Earlier this month Nintendo released the latest in gaming technology, their Nintendo Switch. The Switch is among the first of its kind, a console for your TV that can also function on the go as a portable handheld. The interesting new concept brings a fresh experience to the gaming market, but if Nintendo’s recent struggles with home consoles are anything of a concern, their experiments could prove to be troublesome.
The Switch’s predecessor, the Wii U, was released just over four years ago in November 2012. Since then, Nintendo has been falling behind Microsoft and Sony in the console wars. The Playstation 4 and Xbox One have come to dominate the home console market with 50 million and 24 million units sold respectively according to TechRadar. Meanwhile, the Wii U sold just 13.56 million units according to the Nintendo website, despite releasing a year before the Xbox One and PS4. Nintendo will likely try to regain their stature as a console competitor by bringing 3rd party games to the system, something the Wii U largely lacked.
The crown jewel of the Switch is the Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, a game which follows Link as he explores the ruins of Hyrule. The game will also be releasing onto the Nintendo Wii U where the game will not be playable in a portable fashion. Also accompanying Breath of the Wild on launch day will be, 1-2 Switch, Just Dance 2017, and Skylanders Imaginators. While TechRadar reports more than 50 companies are working on more than 80 games for the Switch, the lineup of just 4 games at release may cause some to pass on purchasing the console on launch day.
With a tablet-like shape, snap on sides, and ability to play on-the-go or on your TV, the Switch brings about many interesting features gamers have never seen before. Games on the Switch will play virtually the same whether played on your TV or on the systems 6.2-inch portable screen.
Interestingly, playing online with your friends will be a feature controlled by your mobile phone for the first time on a home console. Inviting friends to games, chatting with gamers, and a variety of other features will be accessible only to a paired mobile device. Additionally, the motion-based gaming Nintendo established with the Wii will continue to be present on the Switch in the form of the detachable Joy-Con controllers. While working not only as a conventional controller, the Joy-Con’s can also be placed in each hand to work as motion controllers for games like Just Dance 2017.
The inventive nature of the Switch’s design poses some problems for consumers however, and the first issue may come with cost. While the $299 price point of the system is fair, replacement cost is steep for the Switch’s accessories. This is strange coming from Nintendo who has historically strived to make their consoles affordable for families.
Those looking to purchase a second Joy-Con controller will have to spend $80, significantly more than a second controller for a PS4 or Xbox One where first party controllers retail for $60. The single included controller can be used for some two player games, but to get a full multiplayer experience will require an investment into a second controller.
The docking system to plug the Switch into the TV is also quite expensive, costing $90. In the past, Nintendo has been a huge endorser of backwards compatibility and free online play, but the Switch proves to be a departure from this mind set. Because the system will play games in a chip format, similar to the 3DS, the disk based games of the WiiU and Wii will not be playable on the Switch (unless digitally downloaded if available). Lastly, while the Switch’s online functionality will be relatively half the cost of its competitors, it will be the first time Nintendo charged for such service.
Nintendo’s strategy for marketing the Switch has even changed. Commercials for the Switch show adults, likely those from the generation which grew up with the original Nintendo, playing the system together. It’s those which make up the core gaming audience who have often bought Sony and Microsoft’s offerings who Nintendo seems to be targeting. Those in this group who purchase a Nintendo console often do so just to play a few first party games. The lack of third-party support for the Wii U largely made the system an afterthought to adult core gamers.
The Nintendo Switch is available now for $299 at all major retailers.