Tomorrow night, Nintendo will once again be ready to discuss the Switch in what will be the largest conversation about the console to date, just under three months until its supposed release.
While Nintendo showed off the Switch in late 2016 through a three minute trailer, there are still many, many lingering questions about the system, and fans and press alike are hoping many of those will be answered by the end of the week.
The problem with so little information is that the limited glimpses of the console, its functionality, and its games have actually raised a few red flags about the Switch itself. Without Nintendo elaborating on potential issues, it’s hard to know which concerns are valid. Throughout the reveal so far, there have been a few worrisome aspects of the Switch that I’d like to see Nintendo address starting tomorrow. Here they are:
One component of the Switch reveal that struck me as odd was the trailer’s relentless focus on Skyrim Special Edition being playable on the console as one of the primary examples of third party software support. Skyrim is great, but this is a months-old remaster of a five year-old game. As I’ve said many times, I need to know if the Switch is a system that will run Elder Scrolls VI, not V.
My gut tells me that we’re going to head into another Wii U situation, that maybe Nintendo will claim third party support by showing off its own version of Watch Dogs 2 or DOOM, big AAA games that…have already been out for other systems for months. But for the blockbusters that come next? We already know that even the out-in-two-months Mass Effect: Andromeda won’t be coming to the Switch, and I have to wonder if that’s a sign of things to come. I need Nintendo to say outright which future third party games, not current releases, are coming to the Switch, or else we have to assume we’re going to be in a very similar situation to the Wii U, where third party support was dated and sporadic up front, and then eventually non-existent soon enough.
Pretty much everyone agrees that the core functionality of the Switch, the ability to take console games on the go, is very cool. But after years of playing the Wii U, and hearing what the Switch is supposed to be capable of, I’m still worried that battery life could potentially sink the entire concept.
The Wii U’s screen controller had outrageously bad battery life to the point where it would often discourage me from playing the console, because every time I came back to it the thing would be dead. Now, where a handheld screen device is meant to not just be a display unit, but to play these console games itself, I have to wonder what sort of advancements Nintendo has made in battery life to ensure the mobile functionality is actually worthwhile. Even in promotion for the Switch so far, I saw a number of instances where the screen controller was plugged in. That doesn’t seem like something you’d include if it wasn’t a pretty core part of the experience.
Nintendo has seemed like they’re trying to downplay the mobility aspect of the Switch just a little bit, saying the main experience is as a traditional home console, while the mobility is just a bonus feature. This is the red flag to me, and it can only be lowered by declarative data on just how long the Switch controller can run games on its own battery power.
This is one aspect that won’t really be able to be settled by any livestream presentation, but only hands-on play which many fans and journalists will get to experience over the next few days.
This one I’m a little more confident about, as Nintendo has the ability to design comfortable controllers that don’t look terribly comfortable up front. I mean, I’d include pretty much every controller since N64 in that statement.
In this case, however, it’s a bit different. We’ve all seen the weird “dogface” controller design of the Switch, which doesn’t look terribly inviting. But more pressingly, we know that controller splits, and there’s a mode where you can use the “joys-cons” (ugh) to play games off the screen. They look very, very small when used in that form, and I really do wonder how many types of games can be played effectively with that format, or if it’s more comfortable than it looks.
While believe me, I’m still sticking to my earlier statements that the Switch launching in tandem with Zelda: Breath of the Wild would be all it would need for a successful launch, I do have to wonder about what else Nintendo has planned for the Switch.
It’s possible Zelda could miss the opening, as nothing official has been announced yet, and Nintendo’s last two hardware launches, the 3DS and Wii U, had a lot of trouble with assembling a solid launch line-up to get early adopters engaged.
Everyone wants to know about the new Mario game Nintendo teased during the initial Switch reveal, though the existence of that game hasn’t been confirmed at this point, and it seems incredibly unlikely it would be a launch title. While Zelda might be sufficient, I know Nintendo fans are eager to hear more.
This is one key point that I think is often ignored in every conversation about the Switch. Despite the fact that the Switch is being sold as a console/handheld hybrid, Nintendo’s true plans for the future of their handheld scene remains unclear. All they’ve said for sure is that the Switch has this feature and that the 3DS will continue to be supported through 2017 at least, but that raises all kinds of questions.
If someone is buying a Switch, is that effectively purchasing Nintendo’s next handheld for at least the next few years?
Is Nintendo planning some other 3DS-replacing handheld device separate from the Switch that just hasn’t been announced yet?
Will Nintendo end up supporting the 3DS for a long while past what they’ve revealed so far?
This is an important point. Right now, consumers don’t really have any idea if they’re getting a great deal by buying essentially all of Nintendo’s key hardware for the next few years in one $250 package, or if something else is still coming, or if they also need a 3DS as that will continue to be the “true” handheld for a while. This is a uniquely Nintendo problem, but so far, they really have not offered much clarity on the topic, and honestly, this is one question I do not expect them to make clear tomorrow, even though they probably should. But it does seem weird that the Switch is being sold on its handheld functionality, yet it has not been made explicitly clear that it will definitely serve as Nintendo’s primary handheld device for the next few years.
What other red flags about the Switch might have gone up for you? Let me know in the comments or on Twitter.
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