After years of rumours and mystery, the Nintendo Switch will be available in just one week’s time.
Unsurprisingly the new hardware already seems to have garnered a more favourable response than the WiiU, which is partly due to its simple and more effective concept; it’s a home console that you can take with you on the go. This catchy message is so much easier to communicate and demonstrate than the second-screen gamepad of its predecessor, and although it’s difficult to predict long-term success so early on, the Switch is off to a generous start critically.
The device is sleek, stylish and portable, with upgraded graphics when docked, innovative Joy-Cons and an easily extendable micro SD supported hard drive – plus a killer launch title in Zelda Breath of the Wild. But on the other hand it has predictably limited battery life, just 32gb hard drive as standard and very few games available from day one – plus at £280/$299 it costs more than some current gen consoles.
So whilst the strengths of Nintendo’s new device are abundantly clear, it has some potentially deal breaking drawbacks. That hasn’t stopped a significant amount of eager early adopters putting down their cash within days of the announcement, but many more just haven’t made up their mind.
Whether you’ve been burnt before by Nintendo or you’re torn between spending your money on the Switch and upgrading to 4K or VR, here are five of the best and worst things about the Switch – the joys and the cons, you could say (sorry..)
The biggest USP of Nintendo’s new machine is its killer message: this is a home console that also works well as a portable device. The Switch works better than the WiiU at home, and can work just as well as the 3DS on the go.
One of the confusing drawbacks of the WiiU was that whilst the second screen could play games well enough, the wireless connection only worked within a small radius of the actual console. With the Switch, the screen itself IS the console, and so it works perfectly outside of the dock regardless of how far from home you are. So whilst the Switch might not compete on power or graphics with its competitors advanced 4K systems, it has the very desirable advantage of letting you play your favourite titles wherever you are, something Sony has previously tried to master with streaming to Vita and mobile devices.
If you’ve ever fought over the TV, wanted to play console quality games on a long haul flight or just fancied lazing it up in bed with the latest release – this is the all-round solution and so far Nintendo have pulled it off pretty well.
One of the most important aspects of a handheld has always been its battery life. There’s no point making a device portable if it can’t last long without a power supply, so the big question with Switch has been how quickly those console quality games like Zelda will exhaust your device.
In their presentation, Nintendo revealed the Switch would have a battery that lasts up to six hours but can run out within just 2.5 hours for a game like Breath of the Wild. This isn’t quite as strong as the 3DS, which last between 3.5-6.5 hours depending on the game, but understandable considering the size and complexity of console games in contrast to traditional handheld titles.
Whilst this is a real drawback, it’s important to note that the Switch is chargeable through a more standard micro USB slot, meaning you can invest in portable chargers to get round this issue for longer journeys.
Common feedback from the hands-on events across the globe has been how comfortable and stylish the device is as a handheld. The Switch has been compared to Apple devices for its slim, tablet design and lightweight feel, which is both surprising for a Nintendo device and really promising for the mainstream market. Its 720p, multi-touch screen is far more intuitive to modern users, and going for a more sophisticated look will certainly win favour with the young adult market that their current marketing material seems to be targeting.
Most importantly, the Switch is much improved and completely distinctive from the clunky WiiU gamepad.
Con: Lack of Launch
One of the biggest drawbacks of the new console, and possibly the reason even big Nintendo fans will hold off, is the serious lack of games available at launch.
The Switch will be released on 3rd March with eleven games (initially announced as just five at their unveiling back in January), almost half the Wii’s 21 launch games, and way below the 32 on WiiU. Nintendo have also released a promising list of games we can expect before the end of the year, but for many people five games on day one just isn’t enough to drop £/$250+ on a new console. If you are in two minds about the Switch because of this, then it is absolutely advisable to wait until the holidays swing around, when the device has a more reasonable library of games.
Joy: Zelda day one & a strong first year
So the Switch may have an unusually modest roster of games at launch and in its first year, but the few games it does have look strong. Most notably Switch owners will get to play the long awaited Zelda Breath of the Wild on day one, and by fall 2017 we’ll have the brand new 3D open world Mario Odyssey. That’s two huge, system selling titles right there before the holiday season, plus updated versions of popular Nintendo titles in Mario Kart Deluxe and Splatoon 2.
Alongside these familiar favourites we’ll have newly announced 1-2 Switch and Arms that show off the capabilities of the Switch’s intelligent Joy-Con controllers, as well as a modest supply of popular third party support with Skyrim, FIFA and NBA. It is likely we’ll also have access to some kind of virtual console offering before the end of the year, and if the Switch is successful there will no doubt be more third party titles announced as the year goes on.
So again if you’re worried about a lack of launch titles, that’s totally legitimate, and you might want to wait a few months to part with your cash, but long term it looks as though the Switch will have plenty to offer.
Nintendo have been clear from the beginning that the company would not be selling their next big hardware release at a loss, contrary to previous console release models. So it shouldn’t really come as a big surprise to see the Switch price come in at $299/£280.
It is certainly higher than what many industry experts identified as the ideal price (around $50 less), and it puts the console in direct competition with recently upgraded to PS4 and Xbox models, as well as standard tablets. If you have a spare $299/£280 you’re probably already eyeing up a console upgrade, or maybe a VR headset – and with a host of huge games out this year there is a lot of competition for your money, which makes the price seem like a bit of a misstep for Nintendo.
But that pricing will likely give Nintendo room for competitive sales and game bundles towards the end of the year, just in time for the holidays. So if you’re hyped for the Switch but feel the price point is too high, consider holding out a few extra months for those bundles and discounts.
Nintendo have been criticised after the WiiU for concentrating too much on ‘gimmicks’ and too little on what mainstream gamers really wanted – but this entirely ignores Nintendo’s ability to deliver what we want before we even know we want it. Their unique development has defined the way we play across all consoles, as well as finding special ways to make their hardware accessible and attractive to new demographics.
In their presentation, Nintendo completely embraced this by highlighting all their successes – from rumble packs to motion controls – and how that history of innovation feeds into the Switch. Aside from the obvious hybrid home/handheld technology, the Switch has also incorporated clever motion technology into its Joy-Con peripherals. The presentation featured a demonstration of how the rumble technology can replicate the feeling of ice cubes falling in a glass, or how motion sensor is sensitive enough to play rock paper scissors with you and know exactly what gesture you’re making. All this is shown off in their launch title, 1-2 Switch, which is made up of mini games that make the most of the new controllers.
It’s a weird and wonderful display that is awfully reminiscent of the Wii, and will likely appeal to families and casual gamer audiences. But whilst this is impressive, it is useless without more software that utilizes it. The success of the Wii meant that third party games incorporated motion controls, but lack of interest in the WiiU limited the use for the gamepad screen even in first party games. In the perfect catch 22, how useful this tech is relies entirely on its own popularity. Hopefully 1-2 Switch will sell users on the “HD rumble” technology, much like Wii-sports did for the Wii.
The Switch will come with 32GB of storage as standard, which can be upgraded easily through SDXC slots. It does however mean that a downloaded file of Breath of the Wild will fill around 40% of your standard storage on day one, which is less than ideal. It is problematic for anyone who wants to travel with a library full of modern titles and virtual console games for every occasion, particularly as the main draw of the Switch is its portability.
This is however easily avoided by either picking up a physical copy of the game or upgrading your storage, and with SD cards increasingly available up to 2TB, it isn’t likely to be a real issue.
Joy: Game Cards
Like the Gamecube before it, the Switch will ditch its predecessor’s format – this time switching (!) from discs back to cartridges.
Far from the loveable clunky cartridges of the NES-N64 era, the Switch will play games on small game cards, similar but not cross-compatible with 3DS/DS games. This allows Nintendo to save on battery and create a more compact console without the need for a disc drive, and may also save publishers money on smaller games.
Con: No video streaming
For home entertainment systems and portable tablet-like devices alike, streaming services are a standard now-a-days. They are built into smart TVs, tablets, phones and games consoles, so that whatever device you’re on you can login to your account and continue watching your favourite shows and movies whether at home or on the go. That idea seems absolutely perfect for the Switch, yet Nintendo will not have any video apps at launch.
No Netflix, no Twitch, no YouTube – some of the big potential draws for casual gamers and anyone else who might be on the fence about the new tech. Nintendo have stated that this is something that is currently being considered and may be added in an update post-launch, but it seems like a massive oversight not to add such a popular feature to the Switch right out of the box.
Netflix recently started allowing subscribers to download some of their box sets and movies, making them available offline. If the Switch had this kind of tech, it would compete directly with tablets as well as consoles and handheld gaming systems. That’s quite a big combined market to tap into, but not possible until the Switch can do a basic thing like watch Youtube videos.
So there you have it, the biggest potential drawbacks and the most exciting features of the Nintendo Switch. If even after all that you’re still in two minds about the Switch, its worth noting Nintendo have an ugly habit of under supplying their consoles – most recently their miniature NES classic, which became gold dust from its release before the holiday season. So if you’re leaning towards getting this advice, and chances are if you’re tempted enough to read through this entire post, I would advise putting down your order before you regret it.
Either way, whether you’ve decided to hold back until there are more games or features, or you’re convinced you need the Switch in your life from day one – I hope this article has helped balance your decision.
I also realise the reality is its probably made it more complicated, but either way best of luck.
Games enthusiast with a passion for all things geek culture.