When the late Satoru Iwata announced a new platform back in March of 2015 it came as a surprise to pretty much everyone. We all knew that things weren't going well for the Wii U, and that Nintendo needed to adjust their strategy if they wanted to remain relevant, but no one foresaw the announcement a new platform, at least not so quickly after the launch of the Wii U.
It wasn't just the timing, it was the fact that it was done so unceremoniously. Usually any kind of announcment of new harware is an event, it's supposed to build excitement at new possibilities, but this felt like an afterthought. Combine this with the fact that they simultaneously announced Nintendo's partnership with DeNA to make games for mobile platfoms (despite their insistence that they weren't interested) and you can see why this left people left with more questions than they came in with.
So here we are 19 months later and we finally have real information on what exactly Nintendo's new platform is. Here, I just wanted to share my reactions, my hopes, fears, and thoughts and I hope we can make sense of the changing landscape.
Now I'm not going to relay the same information back at what exactly the Nintendo Switch is. That's been covered (as well as it can be at least) so if you somehow missed the story, go check it out and come back.
Will it live up to the hype?
First off let me say, I think this is a great move conceptually. I've actually been saying that before when we only had rumors of a handheld/console hybrid. Fact is, this addresses the problems Nintendo has been facing for years now. It's no secret that cost of development is much higher than it used to be, games take longer to be made and teams have to be larger. The fact that Nintendo was able to keep a relatively consistant stream of releases coming out for two incompatible formats with vastly different specs with very little third party support is amazing. But herein lies the problem, they can't possibly keep up this pace forever. The Wii U sales have never been great and even the once mighty 3DS has slowed signifigantly, call it market saturation or mobile gaming encroaching in, the fact is, their strategy simply isn't strong enough. Having one platform with modern hardware that can easily covert from console to handheld in seconds, means Nintendo can concentrate all their efforts in one place.
The elephant in the room as far as software is concerned is the third party support. Not trying to rain on anyones parade but it's a Nintendo system and it's been an issue for 20 years. Nintendo usually does something to screw themselves over and make it difficult to get games ported over, and even if they don't (i.e. 3DS and Gamecube) the games typically sell poorly because people buy Nintendo systems for Nintendo games. I feel like the best case scenario is for the Switch to have agressive specs and high sales. Actually, the specs might not even matter in that regard if the sales are good enough, the Wii is proof of that, but ideally you want a reason to own the Switch version, and developers have to stop half assing Nintendo ports. You can blame Nintendo all day long but third party developers aren't innocent either, that's a two way street as far as I'm concerned.
Speaking of specs, that's probably the biggest question I do have. What exactly are we looking at? Yes, it has a Tegra chip and is "based on the same architecture as the world's top-performing GeForce gaming graphics cards" but that's pretty vague. If I had to guess, I would say it's probably closest to the Xbox one. That's the baseline system of this generation, everything needs to be able to run on it and games can be scaled up from there, it would therefore make perfect sense to emulate that. If they run the games in a lower resolution on the handheld portion, I can see that being a system that would be easy to make ports for.
I'm actually a little more concered about storage, both of the games and the system. Cartridges make perfect sense when it comes to a handheld, we all know the UMD turned out. The thing is though, if you take all the advantages of the cartridge, you have to take all the disadvantages with it. The rumor of a targeted 32GB card isn't THAT far removed from the 50GB blu ray disc, but even those once massive discs are quickly becoming too small for most modern games. Nintendo could pony up for 64GB cards that's still not going much beyond standard capacity discs that are sold for pennies. Capacities are always going up and and costs are going down, but there's still the potential for an N64 like situation on the Switch.
PHENOMENAL STORAGE SPEEDS!!!
The storage of the system itself is another issue, the way I see it the only option if you want to be able to store AAA games on the system without sacrifcing the moble aspect is an SSD. Again the technology in these drives are getting better and cheaper all the time, but this is still a case where you pay a large chunk of money for not a whole lot of space. Not every developer is up to optimizing their games like Nintendo. My guess is that they will once again tell gamers to buy an external hard drive an attach it to the base. That didn't go over so well on a console, how much worse for a system touted as portable? I'm honestly not sure there is an elegant solution with currently existing technology.
Finally, let's talk about Nintendo Network. I've been a long time defender of Nintendo's online, it's lacking some key features, but I've always enjoyed the whole "community" aspect. Personally, it feels like so much more inviting of a place to be than Xbox Live and PSN, that and it's free, but some key features would go a LONG way in making it feel more modern. It needs to have features like a real account system, a real communcation system (with parties), and reworking miiverse to support game clips with more robust sharing options. I get that local multiplayer is their thing, and I respect the hell out of that, but it shouldn't detract from the online, I feel both are equally important.
This is great but we need more...
Unfortunatley, at the risk of droning on too long, I have to end it here. I didn't even discuss things like game design (will games be handheld like or console like?), region locking, potential competition from VR or Hololens, or potential first party games. What did you guys think of the Switch reveal? Sound off in the comments below.