handhelds, as opposed to being less convenient, such as its home-based predecessors.

So, that’s about the sum of my thoughts regarding the Switch. I’m sure they mirror many others. I’ll be excited to own it when it has a decent library a year or two from now, so that it can be the companion console to my gaming PC. As much as I frown upon Nintendo’s functionality-driven approach to consoles, it works out for them in the somewhat niche market of PC gamers looking for a console that isn’t simply a less-powerful version of what they can already accomplish. Making it semi-portable is what mostly solidified my interest in it.

Advertisements