New Generation: the Nintendo Switch

Should you switch to the Switch? Aaron Poole examines Nintendo’s new console

IT’S arguable that there has never been as little interest behind a new console as there has been at the announcement of the Nintendo Switch. For a company that’s managed to dominate a large portion of our childhood gaming experiences, there’s a general feeling that, over the last decade, we’ve been over-exposed to new, and arguably failing, ideas thought up by the company to make itself relevant again.

Despite this, the company will inevitably draw in big numbers whenever a new console is released, largely due to the fact that it owns most of its software properties including the Zelda, Mario and Pokémon franchises which are all scheduled to have new games debut exclusively on this new console. With that in mind, let’s look at the Switch and see if it’s worth investing in from the get-go.

First, let’s look at the hardware itself. While subconsciously rooting for this new console before it was revealed, perhaps in the hopes that they’d finally find their footing again, it was surprising to discover the direction that they were taking with this new console. Nintendo’s new system has a “play anywhere” device, offering the ability to undock your system from the TV and continue playing through the console’s built-in screen.

While the portability of the system might seem like a gimmick, it was one that could be seen as a potential bridge between the gaps of mobile and console gaming. But recent demonstrations have held back on pushing this as the selling point, instead favouring, yet again, motion control technology as a prime feature.

“We’re not being delivered an all-new system, but a repackaging of what brought Nintendo financial success”

This is leading awaiting fans to believe we’re not being delivered an all-new system, but a repackaging of what brought Nintendo financial success (as seen with the Wii) albeit with better graphics, though nothing on par with what would be expected from console hardware in 2017.

The cost of the system has become a subject of debate and discussion. Launching in March of this year, the base hardware comes in at $300, or about €330 around these parts. While this might seem low for a console at launch, it’s worth noting that this takes the definition of ‘base hardware’ quite literally, meaning you get the system boxed in with a single pair of motion controllers without any extras or games.

As multiplayer gaming is a being advertised as a key point by Nintendo, you’ll need to add the cost of extra peripherals that you’ll be using to improve your experience with the console. The motion controllers come in at about €80 for an extra pair, while the ‘pro’ controller cost just slightly below that, meaning you’ll be forking out an extravagant amount if you plan on using the system with friends or family (as Nintendo have advertised).

“Factor in all these costs and you’re looking at spending quite a lot of money”

On top of this, it’s worth noting that the console comes with only a meagre 32GB of storage, meaning you’ll more than likely end up forking out for a high capacity SD card at some point down the line. Factor in all these costs and you’re looking at spending quite a lot of money to get the system running at the level Nintendo is marketing it at, and that’s without the mandatory costs that come with playing games online.

Speaking of which, let’s talk about the Switch’s planned online service. Nintendo announced recently that the Switch’s online functionality would follow a paid subscription model, similar to the ways by which Xbox Live Gold and PlayStation Plus operate on their respective consoles. With these aforementioned services, online play functionality is offered, accompanied by added incentives to justify the subscription costs which include monthly discounts to the console’s online stores and, more enticingly, free games which at times are new releases.

“this is a massive misfire for the company, leaving adopters to have to pay full price for both games and online functionality”

Despite this, Nintendo are offering a much more inferior model, charging for basic online access while offering a month’s trial of a classic Nintendo game from its SNES/NES library. When accompanied by the decision to not include a game packaged in with the console, this is a massive misfire for the company, leaving adopters to have to pay full price for both games (of which there aren’t many scheduled to be released at launch) and online functionality should they choose to.

“Nintendo are forcing the hand of loyal fans”

It’s clear from the above factors that the Switch hasn’t got a lot of positive points going for it heading into its launch window, but that’s not to say it’s not worth buying. The issue here is that Nintendo are forcing the hand of loyal fans by ceasing production of Wii U games and closing existing game servers over the next 5 months, which means the migration will be necessary to stay up to date with the brand.

But it’s certainly not a system worth buying on launch day. The initial line-up of games are not worth buying the system outright for, with the launch Legend of Zelda title also being released on the Wii U.

However for Nintendo fans, the Switch is going to become absolutely worth owning in the near future, with Mario Kart coming out in April and, more importantly, Splatoon 2 coming out in summer and Super Mario Odyssey planned for a Christmas release. For now though, with a high price threshold, poor launch line-up and questionable choices in accessing online content, the system is lacking. Hold off from making the switch until the dust has settled.