Expanding Switch

With the recent Nintendo Direct, which I’ve just manage to watch thanks to life, we can say that its first year of games is pretty damn good. Very rarely does a console get this sort of first year. For example, the DS’ first year was abysmal before Nintendo turned the console around and made it the top selling console. Perhaps the only consoles that can compete with the Switch’s library as it is now compared to their first year are the NES and SNES. Famicom had pretty terrible first year, which the NES managed to avoid to some extent.

Switch’s success is tied to three or four different elements, depending how you want to count them. First is, without a doubt, that it is a hybrid console. Its portability without a doubt  is part of the Switch’s charm. Much like all previous handheld consoles that had extensive support, namely the Game Boy series and the DS, Switch is enjoying consumers carrying it around, though in somewhat limited extent due to its size. Sony could’ve taken few lessons from Nintendo how not to drop the ball with handhelds. Poor Vita, people had such high expectations for you. Being handheld is not really a reason for Switch’s success, but it is certainly part of it. Hardware, that is. Switch seems to be easy to develop for and allows more ‘portable’ games to be made that don’t require to be stupidly expensive Triple A. They have their own slot in the fray.

Nintendo bringing their old arcade games to the system is great. While some will scoff at them, and never remember that Nintendo started as an arcade game company before entering the home console market, these titles will have their audience. The more Nintendo brings their older titles that have not seen a release in years, the better. Just tie all of my past purchases to an account I can carry between consoles, so I don’t need to buy the same game again and again for new systems.

Of course, Nintendo releasing a Switch/ Super Mario Odyssey bundle will see more sales. The game, despite whatever personal issues I have with it, does look fun and may see good amount of sales. Now if Nintendo put the same effort and quality into a 2D Mario game, we’d be golden.

The second reason is that Nintendo’s own software has been of high quality. Breath of the Wild has gained loads of support from the consumers and generally has been accepted one of the better Zelda games. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, while certainly mainly just an upgraded edition of the Wii U game, it has made it rounds. The Battle Mode and included DLC really showed Nintendo that doing a complete release with some extra characters thrown in and tweaked gameplay pays the bills better than trying to what Capcom did with Street Fighter X Tekken. These games, especially Breath of the Wild, are keys to why Switch has been successful thus far. Hardware’s prowess doesn’t come from it being extremely good or able to push out incredible graphics, but something that can keep costs low and still be able to deliver easy environment to develop for. Develop games, that determine the success of the console.

This third reason could be counted with the second reason, but it really deserves its own slot, and that is third party titles, including all the smaller releases. While some of the titles are ports and some pretty low quality, but the fact that they are there makes the deal. Once you have the Big Titles in your library, you will want to look at the smaller and cheaper titles you might want to pick up. Indies (oh there’s that term again) will drop this sort of titles into the store from time to time. The more you have titles of at least decent quality, the better. Call it shovelware if you want, but all winning consoles had the most shovelware people could choose their favourites from.

The fourth reason is expansion. All consoles require their userbase being expanded at some point and it must be constant. Switch has been a success among Nintendo fans and general audience, but it still lacks certain appeal from its library. For example, Rocket League may be another port, and for a good reason gets dropped few notches because of it, but it offers something new not in other versions of the game. Same with Skyrim. The game may be six years old at this point, but there are still people who have not played it. It will also tap to the same core fantasy group that might find Breath of the Wild appealing, just with less Japanese feeling to it. Both Doom and Wolfenstein II both fall into a similar category with Skyrim in that they open doors to different interests the console currently offers. Back in the day, the media would say that the Switch is finally getting mature games to its library. It would have been preferable to have completely new entries to Switch in these franchises, but those can always follow if these are successful on the platform first and manage to solidify the userbase further.

Switch’s library is being expanded with these ports, like with L.A. Noir‘s updated one. While these are ports of past titles, they have an audience that will check them out, and another part will return to them if they’ve gotten rid of the previous version.

With this sort of tactic, the Switch has seen, and will see, a healthy game library from where both high-end and low-end product consumers will find something to enjoy. The problem of course with this is that it needs to be maintained. The Wii lost its steam halfway through due to Nintendo essentially dropping the support (Wii Music essentially killed the console), and looking at how Nintendo has released software on their previous systems, we can see that their main support is pretty much lost few years into a console, before things gear up for the development of its successor, with third party following in suit. As useless it is to hope that this time around that support wouldn’t vanish just like that, I highly doubt that’ll happen. While a console doesn’t have an expiration date other than when the developer drops their support, this five to six years cycle has become a standard of sorts. This is why we can be glad to see the Switch being expanded like this during its first year of existence, as that should lead into second and third year of further support and expansion.

 

The 9th console generation hits in March

Nintendo has a strong start with the Switch as it stands now. While the event did show numerous titles, in the end it left yearning for more. Seems like Nintendo’s intending to keep  a hype train going until the launch hits.

Overall, I have to say that the presentation itself was rather professional. No outlandish theatrics or anything like that. No real bullshit dead air, just proper and interesting presentation. The clothing was a highlight in itself, showcasing that most of these people are professionals. There was class in this event that is absent from most. Well, outside some choices, like Nogami aiming for funnier style that was more worth a facepalm than anything else, and Aonuma really needs to stop wearing that terrible looking hoodie. Actually, remove Aonuma altogether.

Having Tatsumi Kimishima on the stage in the very beginning was what was needed. He might not be Iwata or Yamauchi, but the public does not yet know who he is. He took the stage in a very sure and confident manner. Mikishima had a proper stage presence, which was enhanced by the fact he had an interpreter. Having a Japanese businessman speaking in broken English is jarring, as you have to concentrate on the words rather than on the content. Shibata of course went in with broken English as an exception.

Shinya Takahashi is another new-ish name. As with Kimishima, the public got to know him better. While Miyamoto has been the face of the company alongside Iwata for some time now, it seems Nintendo has been progressively been pushing to give a face for their franchises. After all, Nintendo has been becoming a company of IPs in few ways.

The info about the Switch goes from pretty damn neat to weak. First of all, region freedom is a welcome change in how Nintendo handles their machines, and this tickles all the importers’ nuts just the right way.

Paid online is hit on the system, but then again a game that relies solely on online multiplayer will become obsolete in number of years solely because of that. Like it or not, a game still needs to have a solid offline mode stand the test of time. Hopefully the subscription for the online is less than what either of their competitors prices theirs at, and is more usable than before.

Switch’s battery life is no worse than 3DS, but at least I can throw in a battery bank. However, the main hardware showcase, the real piece of hardware that really matters when it comes to game consoles, is the controller design. While I personally love all the stuff they managed to pack into the Joycons (the name is still terrible) the fact is that they are over-engineered. The reason the Switch retails at $300 is probably partially because the controllers. I intending to do a longer piece about the controller design itself sometime later, so let’s leave the rest for later.

joyconner
I admit that the size of the controllers seem to be on the smaller side.

The Pro Controller will retail at $70, which further reminds me how tired I am to pay stupidly high prices for controllers. The price point will hurt Switch’s sales, and with what looks like a Mushroom Kingdom-less 3D Mario, the Switch has few things going against it already.

I did expect to see more gameplay footage rather than promotional trailers, but I guess that was a foolhardy wish. 1-2-Switch is no WiiSports and won’t drive system sales. It probably works the best as a tech demo of sorts and a party game for some, but overall there will be no large interest in it. Arms won’t fare any better, but I hope it’ll have better controls than most of Wii’s boxing games. The logo’s also too industrial, something that would fit on a DeWalt drill. It needs to be punched up a bit. Splatoon has its fans, but a system seller it is not, and the sequel really doesn’t seem to change things around one bit.

Super Mario Odyssey is a surprise in that it reminds more Sonic Adventure than previous Mario titles. There is nothing special about 3D Mario, and moving to the “real world” instead of expanding on Mushroom Kingdom is a mistep. Now if they could put the same amount of effort and money into 2D Mario games, things would be great. 3D Mario hasn’t really driven high sales with Nintendo’s past consoles, and with the changes Odyssey has to the world, it’s doubtful this will drive sales either.

Xenoblade 2 looks nice and all, but I doubt it will be a huge hit either. Fire Emblem Musou will stay a niche title still. Only Japan cares about Dragon Quest, there are numerous reasons why Final Fantasy has always been more popular. Shin Megami Tensei‘s 25th anniversary title hopefully visits the roots of the franchise a bit more and hopefully gets a fully uncensored release in the West. Let’s be honest, RPGs is what Switch needs, which is why something like Skyrim will probably see at least decent sales. Project Octopath Traveller left people largely cold as it showed jack shit.

It was fun to see Suda-51, Sega’s and EA’s representatives come to the stage and mention they know the Switch exists and intend to develop for it. Props to EA’s interpreter. Europe loves FIFA, so this bit felt more fanservice towards soccer fans than anything else.

Despite the lineup we saw towards the end of the event, we didn’t get launch lineup, but we got confirmation for numerous titles, including a Street Fighter II (now confirmed as Ultra Street Fighter II: The Final Challengers) and a new Bomberman. Goddamit, a Bomberman title on launch? Sign me in. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild goes for the epic, and it still needs to convince me that it’s more than what the trailer show (i.e. less plot and more adventure content to play with lesser emphasize on puzzles.) However, between it and Super Mario Odyssey, it’s BotW that has the edge.

somebody-behind-him
Thou the edge needs to be cleaned up, it’s rusty and needs polishing

3rd of March is when the 9th console game generation hits. It was a nice ending for the show, though more info came soon after.

For example, the Switch Online Service as a free trial period and seems to have the usual stuff you expect from modern online services: free games, exclusive deals and online multiplayer. However, the inclusion of device application for phones and tablets is stupid. Why would you need to use their dedicated application to call your friends to play an online game? You can just phone them. Online play for NES and SNES games can be good, if its implemented right and connection is up to it. Then again, not many retro game is worth online play, if we’re brutally honest. Co-op is fun and all, but without direction connection to the second player, it’s missing something essential from the mix.

News are pouring in all the time, but I’ll take the slow route with them. Little consideration and taking it easy instead of insta-blogging should do some good for the thought.

However, from what we already have here can make an educated guess that the Switch won’t probably be the same success story as the NES (sans Europe) or the Wii, but won’t be a bomb like the Wii U either. It’s going to do just fine, meandering on the more positive side of the story.