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The Nintendo Switch Is Cool But I’m Not Convinced…  Yet

The Nintendo Switch Is Cool But I’m Not Convinced… Yet

Nintendo? Are You Breaking Up With Me?

Nintendo? Are You Breaking Up With Me?

The Legend of Zelda On Netflix?

The Legend of Zelda On Netflix?

A little while ago, I wrote about my love for everything Nintendo and how that love was slowly decaying.  I’ve been a day one adopter of nearly all of Nintendo’s major console releases.  I’ve stood in lines to be one of the first to experience the next generation of Nintendo games.  I have to stress the word GAMES because that’s why I’m a lifelong fan of the big N.  It’s not the dual screens or motion control innovations that keep me coming back.  It’s the core franchises I’ve loved for decades.  That love has faded over the years…

The Wii was the first sign of trouble.  It launched with The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess and followed with Super Mario Galaxy.  Both solid titles.  However, in between mega releases like Mario and Zelda we got an infinite flood of mini games, waggle gimmicks and shovelware that diluted the experience.  Still, the Wii got a free pass because, at first, its living room multiplayer experiences were incredible.

Then slowly, the AAA titles disappeared and all that was left were mini game compilations and a collection of dust.  The phenomenal virtual console stretched out the Wii’s life expectancy but I wanted new experiences too.

Then the Wii U was revealed.  I remember the big unveiling.  I thought about all the possibilities but Nintendo didn’t give us a grand machine.  Instead we got an under powered, under explained mess that baffled the industry.  Was this a new console or a Wii peripheral?  Nintendo simply failed to communicate what the Wii U was supposed to be and how it could change the gaming world.  Perhaps it was never supposed to.  Perhaps it was simply a small step in a journey that led us all to the Nintendo Switch?

In addition to the Wii U’s mixed messaging, Nintendo failed to live up to the online standards set by Microsoft and Sony.  It failed to give us a unified account system so we wouldn’t have to buy the same games over and over again.  It failed to give us ‘advanced’ features like achievements/trophies and so much more.

Yet still…  I was there when the console was released.  Ready to revisit all my favorite franchises and discover new ones.  Gamepad or no gamepad.  Unfortunately, that’s when the disappointment set in.  The Wii U launched with a 2D style Mario game but there was no sequel to Galaxy.  No true 3D platformer of any kind for everyone’s favorite plumber. (With respect to Super Mario 3D World of course.)  The big N’s latest Zelda title kept getting delayed.  Mario Kart, Smash Brothers and more were nowhere to be seen.

What’s worse, the console lacked NEW franchises early in its life cycle.  The Wii U was a boring machine with little to no third party support and a shocking lack of AAA titles from first party studios.  Eventually, Nintendo released Mario Kart, Smash Bros and new franchises like Splatoon but it was too late.  Nintendo forgot out the hardcore gamer.

(You’re going to hate me but I’m going for it!)

It was time to SWITCH things up…

THE NINTENDO SWITCH

It became evident years ago that Nintendo was pulling punches and saving their big franchises for a new console.  A new approach codenamed NX.  What I really wanted NX to be was a single app that worked on Xbox and Playstation devices.  Why not throw in PC and mobile as well!? It would be a self-contained ecosystem where Nintendo could deliver their best games to the masses.  Why design an under powered console to compete?  Especially when the Playstation 4 alone has a 40+ million unit head start?

Rumors quickly ended any hope I had for Nintendo to drop their hardware business and focus only on games.  True, Nintendo has always been known as fearless innovators but making great games is what they do best.  It’s what they’ve always done best.

Sadly, a cross platform Nintendo app was not meant to be.  Not for this generation at least.  Instead Nintendo announced the Switch.  A brand new handheld/console hybrid designed to unify both of their hardware divisions around a single device.

My first impression?  I like it.  I like that the talented developers behind Nintendo’s best franchises can focus on one machine.  You don’t have to buy a home console and a 3DS to experience all Nintendo has to offer anymore.  This is Nintendo’s biggest commitment to the GAMER in years.  I love it.

But I’m skeptical.  The Switch is innovative and the idea of playing full AAA titles on the train to work is extremely exciting.  But there are so many questions…

How long will the battery last? What will their online strategy be?  What games will the system launch with?  Has Nintendo’s new device won over the third party studios that abandoned the Wii/Wii U?  Will there be another virtual console?  Is there a built in hard drive?  What about the games!?

I can see myself owning a Nintendo Switch someday but I won’t be in line on day one.  My relationship with Nintendo is strained and I’m going to need one hell of an apology to jump back in.  That apology HAS to come in the form of GAMES.

We already know The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild will debut with the system in March 2017.  A brand new 3D Mario title was also shown in the Switch’s first trailer. Great start.  Will they be daring enough to release both games during the system’s launch window? Or will the new Mario game be released just in time for the holiday season?  I think they have to go big.  Release them both.  There HAS to be something ELSE ready for the holidays.  Metroid? Donkey Kong Country?  Something new? …  SOMETHING NEW!!!???

It appears that Mario Kart 8 and Super Smash Bros Wii U will be given new life on the console.  I can’t imagine they had time to create all new sequels for arguably the two best games in the Wii U’s lineup.  I already have those games.  I need something more.

I want a lineup of new games.  It’s exciting to see titles like Skyrim making their way to Nintendo but I played Skyrim.  Literally years ago.  But Bethesda’s brilliant RPG brings up a few major concerns I have about the Switch:

POWER & STORAGE

Can Nintendo’s handheld hybrid handle brand new games from third party developers? Developers who create titles for the Xbox One and PS4?  What about the PS4 Pro and Xbox Scorpio?  There’s no way the Switch can handle the processing powers of current generation consoles.  I understand Nintendo isn’t about the latest in processing and GPU power.  I get it.  It’s about the experiences.  Will an under powered Switch force developers to create new games exclusively for the Switch?  That will depend on the install base and hype Nintendo can create for early adopters.  Or am I wrong and the Switch will be able to handle the latest cross platform titles with a simple reduction in resolution?

This brings me to another issue.  Games aren’t tiny anymore.  Some games easily take up more 50 GBs of space on hard drives.  Hard drives that are built into rival consoles.  The Nintendo Switch will be cartridge based so how much can they hold?  Will there be on board memory to supplement the cartridge’s limitations?  Or are we talking about the mother of all cartridges here?  100 GB beasts perhaps?  How expensive are those!?

What does that mean for the virtual console?  How do you download classic titles on the go?  I’ve left physical media behind in favor of downloading the latest games I want to play.  Do I have to buy cartridges and carry them around with me?  Can you buy blank cartridges and load games on to them?

Let’s set the issues of power and memory aside for a moment.  Is the screen touch screen?  People expect it.  When I say touch screen, I mean multi touch.  Not the garbage touch interface the Wii U gave us.  So far rumors seem to have confirmed Nintendo’s device will have a multi touch display…  Good…

What about Wifi, Blue Tooth and NFC support?  This one is actually easy as the answer is almost 100% yes to all three.  What about motion controls?  Do the new JoyCons act like miniature Wii remotes?  Or has Nintendo left that technology behind?  What about the console itself?  Will there be extra features like motion and force feedback built in?

Is the focus truly on controller based games that hardcore Nintendo fans have craved since the GameCube days?

The point I’m trying to make is, people expect a lot out of their devices.  There are certain features you simply have to include.  So how long can the battery last if they include even a few of these features?

The reveal trailer was awesome.  It certainly communicated the message of Nintendo Switch and gave us a glimpse of what’s possible with the device.  But I remain skeptical of two main things with the new console:

  1. The launch lineup and further first and third party support in the console’s first year. (and beyond)
  2. The overall power and features included in the device without peripherals etc…

In other words, what is the Nintendo Switch capable of and what type of games can we all look forward too?  These are big questions.  Questions I need answered before I spend any more money on a Nintendo console.  The company recently announced a big Switch event on January 12, 2017.  That’s an awful lot of radio silence over the holidays.

Still…  I’ve always loved Nintendo and I always will.  We’re just in a fight right now…  Will the answers we get in January help?  Maybe.  All I want is a system that plays amazing games.  I’m completely on board with the concept.  Now it’s all about the execution and, to a lesser extent, the marketing.  This is a crucial moment in our relationship Nintendo but I still have faith!

The Nintendo Switch is set to launch March 2017.

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